Cafe Productivity

What is it about writing in a cafe that produces more words on paper for me than sitting quietly at home? I studied my way through college at Panera. (Yes, I was a bit of a late attender having graduated in 2010, thirteen years later than I should have if my life was linear.) I find myself sitting in Panera again trying to occupy as little space as possible by the wall plug as to not take up the seats of other customers who might not stay for six hours in one spot typing away.

I know I’m not the only author who writes in cafes: Ernest Hemingway and JK Rowling come immediately to mind. The problem presents itself when you start to do the math. If I come to this cafe, or anywhere else with internet quite frankly, I spend about $12 and get approximately one chapter complete. If my book is say 52 chapters long, which is the number in my outline, then I will spend at least $624 to complete it. This does not include editing or revising time. Let’s double the number and then some. I estimate that it will cost me $1500 to complete my first novel.

Well, now that I look at that number, it doesn’t seem so scary. Yes, it’s a lot, but if I can start writing faster, finishing off more than one chapter a sitting….. I rescind my previous doubts! I will shamelessly continue to occupy my cafe seats for hours at a time and dump this story from my brain onto the screen.

Now, if I could only convince them to make it not so cold in here. You know when you’re sunbathing and you get uncomfortably hot. You dip yourself in the cool pool or ocean or lake to bring down your temperature before resuming your path to skin cancer. Writing in a restaurant has a very similar feel to me. I start to physically shake with the freezing air even though I wear socks and shoes, long pants, and usually (though I forgot today as it’s 90 degrees outside and not at the tip of my thoughts) a jacket. Every hour or so, I have to step outside into the blistering heat enabling me to feel my toes again and loosen my fingers to re-focus on typing. Well, no skin cancer, but, otherwise, just the same. Bah!

If you want to read an enlightening book based on another cafe writer, Hemingway, and his first spouse, Hadley Richardson, I recommend the historical fiction The Paris Wife. The author takes you from the Midwest where the two lovers meet and marry to Paris where they struggle financially but find relative happiness. The couple travel through Europe as tag-a-longs to famous artists and wealthy upper class Europeans. It’s quite a trip through the world of the pre-World War II middle class.

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