The Pros and Cons of Writing in Coffee Shops


Epoch Coffee, Austin TX

For the past four weeks, I’ve been taking my cat for daily medical treatments. The vet’s office was about 20 minutes (or so) away from home, so instead of running back and forth, I parked myself in a local coffee shop and worked there.

I’ve always had this romantic notion of working in coffee shops. JK Rowling talks about her time writing Harry Potter in coffee shops, and it’s always seemed like the perfect place to get work done.

There’s coffee, and fewer distractions, and usually plugs for my laptop. What more could I ask for?


The Good

  1. It’s an uninterrupted period when I can get work done. I have difficulty setting aside time to write. Because I enjoy it, it feels like it should be low on my priority list. I’m working on that, but it’s still a thing.
  2. * Fewer distractions of a certain type. There’s no laundry to be done or dishwasher to unload. There are no dogs begging for attention, or cats laying across the keyboard.
  3. Great atmosphere. I love the way coffee shops smell. In independent coffee shops, I love the artwork, and the interesting decor. I enjoy the torn up couches, and watching the variety of people who patronize them.
  4. *Essentially no wi-fi. The coffee shop I most frequented had unsecured wi-fi (which I’m always wary of), and it was slow. So slow, I didn’t use it. Which was good because I wasn’t getting sucked down the rabbit hole of Facebook, etc.

The Bad

  1. More distractions. But wait… you just said there were fewer. Yeah, fewer homestyle distractions. But there’s music I don’t always like playing over the speakers. One day, there was a guy tapping his flip flop shod foot on the floor. It made a slapping sound, and I wasn’t the only one who was thinking about stabbing him.
  2. My favorite seat was sometimes taken. I spent the most time in a coffee shop that had armchairs and couches, as well as wooden chairs. Finding seats where my feet touch the floor is difficult. This place had one particular chair that seemed sized perfectly for me. I could put my back against the back and still have my feet touch the floor. But I wasn’t the only one who liked it.
  3. Gathering up all my stuff when I went to the bathroom or leaving it to fate. I’m not a very trusting soul (at least not with my laptop). Maybe it’s because, as a therapist, I worked with lots of people who stole. I’d see other people leave their laptops and be amazed at their ability to trust. I did it once or twice, but it was too uncomfortable. After all, I only have to be wrong once. Of all the things I own, my laptop is my most beloved.
  4. If I want to listen to music I like, I have to wear headphones. I’m moody when it comes to liking music when I work or not. But no matter what, I’m not a fan of headphones. The earbud type hurt my ears, and the over ear ones can be cumbersome to travel with.
  5. It’s too noisy. Sometimes I just like silence. I took to wearing headphones with nothing playing, just to block out some of the noise. Most days, I left with a headache.
  6. Lots of temptation. I try not to eat a lot of baked goods, but scones are a special love of mine. Coffee shops always have tasty looking scones, muffins, croissants, etc.
  7. It was freezing! In the winter, I laugh sadistically at my husband when he begs to turn the heat up and just tell him to put on more clothes. This place was so cold that when I walked outside into the 109 degree afternoon, it actually felt good.
  8. *Essentially no wi-fi. If I wanted to look something up, it was slow to do so. I didn’t blog while I was there because I couldn’t get online. (And yes, I could have written them offline and then posted them later. But I didn’t.)

The Verdict

It’s not my thing. Even the positive of having a certain time set aside to write doesn’t outweigh all the reasons I didn’t like it, in my opinion. I’ve read articles by people who love working in coffee shops so they can be surrounded by people but not have to interact with them, but I’d argue that I was interacting with them, far more than I wanted to. I was listening to the buzz of their conversations, their flip flops slapping, fighting with them for the good chair, not leaving my stuff so it didn’t get stolen.

That being said, I’m an extreme introvert who’s happiest when I don’t have to leave my house for several days in a row. I like quiet, and I see no problem with eating meals alone or not talking to other people for extended periods of time.

What’s your opinion on reading or writing in coffee shops?

The Price of Honesty

Once upon a time, when I was younger, and knew everything, I thought that it was okay to let people know I didn’t like them.  I thought that being misanthropic toward people meant I was being honest.  I’m an introvert, so my default setting is to not like anyone, especially when I first meet them.  Therefore, if someone irritated me more than the normal why-do-I-have-to-interact-with-other-humans reaction, I would make sure they knew that I didn’t like them, using snide remarks, sarcasm, and occasionally out and out ignoring.

Yes, as an “adult,” I often acted like a 5 year old.

In my defense, I have made friends with some strange characters who didn’t have boundaries, and in the cases, the only way I found to discourage them from following me around was to be rude.

But still, that’s no reason to treat other people badly.

I had been sort of coming to that realization for awhile.  I realized that the people who I admired most were kind to everyone, and didn’t treat others badly, even when they deserved it.

Then, I started work at a new place, and most everyone ignored me.  They weren’t mean; just indifferent.  I didn’t feel welcome, except for two people who went out of their way to be helpful and kind.  I realized that the “honesty” I thought I was selling was really snake oil.

How you treat people says more about you than it does about them.  What do I want my behavior to say about me?  Do I want it to say that I’m judgmental, unkind, and disinterested?  Or do I want it to say that I’m accepting, kind, and helpful?

I still prefer to be left alone, and it can be hard to get interested in new people, but I try to make an effort, at least to smile and have a conversation, because that’s how I would want someone to treat me.

What do you want your behavior to tell others about you?

Talking to Strangers

Cedar Park, TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Cedar Park, TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’m not a naturally social person.  It’s not that I don’t like people; it’s mostly that I like to be left alone.

I love my friends.  I love spending time hanging out and talking about anything that comes to mind.  But when it comes to strangers, I prefer not to talk.  I believe in politeness and eye contact.  I think that these things are important, and so I stop texting or reading email, make eye contact with the cashier or waitstaff, smile, greet them, and say whatever seems appropriate in that moment.  I do that because I believe that people are feeling more disconnected because of forgetting to do the basics.  However, even though I believe in making human connections with others, I don’t want random conversation.  However, I value those conversations and what I learn about people.  Contradiction?  Yes.  Do I care?  Nope.

I was in the hardware store recently, and as an older gentlemen helped me find the part I needed, I mentioned that I recently moved to Austin.  He started telling me how much he loved Houston, and said, “I’m old fashioned.  I love women with big hair.  In Texas they have more of them, but not as many as they used to.”  People say the greatest and most unexpected things sometimes.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A few days ago, I went to Walgreens because I needed two small items, and I figured it would be quicker to go to the drugstore than Wal-Mart.  Wrong.

Although I got my items and paid for them in less than 10 minutes, the cashier started chatting, and before I knew it, a half hour had gone by.  I did enjoy our conversation, but in the back of my head, I kept thinking, “I have things to do.  It’s time for me to go.”  I learned about this woman’s first marriage, and her unexpected third child.  I learned that she likes to travel and works at Walgreens so that she has extra money.  I learned that she has Apple stock, and that she once had a customer who gives all her saved money (like if an item is on sale and she saves $1) to her young son, and that he in turn invests the money, and that at 8, he owns stock.  All very interesting, and part of me is glad when I have unexpected conversations with strangers, while another part of me, the larger part of me, still wishes I never had to leave the house.

I have extroverted friends who love talking to strangers, being nosy inquiring about others’ lives, and just generally meeting everyone.  I’m always perplexed by this behavior, but because I can fake extrovert, I get caught up in some of the same types of conversations.  I just don’t happen to enjoy them as much as others.  I enjoy the end result though, which is having more characteristics for my internal character bank.

So what do you think?  Do you love or hate talking to strangers?  Or are you too somewhere in between?

Doing Stuff Alone

Desert Botanical Gardens Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens
Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I recently read an article in which a woman wrote about going to Disneyland alone.  She really wanted to go and no one wanted to go with her, so she hemmed and hawed about it until she finally decided to go.

What’s the deal with not wanting to do things solo?  I’ve never understood why people would feel weird about eating out alone, going to the movies alone, or go to the bathroom alone (that’s a girls’ only thing… I hope).  I love spending time alone.  In fact, I often dream about going on vacation in a nice cabin in the woods… and then I realize that I’d creep myself out with everything I’d imagine lurking in the woods, waiting to eat me.  And that dream dissolves and dies.

But in all seriousness, I don’t mind doing things alone.  It gives me time to be introspective, to read, to write, to observe.  Going to an amusement park alone might be weird for me, since I’m not social.  If you’re someone who enjoys talking to strangers in line, I could see how it would be cool.  Then again, if I were doing it, I’d probably just bring a book and be just fine.  There’d be no negotiating what ride to go on, and no one saying they were tired.  Actually, it does sound pretty good.

Is there anything you don’t like doing alone?  Or something you especially do like doing alone?


Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Recently, I got the opportunity to spend a few days alone (my husband was out of town on a business trip), and my parents invited me over so I wouldn’t get lonely.

Lonely?  Who gets lonely?

I sometimes forget that others might spend a few days alone and get lonely.  I’m not wired that way.  The first thing I think when I hear that I get to be alone is “YAY!”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my family and my husband and friends.  But I also love the quiet peace of being alone, and knowing that I get to be alone.  I don’t have to share my air with anyone (except animals, and they don’t count in my mind).  Those of you who aren’t introverts will probably read this and think “Share her air?  Is she crazy??”  It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t an introvert that when you’re around others all the time, sometimes it’s nice to be so completely alone that you don’t even have to hear someone else breathe.

I’m never really alone.  I have the voices in my head to keep me company.  Right now, there’s Anne of Green Gables (I just finished re-reading that book) and some of my own characters.  We have conversations when there’s no one else around to think I’m talking to them.

If I were alone for weeks and weeks and weeks, maybe I’d get lonely.  Maybe.  But once in awhile, the quiet alone time is just what I need to recharge.

How do you recharge best?

Tales of an Introvert

Photo credit: RJS Photography

Photo credit: RJS Photography

It’s an extrovert’s world.  No, it is.  It’s true.  There’s even a book about it.  The Introvert Advantage: How to survive in an extrovert’s world, by Marti Olsen Laney.  Only about one in four people are introverts, and we’re mostly misunderstood.  We’re often believed to be anti-social, shy, and aloof, which isn’t necessarily true.  I love people.  Well, certain people.

I know that introverts think differently than extroverts do, but I know it in a background sort of way, the same way I know that I live in Arizona and have blonde hair.  It’s not on my mind all the time.  Sometimes it’s brought sharply into focus for one reason or another.

I like Facebook for my ability to be voyeuristic.  Hey, if you’re putting it out there, don’t get mad that I’m reading it.  I don’t understand why you’d want the world to know that, but if you do, yeah, I’m going to read it.  I like seeing not only what people will put out into a semi-public forum, but also for those insights into other people’s personalities.

One of my friends posted that she was bored, and another one invited her over.  Just like that, Friend 1 gave up a day in her home, alone, in pajamas, to go to Friend 2’s house.  I saw that and thought, “Huh?  Why?”

It’s not that I don’t like my friends.  I do.  It’s just that I like a day in pajamas, alone, a lot better most of the time.  I like making plans and doing things, but I’m not going to agree to leave my house on a whim.  I mean, why would I?  There are books to read, gardens to play in, dogs to entertain.

I went into a very busy grocery store with my sister in law the other day.  If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll know that the grocery store is about my least favorite place in the world.  But this one… this one was worse than any other store I’ve ever been in.  For one thing, it was BUSY.  Really, really, busy.  Plus, they were playing music loudly.  There were smells of fish.  I was so overstimulated that I wanted to turn around and walk back out.  If I lived there, I guarantee that I’d never shop there.  I don’t think my sister-in-law (an extrovert) even noticed how loud it was.

So, the moral of the story is this:  If you’re one of my friends, no matter how much I love you, I’m not getting out of my pajamas for you.  Not unless we already had plans.  And even then, I’m probably only getting out of my pajamas because I keep my promises.

You’re welcome.

Not a People Person

I’m not a people person.  Those who know me are shrugging and saying, “Well duh,” right about now.  I’m the dreaded introvert.  It’s not that I don’t like people; I do.  I just prefer them in small doses.  Preferably one at a time.  And not for very long.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a counselor working in mobile crisis, and some of you may find that a bit incongruent.  Though I’m secure in my contradictions, of which there are many, I don’t consider this to be one of them.  I’ll explain.

You see, I dislike the willfully stupid.  I love working with the sick, the ignorant, and the poor.  Many of them are brave in ways I’ll never have to be.

I also enjoy conversations with people who like to talk about books, movies, ideas, characters, the weird, wacky, or wonderful.  I know of the Kardashians from skimming the headlines on Yahoo news, but I’ve never seen a single episode of whatever they’re in. I don’t have any interest in writing passive aggressive posts on Facebook or making small talk.  If I’m going to talk to someone, I prefer that I either really care about the person, or we’re talking about something interesting.  I’m not into single serving friends.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with any of the above things; they’re just not for me.  This was brought home to me pretty sharply at the recent counseling conference I went to.  We were encouraged to talk to others and get to know one another, and I thought, “why?  What does that have to do with my learning to be a better counselor?”

On one hand, I could use more curiosity about others.  However, I think that what makes me a good counselor is my willingness to sit back and just listen.  I’m not composing shopping lists in my head or waiting for my turn to speak.  If I’m sitting there talking to you, it probably means I really want to hear your story.  I don’t waste my energy listening to nonsense.

This Is ME!

When I took the Meyers-Briggs test (It’s a psychological test that rates you on four scales to show some basic personality traits to try to help you with career choice), I didn’t have a single extraverted trait.  It rates you on a sliding scale, for lack of a better term.  I’m about as introverted as you can get and still be on the same plane of existence.  (Though my husband might occasionally argue about my claim that I ALWAYS exist on this plane).  Anyway, I found out that most of the world is made of extraverts, and that there are many books written on how introverts can fit into an extraverted world.

I always knew I didn’t belong, but I always kind of thought it was because my time traveling parents left me behind when they went back to 1842.  I didn’t realize that it was just my personality to feel a little out of step.

One of my favorite things about Facebook is reading articles that my friends have posted.  One of my friends led me to this great article about Introverts.  The author of the article explains that introverts’ brains actually work differently than extraverts’ brains, and explains why.  The author also posts “myths” about introverts that are as humorous as they are accurate.   The links below are to the original article and also to more information on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator.