This past weekend found me in two cafes: Saturday drawing and painting in the Albuquerque History Museum cafe, and Sunday writing with my writer's group in a bookstore coffee shop. Bliss!
Ever since I first read Natalie Goldberg's advice in Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind about writing in cafes, I've been hooked on following her example. I can't think of a better environment than a cozy--and often noisy--cafe to help writers and artists at all levels relax, focus, and get some work done all at the same time. It's a practice I've been following for years, and one I've come to rely upon to get me out of the house and filling the blank page.
Some of my top reasons for choosing cafes over, say, the library or the laundromat as a makeshift office/studio include:
1. As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. And the cafe scene is always changing.
2. Someone else makes the coffee.
3. You have instant “material.” All those strange people sitting around chatting, arguing, reading, slurping . . .
4. You get used to writing with distractions and even a certain amount of discomfort. Great for learning to switch off from the "real world" and concentrate on the project at hand.
5. Discipline. You’ve made the effort to travel all this way, so stay there!
6. Ritual. Same place + same time = familiar and comforting routine.
7. Writing by hand is good for the heart and soul.
8. Or if you prefer, plug in. Many cafes have free WiFi, great for the budget-conscious.
9. If you're close enough to a local cafe, you can walk there. An excellent workout!
10. You can buy yourself a treat for “good behavior” and pages written. (And it doesn't have to be cake. If you're in a bookstore, museum, or gift shop cafe, how about a new book, magazine, pen, or journal?)
11. You have the opportunity to hold meetings with other artists and writers without using--or cleaning--your house.
12. Busily working away in your journal or sketchbook in public sends the message that you are a Professional, helping you to be exactly what you want to be.
Tip of the Day: Writing or drawing surrounded by a crowd can sometimes be daunting. To overcome any shyness or self-consciousness you may feel, especially if you're a newbie to cafe creativity, try sitting with your back to the wall. That way no one can easily look over your shoulder--something people love to do when you're sketching. (It's taken me a long time to simply smile and keep going whenever that happens. And believe me, they soon get bored and leave.) Another tip is to use a journal or sketchbook with a firm fold-over cover so you can write or draw while the book is propped on your lap rather than on the table, a good way to maintain your privacy and confidence. Latte, anyone?