Writing At The Coffee Shop

Marko Kloos, a science fiction writer with two munchkins of his own, links to a Wall Street Journal piece about writers looking for places to write that don’t have wi-fi:

The whole world is hankering for faster Internet access. Then there’s novelist Adam Langer, who does his writing in the low-tech Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights.

“Not only do they not have Wi-Fi,” said Langer, 43, author of “The Thieves of Manhattan.” “They don’t have any usable outlets, so I have to be incredibly focused because I don’t have a ton of time on my MacBook battery.”

Langer isn’t alone. The Hungarian Pastry Shop’s wall of framed book covers, each by authors who typed amid the cafe’s din, is testimony to the growing appeal of Internet-free spaces.

Gone are the days when a café with good enough coffee, a lax policy on lingering and an open Wi-Fi signal made it the perfect spot for writers to work. With infinite temptations just a mouse click away, many writers are seeking out an increasingly scarce amenity in a wired city: disconnected workspaces.

Frankly, the problem is one of self-discipline. Of course, as the pot, I call the kettle black, but just because I lack self-discipline does not mean I cannot recognize the same in others.

Actually, I have just started toting the laptop to the Bread Co. (which these strange people call “Panera Bread”) now that I have the youngest in a little school program that takes him for 2.3333 (repeating) hours a day, two days a week. Given that I live 20-30 minutes away from the school, it doesn’t make sense for me to come home, so some logic I used to trick my wife compels me to stop there to drink cappuccino, eat pastry, and tap out some words.

You might have noticed some longer pieces appearing here every now and again. That’s why.

I don’t need to look for a place that offers me no wi-fi. I just don’t connect to the network. I have my laptop set to not connect to any wireless network it finds automatically. Ergo, it will tell me the Panera Bread wireless network is klaxoning its SSID at a frequency that only alarums my laptop, but I dismiss the button and then get to clacking at the keyboard.

All right, it’s not so much self-discipline as it is a touch of low risk threshold. I don’t trust wireless networks I don’t control. So I wouldn’t touch it anyway. Also, note I sit with my back to the wall in the coffee shop. Okay, that’s less paranoia and more the realization that it reduces the glare on the screen from overhead lights. But some people who conduct their business on the laptops in the Bread Co. exasperate me. In full view of everyone, they’re typing away on corporate documents and then they go for a refill without password protecting their machine. I had the brief urge to change the Facebook status of a local here on Thursday, someone whose name is at the tip of my fingers because he’s the sales rep for a memorable company and he participates in the local group on LinkedIn. But I digress.

So far, the change of scenery and the compressed time frame has really focused my effort. I open a couple things in tabs on my Web browser before I leave since I will want to just read while I chomp on a cheese pastry and as an eyebreak from writing. Then, I have two pieces in mind I want to work on: a blog post of some sort and an essay/article. I can flip between the writing things and the dwindling number of browser tabs for about an hour and forty-five minutes.

This week, I’ve dropped about 1600 words each day on two blog posts and an article (about blogging). A couple weeks ago, I tapped out an article about software testing that I’ve already placed with a British magazine. I reminded that same magazine that it was holding onto another piece I submitted a year ago, and bam! Suddenly, I have two forthcoming publications. This writing thing seems so easy sometimes.

When I’m disciplined, which means when I am in an area with wi-fi that I don’t trust. And, more importantly, a time and a place where I’m focused on writing.

1 thought on “Writing At The Coffee Shop

  1. Also, note I sit with my back to the wall in the coffee shop.

    Good advice from Dune.

    My attention span has only decreased since I graduated from college. But the first thing that I do when I get into work is type out a to-do list, and then I make another one when I get home. They help me concentrate.

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