Coffee Shop Writing

Have you ever tried writing in a coffee shop?

Latte swirl.

Image via Wikipedia

 I fancied myself as a J.K. Rowling sort of writer – scribbling away in the corner of a cafe, far from all the domestic distractions and guilt trips (like ironing, kitchen cleaning etc). So when my daughter bought me a Costa Coffee gift card I decided to indulge my fantasy.

11am on a Friday morning and the cafe was busy but I managed to find a nice little table hidden away at the back – just right for me, my latte and my notebook. I had a few sips of coffee, found my pen and started to write and that’s when I noticed the noise level. All around me were groups of women yakking at the tops of their voices (or so it seemed). I’d never noticed this decibel assault before (probably because I’m usually one of those yakking women when I go out for coffee!) It was impossible to stop myself tuning into what they had to say:

“That’s Mark’s ex. Now he’s with the one with the crooked eye.”

“They stitched her up so the baby couldn’t come out and now she’s nearly 2 weeks overdue.”

“She was sick at the altar whilst she made her wedding vows.”

At home I write in silence with not even the radio on for company so all this was hard to take but I did eventually manage to tune out and write.

The next problem was – how long can you sit with an empty latte glass in front of you without feeling obliged to buy another or leave? It was a situation made worse when the waitress whisked my glass away leaving me with nothing – but she completely ignored the tables of women who’d been there much longer than me. So I gave up and went home.

Would I try coffee shop writing again? Yes – I’ve still got £7.65 left on my gift card and it was good to get away from the PC and back to pen and paper. But I’ll try to go when it’s not so busy next time and have a pot of tea – so it’s not so obvious when I’ve finished & the waitress won’t whisk it away!

Where do you prefer to write?


  1. #1 by Terry Whitworth on March 15, 2012 - 1:17 pm

    Sally, I completely agree with you. I have tried writing in various coffee shops but it didn’t work for me. I have written quite successfully on long train journeys; using my netbook but for me the best place is in my study. This is situated in an unused back bedroom. I can have some cool jazz playing (if it’s evening) or maybe Classic FM and I have all of my reference books to hand. I close the door, sit on my comfortable chair, sip my coffe and write. Bliss, perfect bliss.


    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on March 15, 2012 - 5:22 pm

      Sounds wonderful, Terry. I hope that enticing combination of jazz, coffee & comfy chair produces a bestseller!

  2. #3 by susanjanejones on March 15, 2012 - 5:37 pm

    Hi Sally, your experience sounds quite funny. If ever I write out, like in waiting rooms, I find people watching me as if they know I’m writing about them….. I love to write at work in coffee and tea breaks. Sometimes if I sit down to write, or once when I was recovering from an operation, and everyone says. “You have lots of time to write now” I feel under more pressure. More jottings from behind the counter at work and then typed up in the evenings have been fruitful. Also, I love writing in the garden, in a deckchair with a big hat on.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on March 15, 2012 - 7:22 pm

      Susan – I know what you mean about feeling pressured (or is it plain scared!) when you have a large amount of time to write. Sometimes it can be more efficient and less daunting to squeeze it in to odd times (like behind the counter of your shop) when you’re not expecting great masterpieces to be produced.

  3. #5 by Vikki (The View Outside) on March 16, 2012 - 7:51 am

    I was talking about this the other day on my blog and decided that I need peace and quiet to write lol. I’m doing an experiment at the moment on place and it’s confirming what I originally thought. If I write in a coffee shop I find that I end up eavesdropping on people’s conversations rather than doing what I went there for lol.

    Saying that, I do still like coffee shops, so that I can write down snippets of conversations, great for story ideas 🙂


    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on March 16, 2012 - 12:52 pm

      Vikki – maybe it’s a case of horses for courses, peace and quiet at home when you’re in the middle of writing something meaty and out in the ‘real’ world when you’re brain storming for ideas.

      Helen – I think the ‘romantic’ image does appeal to me and I’m certainly going to try it again – maybe when I’m stuck on something in the hope that fresh surroundings will give my brain a boost!

  4. #7 by blogaboutwriting on March 16, 2012 - 11:48 am

    Sally – that made me smile. I know exactly how you felt. It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it, writing in a coffee shop? I suppose it’s quite ‘romantic’ – just sitting there, dashing off perfect prose, while the world goes on around you – but I don’t think it works for everyone. I’ve tried it and felt a bit self-conscious – especially when the coffee cup had been whisked away, like yours! (The pot of tea is a good tip!) I need peace and quiet and although I’d love to be able to while away hours over a latte or two in Costas, I don’t think I can do it! But why don’t you try it again, when it’s quieter – perhaps it’s just a case of getting used to your surroundings!

  5. #8 by Alice on March 18, 2012 - 6:21 pm

    Hi Sally, I love writing in coffee shops and find I can get quite a bit done, though I’m very choosey about which ones I pick!

    I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of a lovely little book shop which has an organic cafe in the back. It sells delicious coffee and cakes (I can’t go too often or I over indulge!) and is a real haven of calm. They don’t seem to mind me staying there for ages too! I always feel very smug after I’ve been there as I’ve usually done a good lot of writing and have supported an independent book shop/cafe! (eating lots of cake does detract a little from the smugness mind you!)

    Anyway, here’s the link. If you ever pass through Twickenham, check it out! (it’s even quiet on rugby days!):

    • #9 by Sally Jenkins on March 18, 2012 - 7:42 pm

      Hi Alice, organic coffee and cake plus lots of writing – it sounds idyllic! I’ve made a mental note of Langton’s bookshop just in case I’m ever down that way.

  6. #10 by Vikki (The View Outside) on March 22, 2012 - 8:17 am

    Hi honey

    I’ve nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award 🙂

    The picture has got scrambled on my post though 😦 So you may need to follow the link to who nominated me to grab it.

    Have fun


    • #11 by Sally Jenkins on March 22, 2012 - 1:00 pm

      Thanks, Vikki! Will have to give the 7 facts about me some thought…

  7. #12 by journeyofjordannaeast on March 24, 2012 - 12:28 am

    Currently, I write at home. On the couch. With the tv on. And the cats vying for my affection and nudging the laptop. *sigh*

    But there is a coffee shop right around the corner and the weather is rather gorgeous. Thinking about giving coffee shop writing a whirl…

    • #13 by Sally Jenkins on March 24, 2012 - 8:26 pm

      TV plus cats – I don’t think I could concentrate, Jordanna so the coffee shop might hold fewer distractions!

  8. #15 by Sue Trollip on April 12, 2012 - 7:53 am

    There’s a coffee shop fairly close to where I live and it’s a wonderful spot for inspirational moments. The coffee is delicious and the cafe is in a large open warehouse so it’s easy to find a spot away from the noise. There are big fans blowing to keep things cool(ish) and the waiters don’t bother you at all. When you want more coffee you go to the counter but at no point do you get the feeling they wish you’d move on.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on April 12, 2012 - 12:08 pm

      Sue – that sounds a really nice place. Wish there was one near me!

    • #17 by Terry Whitworth on April 12, 2012 - 1:07 pm

      Hi Sue,
      That sounds like a great place to work, I envy you.

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