So What’s with Writing at Cafés?

In the past few months, I’ve come to the growing realization that the only way to further my WIP is to hit a café. Despite a quiet, cosy study, I can’t produce any fiction at home.

I’m annoyed with the amount of money I spend on tea and eating out these days (despite hitting all the cheaper joints)– but there seems to be no way out. I’ve tried writing at home–making my own tea, and leaving the TV switched on in the other room to mimic my escapades out of doors, but nothing gives. 150 words, at the most, all of which I end up deleting later. Take my butt to a café and out come 800 words in 2 hours, nessun problema!

Is it because once I’m in a chair at a cafe, I can’t walk about like I do at home and can’t get sidetracked by dirty dishes and waiting laundry? Is it because I’ve already spent some money and must have something to show for it? Is it because all the noise and hubbub at a cafe helps me focus inwards? Perhaps all the above.

Fact is my writer brain wants to write, and the only way my monkey brain will let it is when it is distracted with shiny, noisy stuff, colorful people, a cup of tea. Considering my WIP might never see print, leave alone make me money– writing seems to be coming with a real price tag. I console myself with facts about other writers…some of the best writers are known to have quirky writing habits, and here’s what Rowling says about the best place to write:

It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writer’s block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think. The best writing café is crowded enough to where you blend in, but not too crowded that you have to share a table with someone else.

So, the writers amongst you, how many of you write at a cafe, and why? If you do not, why not?

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Add Yours
  1. Brilyana

    I've been having issues writing lately. I am able to sketch out ideas, but no actual WRITING at home. At first I blamed the distractions of husband, cats, available video games, TV, etc. But after several mornings of being up when everyone (and every thing) was asleep, I realized…it's ME!

    After reading this, I'm considering going to the local 24 hour diner/restaurant in the late evenings (when I don't have early work/school/etc. the next day) to get my work done. Also…as someone else said…they have no wifi there! 😛

  2. Avantika Chitturi

    I never see anyone writing in cafes in India! Although I guess I could take my laptop to the one near my house as it's clean and I might not get stared at there,.

    Personally though, I never get work done in public places. Even when I went to the college library, I had to shut myself away in a study cubicle to focus. But then again…that was only because people-watching led to a constant stream of narration in my head, a constant flow of descriptions…so was I quietly evoking the writer within me?

    Hmmm…maybe there is a thing to public spaces after all. I've had a slow past couple of days so experimenting with a new setting could hardly hurt.

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  3. Lynn Proctor

    as i was reading, this, i was thinking, how could i ever write in a cafe or out somewhere and then i remembered something–when i was much younger and the poetry was always flowing, i would be out every night and would write often, wherever i was 🙂

  4. Suzanne

    I am all for writing in cafes. I write blog posts, take notes and even bring my laptop in on occasion. Home is good but sometimes to get outside where you feel you have to work on basic principal (instead of sitting there playing with your phone.)

  5. natz

    I've done it once in a while and do *seem* to be slightly more productive.

    However, I think it's more of the urgency of getting things done or a higher degree of focus because writing on the write-or-die page also has the same effect. Kind of.

  6. Ms Saba (aka Teacher007.5)

    for me it is the library. I like to read at cafes. It really does have something to do with not being able to be distracted. Right now for me, the distraction is tv. I love Psych and it is on so right now, no writing is happening 😀

  7. Christian

    For my current WIP, writing in one of the local cafes was inspiring … at first. Now, halfway through, I'm dealing with an introspective set of chapters, and the Zen mood I need to enter requires my home office setting. However, the faster paced sections of my SF project seem to require the noise and hubbub of the cafe. So, for me, it changes, and the needs are driven by the content.

  8. Carmen

    I love writing in the nearest cafe` I think because there is no laundry for me to do while I'm there. Also, I feel more professional. My son, a teenage author, loves to write in cafe`s also. In fact, I "converted" our spare room into a cafe type atmosphere just for him! It's funny when he "orders" a chai frapp/with whip!

  9. Nicole Pyles


    I can't write at home. I'm not sure why. I feel the need to close out my surroundings in a way that I can't at home. Maybe it's because people are around me or something. But cafe is it for me. I can put on my movie music via pandora, drink my overly expensive caffeine and type. I can get between 500 to 1,000 words at a cafe in two hours than an entire day at home (only about 200, like you).

  10. KarenG

    Be thankful you have it figured out! I'm still struggling with this question. Have considered the cafe thing but haven't found one I'm comfortable at. I live in the suburbs. It's all houses and shopping centers and fast food joints and chain restaurants. I love the idea of downtown cafes with outdoor tables. Maybe I should move?

  11. Annalisa Crawford

    I'd love to spend time writing in cafes – there's a certain amount of romance about it. My current favourite is very quite though – it would just be me and the owner, and that would be strange!

  12. booksbyjason

    I write anywhere and everywhere. Even at the day job during breaks. Just this morning I whipped out a little over a thousands words on the couch at my in-laws as my kids and everybody else was in the process of waking up. Right now I made it back to the couch and there's crap on the TV and people talking around me – yet here I am, posting this comment.

    To me it's about the ability to find your internal happy place. For me it's immersing myself in my story (or whatever). It sounds like you need the background distraction to allow you to find your happy place. I've learned how to block out everything that prevents me being productive. Unfortunately, I think it's a highly personal lesson that everybody has to figure out on their own. 🙁

  13. Cheyenne Campbell

    I'm the same way, and becoming more so. I edit particularly productively in coffee shops. Headphones in and a decent sized crowd buzzing around me, and yesterday for example I edited 5 chapters in about 2 hours. When I'm alone at home for too long, sitting in the office, I feel like I need to glue my butt to the seat, otherwise I'm off doing household chores when I think of them, painting my nails, eating 18 times, everything BUT writing. Everyone works in their own way, but I think a balance between cafes and home is best for me.

    Plus it helps that the coffee shop I go to doesn't have wifi!

  14. JANU

    Yes..Indian cafe`s are more crowded…and I am not used to going out alone to restaurants and cafe's…but, definitely a great idea because I have not been able to produce any noteworthy work for sometime.

  15. JANU

    Yes..Indian cafe`s are more crowded…and I am not used to going out alone to restaurants and cafe's…but, definitely a great idea because I have not been able to produce any noteworthy work for sometime.

  16. HeatherL

    I completely support cafe writing. At home too many things get in the way of the word count: dishes, laundry, errands, kids, husbands and pets. At the cafe I feel like I'm "working" if that makes any sense so I am more focused and on task.

  17. Tonja

    I got to the coffee shop when I can't write. It's the only place I'm guaranteed to be productive – unless I bring my kids. I definitely need to go tomorrow. I haven't been productive all week.

  18. Jo

    Only writing I do is blogging, but I cannot imagine doing so in a café. But Rowling did it very successfully as you mentioned. Another author I know has no trouble writing wherever she is and occasionally she ends up in jungles and other wildlife areas, she still writes.

  19. kdpgrahi

    Indian cafes are more a crowded place. Solitary tables are commonly unavailable and they will not allow you much time if you finished your coffee.