Lessons from the Cafe Where I Write

Forget Jack and the Beanstalk. This is the stuff that comes from REAL magic beans.

Often I go to my favorite cafe to write/edit/blog, and that’s for a number of reasons: because I am a creature of habit, because I thrive with a bit of background noise, because I need to get out the apartment, because I love the atmosphere of the place, and because I like to support small and local business. In the multitude of hours I’ve racked up here (yes, I’m writing this post at the coffee shop), I’ve learned quite a few lessons about life that can also be applied to the writing process. For instance:

  1. I LOVE THE MOMENTS WHEN SOMETHING (LIKE A SONG) TAKES ME BACK TO THE PAST. Just now, “Summers Girls” just came on the radio. I haven’t heard this song in FOREVER, and it totally takes me back to fun memories of high school! So, how does this apply to writing, and what kind of lesson is there to be learned? Well, for starters, sometimes writing and editing makes it necessary to “look back” to verify something, especially if you’re writing a series or a trilogy. The event or character you need to check might not even be featured in the current novel you’re working on. This has caused me a lot of aggravation because I have not been good about keeping notes on character descriptions, settings, and throwaway references to Herezoth’s history. So the lesson is: take the time to take good, organized notes as you write. It’s worth it in the end and even saves you time in the long run, because I promise you, you will need to “look back.”
  2. YOU MUST BE WHO YOU ARE. I’m at the coffee shop pretty much every day because like I said, it’s my routine and I’m a creature of habit. It works for me. I’m a pretty boring person and my days are generally not exciting in the least, but you know what? That’s who I am. Writing is my passion. It fulfills me, and I’m productive when I go to the coffee shop to get work done. You too have to be who you are. Take the time to discover the process and the routine that works for you and inspires your best writing. Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to adapt to one right way to write. There isn’t one. Maybe you’ll write best early in the morning before anyone else is up, or on your lunch break, or late at night after everyone’s in bed. Maybe music in the background gets you going, or maybe it’s a distraction you can’t tolerate. Everyone is different and everyone has his or her own way of doing things.
  3. MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS AS UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE AS THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU IN REAL LIFE. There are all kinds of people who frequent my cafe of choice. The diversity of age, race, and social class is astounding. There are college students studying, and families bringing in their kids for a gelato. Some people are loud and I have to tone out their vibrant conversations. Some are quiet but all are interesting in some respect, even if it’s just the stickers on their laptop cover or the fact that I can’t quite make out what book the guy across the way is reading. It all reminds me of things vital to writing a good novel where characters are concerned: they must be different from each other in fun ways that inspire interesting conflicts and interactions, they must each much have a clear purpose for being where they are and doing what they’re doing, and there should be something memorable and intriguing about them.
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