Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homes away from home

by Rachel S.

It’s true. I’m new to the whole business of book publishingnewer probably than a lot of you reading right now. I learn things about the business every day and while I certainly know more now than I did six weeks ago, I’m still no authority on how to get your book published or even how to perfectly market it so anyone takes interest.

I am not, however, new to reading, writing, or writing while reading. Those things I’ve been doing for years and have gotten pretty good at them! On a functional level at least… In any case, I’m familiar enough with the mechanics of all three (the last is my newest skill as I was never an underliner or write-in-the-margins type of girl until about a year ago). I know what works best for me, personally, when I want to really focus and concentrate on the literary task at hand. Location is key, and the rest of the elements kind of follow from there.
I work and concentrate best, I’ve found, away from home. In my apartment, I get too distracted, listless. My internet is out this week, so I can’t even blame the world wide web as a whole. I don’t know what it is about being in whatever place I’m calling home at the moment, but I can never really concentrate whilst there. If I have a great book I’m eager to read, a piece I need to write, or some other sort of work to get done, my best bet is a coffee shop. Currently, I live exactly one block away from my very favorite coffee shop, so it’s never an issue of getting there when I want to read or have work to do. And thus, I’m on a first name basis with most of the people that work there.

Being out of the house means that I have to be dressed in appropriate out-of-the-house clothing. Which means my brain is more likely not to think that it’s okay to fall asleep or stop working in some other, disastrous way. Being in a coffee shop means that I get a big, warm mug to hold in my hands, which I really find soothing and comforting, while working out any more complicated ideas I may need to put the book or pen down for.

There’s an atmosphere of liveliness that I find invigorating, but not too distractingunless I feel the need to be distracted, that is. In any case, coffee shops and cafes where the servers leave you well enough alone are my havens of productivity. (Though I did just have a lengthy discussion with a friend over the perils of reading books likely to make you cry in public.)

I’m curious to see if others share my love of chalkboard menus and all the varieties of caffeine you could want or if you’re on a totally different side of the fence.


  1. Oh no I hate reading or working in coffee shops. I feel like I constantly have to order things to justify my presence there. At home on my bed but not under the covers is the place for reading (no matter what time of day it is) and any working must be done at a desk or I am very likely to get to comfortable and nap.

  2. I'm right there with you! I get distracted at home when there's nothing distracting, per se, but out in a cafe with lots of goings on I can concentrate just fine. ;) It might also have to do with the grande vanilla latte I'm undoubtedly holding. Would someone please tell me why they aren't refillable? My life would be much better if they were refillable!

  3. I can read pretty much anywhere, unless it's a really bad book. I really enjoy reading in a coffee shop (especially if it's attached to a bookstore). But writing... it's delicate. I cannot work at my desk anymore, which used to be my haven. Lately I can't work indoors at all. My front porch has become where I work the best, but cold weather is quickly approaching.

    Maybe I'll have to retreat to the couch by the fireplace?


  4. I used to write fiction at the same desk where I do my freelance writing work. Of late, this has been difficult and for several months I've been logging the hours writing in coffee shops. Not ideal the pressure of thinking someone might look over my shoulder and see if I'm just procrastinating on the internet keeps me focused on my ms!

  5. That's why I thought it was such a shame when Starbucks started charging for wi-fi (although I don't know if they still do?). It's such a community, to go with your laptop and sit among all the other laptop-ers. It robs you of an experience if you can't do that. But I love to write longhand, so I can write anywhere.

  6. I definitely agree. At first I was a little uncertain about working in cafes -- would I look like one of those cliche wannabe writers? -- until I found out it *works.* Getting away from the distractions of home is one thing, but even more than that, when I physically move to a different location to write, it signals to my brain that it's time to work. And there's nothing sadder than packing up your stuff and trudging through the snow to a coffee shop only to do no work. So you have to.

    I actually wrote an entire post about this: Where I Write (and Where I Don't). I wrote the majority of my current novel in progress in various coffee shops.

  7. Honestly the best writing that I do and the best ideas that I have are while I am sitting in the passenger seat while my wife is driving on a long trip. I also like to write in coffee shops and the such but I am able to manage my time at home, usually between 9:00 pm to about 1:00 am.

  8. TLH- bookstores/coffeeshops are pretty much my very favorite types of places. There's a BEAUTIFUL one that I love to go to, but is unfortunately not so conveniently located in my neighborhood.

    And Laura Meylene- I love your blog post! ...and my one hang up with Macs is that they don't have spider solitaire. It makes me so sad.

  9. When I want to write, I work at home. I've tried working in a café, but like you in NYC, I have to dress "in appropriate out-of-the-house clothing", I have to spend time putting on my makeup, fixing my hair, etc., that I find I waste precious time that could be used for writing. (I know, I know, I could just put on sweats and forget the hair and makeup, but I don't own sweats and when you live in Paris, these things are done automatically.)

    Besides, once I'm sitting in a café, there is the inevitable distraction of someone asking what you're reading or what you're writing, and depending on how "distracting" he may be, I have been known to be distracted for hours! First over an expresso, then a glass of wine, and, well what can I say, the work for that day just went out the window!

  10. I don't have a problem working at home. I have a big comfy chair with an ottoman. That is the ideal reading and writing chair.
    That being said, when I am stuck or starting something new I have had fantastic success on the train. I have a 30 minute train ride to and from work. Something about the time contraints and the other passengers forces me to write rather than staring at the screen in horror. I love it.

  11. Dear Lynn,

    I would like to trade lives with you.

    Thank you in advance,


  12. I can scribble writing ideas and notes while most anywhere, but I can't get down to serious hardcore writing unless I'm at home...that way I can sit and sit and sit as long as I want, without worrying about closing times and ordering drinks.

    On the flip side, I can read anywhere - except in a car, I get carsick while riding...have never tried to read while driving to see if that makes a difference ;)

  13. Dear Rachel,

    It's not all champagne and caviar, but I'm not complaining! LOL!


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