I am a creature of habit. I count on my morning coffee (in my favorite mug) and my evening glass of wine. I do morning pages in the comfy chair upstairs, and read my book on the sofa in the den. I like a walk before lunch and one after dinner, a hot bath before bed, and a few minutes of quiet time with my book before turning out the light.
I write at my computer, which sits in the center of a large walnut writing table underneath the upstairs corner casement windows in the guest bedroom on the second floor. On nice days, I crank open each window and listen to the finches and cardinals serenade me while I ponder and peck away at the keyboard. I prefer to write in the mornings (after the walk) but sometimes an hour or two between 7 and 9 in the evening works well too.
This week I had some time to myself on Monday, a hour or so in the afternoon between places to be when it wasn’t convenient to go home. Before I left for rehearsal that morning, I packed up my notebook and pen and thought I might spend that time in a coffee shop doing some writing.
Because I had some other errands to do, the most convenient coffee shop was a Starbucks, located in the midst of a small downtown area in a neighboring suburb.
I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t really like Starbucks - not the taste of the coffee, not the ambience in the stores, and certainly not the prices.
But I went in, because it was raining and chilly and I needed somewhere to be.
Inside this very dimly lit Starbucks were four comfy leather armchairs nestled in the corner by the window. All occupied of course. Two college students with piles of spiral notebooks and fat soft covered textbooks were sprawled comfortably in two of them, while two young girls sat in the other two, their legs tucked beneath them, busy texting or tweeting on their iPhones and sipping frothy coffee drinks.
There were about a dozen tiny dark tables with hard, short backed chairs clustered around them. Many of these were occupied by people working on laptop computers, most of them wearing headphones attached to their cell phones, listening to music I assume, because they weren’t talking to anyone.
I ordered tea (because remember I don’t like the coffee) and chose one of the empty tables by the wall, rather than one in the middle of the room. I tried to get comfortable in a chair that reminded me a lot of the chairs we’d been forced to sit in at elementary school. I dunked my teabag a few times into the cup of (scalding!) hot water and stirred four packets of sugar into the tall paper cup.
I opened my notebook and tried to write.
It should have been a perfect writing atmosphere. With the exception of the one middle aged woman sitting across from me with a book, noisily licking her fingers after each bite of a sticky pastry, every other person was completely in their own private zone, plugged in, tuned out of the rest of the room. Even the baristas were quiet. There was background music, but it was subdued and generic. No one new came in, there were no hisses or spurts of foaming espresso makers.
I’d like to say I felt prolific and creative, that the various people in the coffee shop inspired interesting character sketches. Mostly, I felt self-conscious, pretentious, and even a little silly.
There is a mystique among writers about writing in coffee shops and cafes. We all think of the romance of Hemingway and his companions on the Left Bank in Paris, scribbling away all day, holding court with tiny cups of espresso in the morning, giving way to goblets of wine in the afternoon.
Certainly I’m no Hemingway. I’m just a woman who likes putting words on paper, who thinks better when she has a pencil in her hand or her fingers on a keyboard. It was an interesting experiment, changing up my writing venue, tiptoeing for a moment into a different atmosphere. But probably not one I’ll repeat any time soon.
I am definitely still a creature of habit, and it seems I’ll be keeping my writing habits intact for the time being.