A Writer on Display

Was it Stephen King who said that those who sit in coffee shops and cafes with their laptops are those who want to be seen writing rather than actually writing?  I can’t remember who wrote that, but I remember laughing out loud.  Being fairly new to the taste of coffee, I have gone into these places and smiled inside (with a superior look, I’m sure) at those sitting with their laptops.  I’ve even felt that I can point out who is the writer and who is sitting there playing Mafia Wars (my husband).  One place had a young man with stylishly messy curls, those tiny little rectangle glasses, the carefully casual clothes, and boots that have never tasted dirt.  He looked so earnestly hard at work.   A writer struggling with his craft.  Yet I never saw his fingers touch the keyboard.  Not even once.  So I doubt he was writing, or even editing.  But he sure looked like a writer.

Now, with the advent of the Christmas laptop from the Mafia Wars husband, I have become one of those coffee-house writers.  The reason?  High speed internet.  We don’t have the internet at home, and locally it is still dial-up.  Which was fine with me, until my husband and son made it so easy for me to discover the joys of the real world.  I write a blog post, click  ‘publish’ and whoosh, it’s gone.  No waiting and waiting and waiting for it to download.  Of course that ‘whoosh’ means I have to be really sure I’m ready for the piece to disappear before I hit the send button.

I now sit in the local coffee shop with my laptop, and feel very self-conscious, very aware that others can look at me and think, ‘there’s a writer on display and not writing’.  But here’s something else I’ve discovered besides high-speed internet.  For some strange reason, it’s easy to write with the background noise of commerce.  I used to write with music, and still do.  I can write in absolute quiet, too.  Or at least I used to, until radiation changed my writing, as I’ve posted ad nauseam.  I’m still learning what works for me when it comes to writing, and clearly, I like that public noise.  I don’t think it will work for editing; for that I still need quiet and solitude.  But for writing a blog post that’s going to be public, a crowded coffee shop works.  Weird.

I’m sure all writers know the old adage that if you are blocked or struggling, to try a different writing location.  Move from the bedroom to the living room, from the office to the couch, from the laptop to the notebook, etc.  I guess that works. 

And just so you know, when I’m sitting there in front of the laptop and not writing, not touching the keyboards, it’s not because I’m wanting to be seen as a struggling writer.  It’s because I’m eavesdropping on all the conversations around me and saving up tidbits to appear later in stories.  As the other old adage goes, ‘Careful or you’ll end up in my novel.’

9 thoughts on “A Writer on Display

  1. I long for a laptop so I don’t have to write at home in total solitude. And so I can more often do that very useful eavesdropping! That seems to be all I think about when I see folks in cafés stting in front of their screens.

    This is my first visit to your blog, so I thought the backgound was that medium green color. Clicking to write my comment, it changed to this interesting and lovely green pattern which I think is gorgeously textural. Thanks for asking my opinion — I love it when anyone asks my opinion!


    • Thanks for stopping by. And that’s weird about the background. I wonder if everyone is seeing that flat green, which is kind of an ugly shade of green, and not the texture. Glad you stuck around in spite of the plain background! The whole cafe thing with writing is just odd. I’m a pretty solitary person and get on ‘people overload’ quickly, so even walking in the door of a cafe is a big deal. But eavesdropping and translating that into writing is just too hard to resist. Laptops have their advantages and disadvantages. I’m not sure I’m totally sold on them yet. Can you share what your writing projects are?


  2. I write fiction, usually mysteries although I seem to be chafing a bit with the genre at the moment. I haven’t published any work online. A member of my writer’s group is havijng a lot of luck publishing short stories right now, and he thinks it’s because the market has returned due to people’s shorter attention spans. The short stories are more easily accessible to iphones, etc. So it may be that you are timing it right with finishing your short story and your magazine stories. I’ll see if I can find out the markets he’s been published in and pass them on to you.


  3. This really made me think. Where do I/ where can I write? And has brain injury changed how I write too? (And I laughed at the description of the curly-haired ‘writer’…I can just see him!)

    I would love to be one of those people sitting in a coffee house with a laptop, but (a) I live in the sticks so have to make my own coffee and (b) I’d have to get over my acute self-consciousness first. But I do like to have a wee notebook in my bag, and I am happy to get that out and scribble away in it or look over past stuff. A small book feels less ostentatious than a laptop, somehow.

    Interesting that you say you still need quiet for editing. I definitely do too! For that reason, I do most of my work late at night when I should be in bed – to the despair of my husband. But that time when the house is silent is very precious.


    • Night was my writing time until radiation. Now the timing doesn’t seem as important. I end up driving half an hour to use the high speed internet at the coffee house, and am wondering if gas prices will limit that! And oh I do get the self-consciousness. Especially when pulling out the laptop. It’s funny, but my husband got me one that’s red so it matches the big red truck I drive, and I’ve never been one to care for matching anything, so it makes me laugh. Oh, and the notebooks. I like these ones that here are called ‘chubbies’. Very small but fat, with lots of blank paper. They fit in my basket perfectly. (I’m not a purse person.) By the way, loved your post today.


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