Alright, alright… If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood (or other city?) that is chock full of delightful little mom n’ pop cafes, then eschewing the conglomerate coffee chains is your prerogative. I am not that lucky.
In Hollywood, you have two options if you want to be a writer: Stay at home, or head out into the wide world of writer-friendly coffee houses. I’ve always been jealous of people who can lock themselves indoors and type away for hours. That kind of focus and discipline is a beautiful thing. But don’t look down on the rest of us! Coffee-shop writers are not hacks—they’re just adults with undiagnosed ADD.
Occasionally, if I find myself at an especially juicy scene or am just too filthy and unshaved to venture outdoors, I’ll handcuff myself to the chair in my home-office (a.k.a. The Kitchen Table) and put in the time… But it ain’t easy. My overactive brain immediate sets to work finding something—anything—to lift me from that seat, and very quickly EVERYTHING seems imminent and important. That college friend that I haven’t called back in six years? It’s time to reach out and set things right. The neighbor who stole my recycling bin after last garbage day? He may be home now, and I’d better face this confrontation head-on!
The only thing you really need to face head-on is your script. I had a teacher in film school (yes, I went) who used to repeat an obnoxious but true phrase to us at the start of every class. She'd tell us that the FOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORDS in screenwriting are:
APPLY ASS TO CHAIR
It’s hard to deny the truth of that proclamation, but it also raises one very big question:
For me, the awful wooden chairs at Starbucks are the perfect compliment to my bony rear. They keep me upright, never too comfortable, and always focused on the task ahead: writing. Most Starbucks have also developed a symbiotic relationship with laptop-users, and have recently turned around their policy of closing off outlets and removing desks. New Starbucks are now loaded with outlets, and old ones are being retrofitted. I find that as long as you make it through the doors before 10:30 am, nearly every Starbucks will have at least one desirable seating option still available. And then, there are all the BONUSES of a lively social hub that only a writer can fully appreciate. Like FREE DIALOGUE. Anytime you need an injection of REAL PEOPLE TALK, stop typing, lean back, and let it all spill in… Coffee shops are social places, and customers will talk about ANYTHING while enjoying their ten-minute reprieve from real life. It is your JOB to eavesdrop. All writer’s do it, and truly—they’re no better way to discover new characters and speech patterns. I suggest a healthy does of LISTENING IN each and every day.
When it comes right down to it though, I am simply a better writer when I am in an energetic place. Everyone has their own process, but for me, the music, voices, and general chaos of my local Starbucks stir my imagination, and let me focus on the page in front of me.
It a beautiful thing—the coming together of two entities: Writer and Starbucks. When the relationship is successful, life’s problems slip away into that euphoria of focused work and caffeine-inspired creation. And the winner is Y-O-U.