Writing Tip: Writing In Cafes

cafes, buses, palm trees, bright blue sky, cars on Bronte Road, Bronte

I am sitting in a café across the road from the beach in Bronte, Sydney.  This stretch of road has a whole row of cafes side by side facing the sea.  This is my favourite kind of writing place:  one where I can sit comfortably for a long period of time and where the owners of the café know me and welcome me.  This café is owned by a Brazilian man and his wife and has comfortable upholstered bench chairs with a direct view of the Pacific Ocean.  For my two-hour writing session my choice could be a traditional Brazilian dish such as Coxinha, Feijoda or Moqueca.  Or a cocktail like Caipirinha or  Caipiroska.  I must order something and it must be more that a Soy Cap, because I plan to be here for a long time.  I want the owners of the café to know I appreciate the time and the space they are allowing me.

However, today I’ll be very boring and order poached eggs on gluten-free bread 🙂

Why go to all this trouble to find a place to write?  Why not just stay home and work?  Because it’s good to get out and have a change of scene.  I find I need to be happy and relaxed when I’m creating on the page and sitting in a café with a pleasant vibe works for me.  Other writers need silence in order to concentrate, but I need to feel I am out and about in a beautiful place having a good time before the creative juices flow.

Strangely, writing in a café can help to increase concentration.  The busy café atmosphere keeps the sensory part of you occupied and content, so that the hidden, quieter part of you that composes and focuses is allowed to do its work.  It is something like being cunning when trying to get a spoonful of food into a resistant toddler’s mouth:  You pretend to be an aeroplane with all the sound effects and movements before landing the food-laden plane inside the child’s mouth.  Mission accomplished.

It is preferable not to turn up at a cafe for a cup of coffee and a writing session at the cafe’s busiest times, like breakfast or lunch. Go at the in between hours when they are pleased to see you because they don’t want the place to look deserted. The beach cafes are places I frequent in spring, autumn and winter, but not much in the summer. Far too crowded and noisy.

There is a real art to finding the right place to write. For me the best place  is one that has comfortable chairs, a pleasant outlook (preferably a view of the the sky and/or green or water). A welcoming, almost homely, atmosphere.

What about you?  Do you need to be at your desk in total silence to write, or do you like to experience the swell of humanity around you—to be surrounded by other human beings?  Or at home listening to a particular kind of music? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it. 

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31 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Writing In Cafes

  1. Libby, I love the sound of your exotic cafes and what fantastic places to write…I just think I’d be distracted with all that was going around me! I’m a bit boring and write at home, either at my desk or on the sofa -during winter wrapped up warm with a blanket, woolly socks and my fingerless gloves have been known to make an appearance!! Btw we have the heating on…I just get cold!! Your photos look so tempting…wish I could join you for a writerly hour or two! 😀❤️

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  2. yes, Annika, i feel very blessed living in this sunny Australian climate. our winters are very mild. it always feel good to be out and about under that bright blue sky. i do have a second writing session each day at home at my desk. i type up my notes from the cafe and print them out ready for the next day’s editing and creating session. wouldn’t that be amazing to have an hour or two together to write. do you ever visit this side of the world? thanks so much for commenting. warmly, Libby 🙂

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    1. thanks for the comment. glad you like the pic. yes, writing in cafes is not for everyone. i should have mentioned that i take with me a hard copy of the previous day’s writing. so i sit with my coffee, edit the hard copy, write some more. how wonderful that you spent so much time in Bronte as a kid. i consider it my second home. such a special place. if i have a couple of hours free, i head down there.

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  3. Maybe you’re on to something there, Libby. There more effort it takes to zone out of your sentient reality, the more vividly you experience the environment you’re trying to create. I wonder if there are any good cafes in Coogee. 🙂

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    1. Yes, i’m sure there are good cafes in Coogee. i like the one in the blocked off street leading to the beach on the left, if you’re facing the ocean. you can see the park opposite and the water and it’s not too busy usually.

