The Coffee Shop writer is a cliche that has some basis in fact. The image is of a “writer” who’s very publicly writing and wants everyone to know about it. The image can be pulled off with a simple laptop, but the real pros step up their game. Dress all in black and write using a fountain pen in a leather bound notebook. Then there’s the hipster who uses a classical portable manual typewriter.
It helps if you can stand out with a wild beard and a pony tail. Women should forgo makeup and wear aggressively comfortable shoes. Mildly out of date clothes with a likely thrift store pedigree helps the image. The real pros are a bit behind in personal grooming, but please don’t go that far. Some people want to enjoy their scones without additional strange aromas.
Back to the basis in fact part. There are times when I’m a pretty good writer cliche myself. I do have a beard, pony tail and a general disregard for popular fashion. I’ve been known to drag a laptop into a coffee shop. First of all, coffee is almost as important a writer fuel as booze. Secondly, I like the free wifi. Thirdly, it’s actually a pretty good environment to write in.
Writing is not like a normal job. There are no dress codes. Theoretically, a writer can work just about anywhere. Writing tends to pay poorly so dressing down is often not exactly a choice but an economic necessity. It can also be a lonely profession.
Back in college one of my English professors was going to write the Great American Novel. He sequestered himself in a remote cabin in the desert southwest. There were no distractions at all. It drove him nuts. His big high point of the day was to go down to a cattle watering tank to watch the cattle drink. He wrote nothing of worth during that time.
Some writers build the perfect writing den, only to drag their laptop back to the family room. They find they actually writer better with the TV blaring in the background and the kids running around. A similar ambiance can be had in a busy coffee shop. All the fuss and noise blends into a soothing white noise that helps a writer slip into their work.
Are most of those coffee shop writers posers? Maybe, but so what? It’s all harmless fun. Then again, that single mother scribbling away in the corner might be the next J. K. Rowling.
-Raymond M. Coulombe