Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Though I lived in London a few years ago and had intended to visit Scotland, I never made the trip. I wish I could travel to Edinburgh now to see the red-fronted Elephant House Tea and Coffee Shop where J.K. Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter. I recently checked out the coffee shop’s website and apparently J.K.’s table is in a light and airy back room with large windows and a view of Edinburgh Castle.
Reading about Elephant House has gotten me thinking on the possible merits of coffee shop writing. I’ve heard your favorite coffee shop can be a place where you can really focus on your writing, and wonder if the buzz of noise and the surrounding crowds help in some inexplicable way. Is the handy prepared-by-someone-else and instantly-available food and drink helpful? Is the anonymity useful? I do find working at home involves the necessity to block out of all kinds of distractions. I’ve actually found it rather annoying going into a favorite Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and finding it full of people staring at laptops. They obviously won’t be leaving any time soon, and I won’t be finding a table at all. In a coffee shop I’d be one of those rare beings writing in longhand. Wouldn’t I feel guilty sitting at my table, lingering over my writing and an occasional cup of tea?
So that leads me to the etiquette of coffee shop writing. I think not lingering during mealtimes, or if there aren’t many tables available, would be the most important rule. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon must be the best times. Continuing to buy drinks or snacks every hour or so would make you a legitimate patron, but could be costly and make you fat.
So if I decided to try coffee shop writing, what would I look for? Coziness, ambience, good lighting, low noise level and inexpensive prices. And an absence of cell phones. And computers. For me, tea room/coffee shop evokes an earlier, more relaxed, non-technical time and a place people went to talk (not text) and to write (not type or compute). I’ve been thinking of getting back to a novel I had put aside to concentrate on picture books. So l might go looking for a retro tea/coffee house -- any suggestions? A view of a castle would be nice......