Why Coffee Shops Are The Worst Place To Write

When I first started my freelance career, I used to go to coffee shops all the time. I thought that it would give me a sense of purpose, or at least a sense of getting out of the house like a normal person.

Instead, it made me depressed and overwhelmed. Here is why.

Let me start by telling you what happens when you walk into a coffee shop to write. Bear in mind that this happens after you’ve woken up, showered, gotten dressed, packed up your computer and left your apartment which was a perfectly reasonable place from which to write in the first place. You’ve left one writing space to go to another, thinking only that you’re doing something that’s somehow for the best because…well, you don’t actually really know why.

So once you show up, find a place to park, feed the meter, stand in line, order a latte, find a table near an electrical outlet, and set up your things in such a way that your coffee won’t spill on your laptop, you have two realizations.

1. That was a lot of work for very little payoff, since you’re now doing the exact same thing you would have been doing at home, only you’re out $8 and you have to listen to whatever depressing shit the 19-year-old barista felt like playing on her iPod, and


Now, I could sit here and say that the latter realization sucks because everyone else sucks, and it’s really annoying to watch what is clearly a group of totally deluded people entertain visions of greatness, because look at them — sitting there and thinking that they’re writing the next “Juno” or “On The Road.”

But I can’t really say that, exactly, because I look the exact same way, and I’m also doing the exact same thing. I like to think that I don’t have delusions of grandeur, but every writer has delusions of grandeur, otherwise we’d all be bank tellers. So when I go into the old ‘shop, and I see a group of people who are exactly like myself, and all I want to do is judge them to within inches of their lives, then I realize that I can’t do that,  I have an existential crisis. After all, what are we all doing there? What are we all writing about? Does anyone even have anything unique to say??

It’s around this point that I feel like no croissant will ever be good enough to tolerate this type of shit.

Anyway, I will say that I do get to exercise my judgmentalism when I hear people talking about getting their screenplays produced, because really, if you have a screenplay idea that is going to go anywhere, you likely are not discussing it at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon in a dimly lit café with someone who has no more power than you have to get it made.

That’s as far as I’ll go with that, though, because the truth of the matter is that while I’ve never written a screenplay, and I like to haughtily say that I would “never get involved with the industry,” the reality is that if I thought that I had a 5% chance of getting a screenplay bought, my ass would be writing it as soon as you can say “my way till payday.”

Basically, I guess what I’m getting at here is that coffee shops are depressing as fuck. Not only that, but they’re loud, and I find that distracting, so I don’t even feel like I get any good work done in there. In short, all I want from a coffee shop is a good coffee, and then I’m going back home to work in my pajamas, where I belong.

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    • EvaSaidIt.com

      Just my take: it sounds like there’s more time spent looking at what the other people are doing (or NOT doing) with their writing time than time spent actually writing. I use coffee shops and seem to have productive hours there. I can’t recommend going every day, but with my earphones, my laptop and my work, it’s definitely part of my writing life. Does that mean my next work is “Juno” level? Probably not. However, my work is my work no matter where I am. For me, the coffee shop is just one of a few venues I use to change my scenery and (sometimes) my outlook on whatever I’m working on.

    • Eileen

      I’ve seen people doing their “real” jobs from home at the local Starbucks – especially when much of my town had a power outage and it was the only place where people could get light/heat (and, more importantly, wifi and an outlet for their cell phones). I’ve also seen people reading the newspaper, studying for finals, or just chatting with friends. Maybe it’s because of my non-LA location, but I don’t think everyone sitting in a coffee shop is a freelancer.

    • Danielle

      I agree with Eileen. I think it depends on where you’re located. I live in Rhode Island and the local coffee shop is a way of life here. Everyone has a favorite place they frequent. When I say everyone, I mean everyone: truck drivers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, construction workers etc. It’s part of our social landscape. I actually leave my house 2 hours early just so I can sit in my favorite coffee shop (The Coffee Exchange) before I have to go to work and get some homework done as I am working on my Master’s at the moment. Also, if you live alone it’s very easy to stay home and write but if you’re married and have kids going to a noisy coffee shop is sometimes the only way to get some time to yourself.