Writing at Starbucks

An interesting discussion arose from Sunday’s post – whether or not to write at Starbucks. It brings up the question: where do you write and why? For you non-writers, it brings up the question: why do you go to Starbucks at all when Dunkin Donuts has better coffee?

Usually I write with a partner and most of the time we dictate scripts to our assistant while I pace back and forth with a yoyo so a public coffee house is generally not the ideal workplace. It’s bad enough when the assistant says, “No, really? You really want me to put that in?” without total strangers chiming in the same thing. But when we’re just working through a story we’ll often meet at a Coffee Bean. Yes, there’s always that danger people will think we’re just posturing pretentious writers so we counter that by wearing priest collars.

But I’m less self-conscious than most writers. That stems from two years of going to Dodger Stadium and doing play-by-play into a tape recorder in the upper deck surrounded by drunk crazed mouth breathers. After you’ve heard “Hey, look at this idiot!”, “Keep your day job, moron.”, and “Whattaya think you are, fuckin’ Vin Scully?” seven thousand times you tend to develop thick skin.

I’ve seen partners huddled over a laptop at Starbucks and don’t really mind it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll have a big ugly fight. Those are always amusing. Plus, I always hope to one day eavesdrop on two porno writers. “So when the black guy takes her from behind I think we need a line…”

One time I saw two partners writing at Jerry’s Deli in Westwood (mercifully now defunct). But they didn’t have a laptop. They had a big desktop iMac. And a printer! When they were finished they got out two huge boxes and spent ten minutes packing it all back up. I’m surprised they didn’t also have their own fax machine and microwave.

When I’m writing by myself I usually work at home but I don’t mind getting out in the world. As long it’s a fairly quiet environment. There used to be a spot in Santa Monica called “The Office” that provided workstations and the internet and charged at least a hundred dollars a month. What a surprise that that place is defunct as well?  I go to the UCLA research library and get the same thing for free.

I also love writing on planes. It makes those 13 hour delays at O’Hare really fly.

But you do find definite types writing in these java joints. There’s always Mr. Smug — the guy who looks off into space, as if he’s contemplating deep concepts far too complex for you to understand. From time to time he will arch an eyebrow and type in four words. Then there’s Mr. P.O.C. (Piece Of Cake) – he can’t get down his brilliance fast enough. Furiously clacking away, he can bang out ten pages an hour. It’s a pretty safe bet his script will be a P.O.C. (piece of crap). And finally, Mr. Tortured. A good day is five pages or five people feeling sorry for him.

My guess is if you write in a Starbucks that is not in LA or near NYU you will be the only one working on a script. And if you write in a Winchell’s Donuts in LA you’ll be competition free too.

The only factor important in how and where you write is what makes YOU most comfortable and allows you to do your best work – whether it’s in a Starbucks, locked in your attic, in an intensive care ward, Bob’s Big Boy, the D train, or a diving bell. One of the beauties of being a writer is that you can do it anywhere. Take advantage of that.

But leave the pipe, sweater you wear around your neck, tweed jacket with patches, and iMac & printer home. Thank you.

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