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Tips for Writing in Public (aka, in Pants)

I'm fortunate to have an office at home. Also a couch, a bed and a kitchen table. However! I get almost all my best writing and revising accomplished at coffee shops.
still life with agent revisions
Something about the simple act of getting up early, getting dressed (including putting on actual pants) and strolling to my favorite haunt is enough to jumpstart my productivity. (Okay, the caffeine helps.) Here in urban San Diego, I'm fortunate enough to live within walking distance of several, though I'll sometimes venture to farther ones if I seek a change of scenery.
or a change in the spelling of my name
The freedom to use coffee shops as workspace is a real blessing, and I try not to take it for granted – especially as a former barista (my first job! I was 15), restaurant server, and cocktail server. That includes making my very best attempt to be a Gold Star Customer, i.e. not a jerk. Here's what I keep in mind.

Tip well. 

I always tip my baristas at least a dollar, even for a $2 black coffee. Consider it a campout tax.

Don't sprawl. 

If there's a single-person table, and you're a single person with a laptop, always opt for that over the four-seater. If the coffee shop's crowded, share your table. Who knows, you might make a friend!

Be a pal.

Stay mindful of your fellow coffee shop campers. Don't slam doors when you leave. (Totally a source of expletives in my manuscripts.) Keep an eye on other people's stuff if they ask. Make sure your headphones are plugged in, or the sound on your laptop's muted. Out of courtesy, but also because it's really embarrassing when you accidentally start blasting Robyn on Spotify.

Keep ordering. 

If you're staying longer than a few hours, order something else -- a cookie, a bagel, an iced tea, or better yet, an entire meal. Tip at least a buck on that round, too.

Don't be a slob. 

When you leave, dump your trash, put your dishes in the plastic tub, however your coffee shop does it. Push in your chair, wipe up any condensation or spills.
at my favorite san diego coffee shop, lestat's. am there right now in fact

 Do you guys write in coffee shops, or other public places? Any tips?

Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. I love to get out and write, just because the change of scenery forces me to work. Also, it's quite nice to have someone else make the tea ;)

  2. Really helpful advice ^^ In fact im trying it right know and it really works well for me :) Guess, im not going to do it that often (because i will get really poor, because of all the coffee i order) but its a nice way of doing something new :D

  3. I tip well (unless service is bad), and I try to buy at least one beverage for every few hours I'm somewhere. But at Starbucks, for example, I can't buy the food because there's rice flour in it. (I'm rice intolerant, and I have a bunch of other allergies, too.)

    But the change in scenery does help. ^_^

  4. I wish! I live in the middle of nowhere. My closest grocery store is 30 minutes away! When I do write in public, it's usually while I'm sitting in a doctor's office waiting for the nurse to call me in. I usually have people ask me, "Oh, what are you doing? Are you a teacher?" Yes, but that's not what I'm working on. :)

  5. I've tried many times to write in public, but I just can't do it. I spend too much time people watching instead; they're so interesting.

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  7. I usually take a notebook and notes with me to write if I know I'll be in town for a while. But I still can't help feeling a little self-conscious when I do. I don't like people being near me when I write because I'm worried they'll see the horrendous first draft!

    I would like to get used to it more because coffee shops take me away from distractions. It's actually easier to get on with things.

  8. At the library I currently use they have an eating area and a Starbucks, which is great since for some reason I always think I write better when I have a satisfied stomach.

  9. My laptop battery dies pretty quick, but I suppose if there's a power source... I tend to write at home. I can tune anything out no matter where I am but I feel like I get the most done at home.

  10. I get some of my best writing done away from home too. There's just something about a new environment that gets the creative juices flowing.
    I usually tip when I pay with cash, but I try to save my cash since our employee discount at work only works with cash or checks. I should probably start tipping more anyway; I know how hard the baristas work.

  11. I definitely go to coffee shops. I feel more ready to work if I leave the house. Being at home is good for playing video games and overeating... not as good for productivity. :-)

  12. I have done this a couple of times, but it's not something I could regularly do or I'd go flat broke! One day I will be able to do this more often though. There's a really cute, small cafe within a five minute walk of my apartment that I'd love to write in so maybe I'll make a trip one day soon.

  13. I love writing at coffee shops. Since I've gone somewhere else to write, it pushes me to really focus and use the time well. I also like the idea of "going somewhere" to write. I used to live with a coffee shop on my block, but even so, I'd pack up and walk several blocks away for that same feeling. I felt if I was still just steps away from my place, I wouldn't have that same focus. But if I'd gone somewhere, then I wanted to ensure that time was productive.

    Plus...there's the delicious coffee too.

  14. I have done this regularly for a long time. Somehow the general buzz around me -- which I mute with ear plugs if it's really loud -- inspires me and helps me to focus.

    I am sad to say, however, that I do so less and less because I can't escape the cellphone. People engage in loud, long conversations. Often, they're actually running their business from the shop and are camped for a few hours. It's changed what for me was a charming practice into a hellish one.

  15. I love to change it up occasionally (and put on pants) but here's my problem with writing in public. I pull weird faces and make strange gestures. Sometimes to get my characters' reactions, I have to act them out--feel it in my face and bones. Oh GEEZ this makes for funny viewing! I bet I entertain the people-watchers like Christine above. I love the State Library of Queensland (AU) because it has a cafe, free Wi-Fi, a great vibe, and lots of inspiring literary types!


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Item Reviewed: Tips for Writing in Public (aka, in Pants) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard