The hour or so first thing in the morning became so important for me, as did the three hours each evening after my day job finished at around five. It was important to feel comfortable; feel right. If they serve superb coffee, as 200 Degrees certainly do, then all the better.
I remember one particular Sunday, with a tight deadline looming for completing an edit, when I sat in there virtually all day and it felt like I was working at home. When I wanted a place for the book launch after-party, I didn’t even look at, or think about, another venue. We’ve been in this together this far after all.
Don’t get me wrong though. There are a lot of challenges, even when you’ve found ‘the one’. Here’s half a dozen considerations that you have to take into account when choosing and my thoughts on them….
Opening times – this is crucial. If you’re writing as well as working full time then you need a place that’s open early and closes no earlier than eight because you need enough time to write too. There’s no point working till five if you’re going to get chucked out at six or seven o’clock just as you’re getting into your stride.
Seats – writing takes time and an uncomfortable chair will definitely feel like a pain in the ass. Makes sure they have comfy seats because even though the considered wisdom is that you’ll get up for five minutes in every hour to have a walk around, you never actually will.
Power – the singular most important factor. Before settling on any coffee shop, carry out full reconnaissance on the volume and positioning of electrical outlets and also check that they work. If you’re there early, then finding a seat you can plug in next to won’t be that much of an issue but if you get there in the afternoon you need to know exactly where they are and you’ll also need to perfect the ‘hover’ so that you get the right seat when it becomes free.
Staff – does it really matter? Someone hands you a coffee, takes your money and stamps your loyalty card. So what? Do you need to like them or even care who they are? Oh yes. Think about it. You spend more time in there than you do awake at home. If the shop is your second home, then the people who work there are you’re second family. Being greeted with a smile, a warm hello and a little chat might be as good as it gets people-interaction wise that whole day. Imagine going to a place every day where you hate half the people and they all hate you; or in my case, just imagine the job that brought me to Nottingham in the first place.
WiFi – can also be considered a distraction but it has more pros than cons. Sure, we can use it as an excuse to browse Amazon instead of starting a new chapter but in the long run, having access to Google while researching the origin of character names or checking facts and a strong internet connection when emailing the publisher is vital. If in doubt, sit in a coffee shop where the WiFi works when it feels like it and see how less productive you are.
Noise – it’s easy to forget this one but the noise levels and ambience play an important role. If I’m comfortable, then loud music and even louder customer voices don’t matter at all. I can completely zone out and I’d actually find it harder to write without them. But if you’re not comfortable with too much background noise then shop around, as some places are definitely quieter than others.
So, if you’re like me and the sofa, garden or kitchen table aren’t working, good luck in your search for pastures new.
And like any love story, if you’re right for each other you’ll know pretty quickly
Next Time….Week Six: How’s The Book Coming Along? (Who To Tell) – Part 1
Also available in this series
Introduction: The Double Life of a Would-Be Writer
Part 2: Show Me The Money
Part 3: Only The Lonely