I have been reading articles about the strange inclination that writers seem to have to write in coffee shops even when they have perfectly good offices at home. I’m one of them. I have a whole room dedicated to scholarly pursuits (originally set up as a refuge for the overflow of my classroom materials), an actual library (small one but wonderful) with a bay window and a comfy chair, and of course my couch with its IKEA laptop stand. Yet, I never seem to write as well and as profusely as when I’m sitting at my double-seater Panera Bread booth. Why is that? It is not the quietest place in the world and even though it is comfortable, I have to work on my Kindle because I don’t carry my laptop around.
I thought about it quite a bit and came to a few conclusions. Home offices may be quiet and comfy, but they do not offer inspiration for characters and plots. Let me explain. In the few years I have been a regular at my local Panera (and I am such a regular the employees know me by name) I have collected many stories (yet to be written) from what happens around me.
There is a couple that came for breakfast every weekend and met with their young daughter and grandbaby. The husband, clearly much older than the wife, walked with difficulty and had a kind, quiet face. A few months ago, he quit coming. Now, I see the wife frequently with another lady that I believe to be her sister, but no husband. In my head I know he must have passed away or is now in an assisted living facility. The daughter and grandchild don’t come either anymore so I’m guessing they moved away. Characters for a future novel.
There is an odd young man who seems to assume and shed personas like shirts. He has been a Matrix-type character, complete with black hat, long trench coat, and a heavy long wooden staff. He has been the quirky-poet type with a goatee, small round glasses, a small hard bound book in his hand. The last time I saw him he was a stylish priest of some kind, sporting a clerical collar, a black damask blazer, a vest and a pristine white shirt. Haven’t seen him in a while. My theory is that someone took exception to his “disguises” and had Panera issue a restraining order.
If I wrote at home I would miss all this rich tapestry of characters and plot ideas. The human energy you get in a heavily caffeinated place feeds my inspiration and keeps me going. I wouldn’t have it any other way.