Why do writers feel so connected to coffee houses? Is it the art of people watching, scouring faces and eavesdropping on conversations so we can add some revealing tic or detail to one of our characters? Is it the easy access to large amounts of caffeine? Free wi-fi so we can keep up-to-the-minute (read: stalkerish) tabs on our friends’ Facebook pages when we can’t think of anything to write?
Back home in New Hampshire, before the economy or Obama or the Kindle or poor management practices or the 99% or fatcat Republicans or whomever you blame killed it, Borders was my locale of choice. I’d pack up the Macbook, a thumb drive with The Collected Works of Jason Korolenko, hit up Taco Bell for some of the best worst faux Mexican food ever, then convene in the Borders café with a large Crème Caramel Javakula.
(In case you’re wondering, my typical caloric intake on those days was somewhere in the 4,000 range. Not kidding, I’ve counted.)
Naturally, I was not the only person toting a computer bag into the café. People fought over power outlets as if they were the last cans of green beans at Shaw’s during Armageddon. Those who lost the battles resigned to typing on dimmed screens to preserve battery life. I know you know this, because you’ve done it too.
Even here in Brazil, where only a tiny fraction of the population reads and even less write, Starbucks is the place to be if you want the world to view you as a Serious Writer. A new mall has recently opened up in my city, and in it a bookstore called Saraiva, which is the Brazilian version of Borders or B&N only smaller. Half of the store is lined with bookshelves, the other (more populated) half displays CDs, Blu-Rays, and computer equipment, all of which boast greater sales numbers than our little paper friends with words printed inside. Still, in the café upstairs, you’ll find writers brooding over their computer screens, rewarding themselves with a Facebook refresh every time they craft a particularly sweet sentence.
Perhaps, since writing is such solitary work, we simply need to be around real flesh and blood from time to time.