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  4. LOL cafe’s are the only place where I can go and zone out from the world of demands. Any children’s’ voices are not from my own. Any infant’s crying do not demand my attention. At home I would be distracted by house and garden calling me to chop this or weed that. A cafe feels nurturing and deliberate at the same time.

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    1. that’s wonderful Melanie. so glad to hear you are a woman of my own heart who experiences a cafe as a nurturing environment. glad you are able to get a break here from your daily demands.

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  5. Hi Libby,
    You certainly seem to be approaching the day well. Good on you! Such a splendid way to capture words and moments, moments which offer a hint of mystery, intrigue– perhaps not, perhaps the cries of a hungry seagull has hastily steered the mood into something more adventurous. Another sip of coffee and it’s time to go…

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  6. Oh my dream would be to write in a cafe but with two young boys, its hard right now as I normally have one or both of them with me. I do a lot of internal composing and I like to sit in the quiet at the laptop and even on my phone. I do find a change of scenery inspires me and cafe writing is certainly something I want to do in the future. Very envious of your setting there! Must be amazing xx

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    1. yes, i agree, a change of scene can be inspirational. do you have an outside area at home where you can sit within the natural environment and compose? i feel very privileged to be living in Sydney close to the beaches. looking out on old trees from my office window is good too 🙂

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      1. Aw it sounds really lovely! Yes I have a garden that I’m guilty of not using enough, and now its getting colder I’ll use it even less! haha. It’s getting near summer in Australia isn’t it? And down the road we have a lovely country park with woodland and lovely areas! Also would love to use this a lot more often. Love this time of year in England with all the lovely autumn colours xx

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      2. that’s great. you have a garden and also a woodland park near by. perfect. there is an recent essay from Brain Pickings re Walt Whitman and the Wisdom of Trees. have a look on Google. yes, in Australia it’s spring. gorgeous time of the year before the terrible heat and humidity starts up 🙂

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    1. Hi Libby Sommer,
      I like an easy lifestyle but caring for a healing mum and juggling duties and lifestyle needs with a passion for writing/photography leaves me at the end of each day in wonderment. If only I could spend more time with one thing or another… I was unable to forward pictures of sorts as requested from the fact that… yet, surely I can and will eventually.
      Regards
      John

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      1. thanks John for the update on your situation. i see you are editor of The Downunder Review. congrats. best wishes for an improvement in your mother’s health. sounds like you’re doing well 🙂

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  7. I can certainly write at home, but there is an appeal to writing in a cafe. I like finding cafes with a second floor so I can look out over the street, and with a wall I can put my back to so I don’t feel like people are peering over my shoulder. If I have those two things, I don’t worry so much about what drinks are available. I do, however, try to order one drink an hour or make a big order for a two-hour stint!

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  8. I like your visual style of writing. I write in a mixture of places, in my head while walking, in the backyard in a notebook, and on breaks at work on the computer 🙂

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    1. Good to hear you are writing regularly. The writing discipline is the hardest part. Glad you think my writing is visual. Maybe it’s my background in film and television production. Good luck on your writing journey.

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    2. My garden ïs where you may find me. There is a spot where I can sit to hear the orchestra of sounds and breathe the wafting scented surprises, with splashes of colour. Right now my mango tree bows down filled with succulent offerings. Plants are dancing in the breeze in hesitation to my daylight hours. Might there be a visit to Byron Bay for a swim before drafting notes in one of the most inspiring coffee shops around? The tide is on the move, so possibly Emma (My fur-kid) and I will do some island hopping. Perhaps I’ll take a ride to Brisbane city and then cruise along the river until I can find a spot for coffee, with Wrens fleeting along the shore as I write.

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  9. The benefit of writing in public is that the writer is able to observe people. I know that may not be the reason the writer goes there, but there are many writers who will end up observing people around them and subconsciously incorporate these peoples’ mannerisms and viewpoints into their work. If one wants to be an effective writer, one must know people.

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      1. I love this World of writers who understand that our World and all it’s nuances fills pages weekly, daily in appreciation of where we live and the way people live out each day. ♡♡♡

        Kind regards John Stewart

        jsmediadownunder.com

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