Do You Outline?

The Piano Lessons End…Or Do They?

Do You Write in a Café?


If you do, how do you do it? Seriously, I want to know.

I think it looks so cool to see people typing away on their laptops (alas, I seem to be the only one who uses pen and pad), but how do writers do that?

When I’m in a café I’m usually people watching and inhaling whatever food or drink scents fill the air while noting the decor. When I’ve done enough that won’t get a “What’cha looking at?” I open a book and read.

But…writing there? There’s too much for me to absorb, too much for all five senses to process and store and perhaps use later. This is a micro version of why I can’t write while away on vacation.

I can write at the Laudromat. Or on the subway or bus with my little notebook and a blue or black medium pen that flows smoothly over the page. I’ve been to these places and traveled those routes countless times. Blocking them out to write is easy.

Do people go to the same cafés each time to write? Does that create the same cocoon I create while writing on the subway?

I really want to know.

* Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

  • Sarah • November 30, 2015 at 2:14 am

    I have never once ever been able to write in a coffee shop or cafe. It looks so cool and writers always talk about it. I am forever people-watching or, you know, drinking coffee. 😉 I eagerly await comments.

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 2:26 am

      It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

  • Wendy Metcalfe • November 30, 2015 at 3:04 am

    I was pleased to see this article, I write the first drafts of all my novels in cafes. I cannot bear being locked up in my “little box”, I.e. house, and have to get out. I have my favourite cafes where I order a cappuccino and sit to write. Like you, I write first drafts with pen and paper. Then I go home and type them up and print them out, which acts as my first edit. I never get writers block, I think because I signal to my brain that when I sit down with that coffee it’s time to write.

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Maybe that’s the secret, that you go to cafes that are familiar to you and that you go there with the goal to write. There aren’t any cafes around my neighborhood so if I’m actually inside one, I’m usually in a different mindset because I’m running errands or have an appointment. Thank you!

  • Marie MacBryde • November 30, 2015 at 10:52 am

    I’ve never written in cafés, or in cars, trains and planes except for maybe short notes like ideas for stories or a particular phrase I’ve heard or read. Or maybe a line or two of poetry. Anything longer, I need peace and quiet so I can hear myself think LOL.

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      I’m fascinated by the different responses I’m getting here. Thank you!

  • Carrie • November 30, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I’ve always been envious of writers who can work in a cafe. I can jot down ideas in public places, but to actually write requires way too much focus for me to attempt it anywhere other interesting stuff is going on. You might say I’m a cranky writer — I need my “alone space,” LOL.

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Most of my writing is done in my living room with a snoozing cat nearby (if he’s not already in my lap). I usually keep the TV on with the sound off in case I need a little distraction. But that’s about it.

  • jan • November 30, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I can’t write in a cafe. I’m too curious about the people around me!

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Me too! 🙂

  • Anne Wagenbrenner • November 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    After reading all of these, I think I will try writing in a public venue that’s not a train!

    • J. M. Levinton • November 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      If you do, I hope you’ll comment here. I’d like to know the results of your experiment.

  • Emily • December 9, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    First off, I salute you for writing with pen and paper. I can’t do it that way, it just doesn’t work for me, but I think it’s really cool!

    I’m like you, I can only write in the places that are familiar to me: my house and the little local and quiet library. I’ve contemplated going to a coffee shop to write just because, you know, every writer I’ve heard says it’s cool 🙂 but I just know I’ll end up staring off into space or people watching or buying too many expensive coffees and muffins and of course they’re gong to have wi-fi so ooh look funny cat videos and oh man there’s a new trailer out for Star Wars…

    • J. M. Levinton • December 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Well, I write with pen and paper because I don’t have a laptop and I can’t see myself carting one around on the subway. So it’s write with pen or no writing. 🙂

      And the reason I don’t yet have a laptop? The exact same reasons you listed!! I’m bad enough on my desktop with the funny cat vids and email and shopping….

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