Writing is a solitary enough activity (which is why we tend to gather at writer conventions if only to be around other folks who “get it”). Still, because conventions can be pricey and and you can only stare at your same four walls for so long before having memorized every contour and crack in the wall left from when your two sons decided to wrestle with one another, sometimes it’s nice to get out and be around people even if you’re not specifically engaging with them. You get the vicarious thrill of having a life—hearing people speak and interact—and still get to be productive.
Kelly Barnhill recently wrote a blog about her favorite coffeeshop and it got me to thinking about some of mine. There’s something comforting about going someplace where your “tribe” has gathered and as a group you pursue your solitary endeavors. It took me a while to find the right place to nest, as it were. I spent a lot of time hanging out in a variety of coffee shops (it’s like church shopping for a place to write). There’s also something … cliché about hanging out in a coffeeshop working on your story or Great American Novel, but I can chalk that part of it up to the romantic notions about being a writer.
I’m a big supporter of local shops, thus very little frequenting of a Starbucks. And as it’s a creative endeavor, I usually spend my time in one of the Indianapolis arts districts, typically Broad Ripple, Irvington (which has my second favorite coffee shop, Lazy Daze), and Fountain Square, where my favorite shop is, Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company.
Calvin Fletcher’s is like “Cheers” for me, where everybody knows your name. Seriously, Doug and Jeff Litsey (the father and son duo who run the shop) make a point of getting to know all of their customers names. The shop is run as a non-profit and they regularly donate their tips to local charities. What tipped the scales in favor of CF over Lazy Daze was that CF was a natural nexus of my worlds. Artists of all stripes, writers, folks from my church, as well as folks in other ministries and non-profits regularly frequent there, so I can network over coffee and during writing blocks.
And the cast of characters that come through on a regular basis practically demand to be put into stories. For us regulars, it’s like going to the office and working around the water cooler. All sorts of collaborations and brainstorming gets done, partly because we’re all nosey and want to know what each other is doing. But because we all come from different backgrounds, it’s like attending an Interstitial Arts meeting during the rest of the month.
I am on record as writing in the oddest places. My clipboard is my portable desk and as the father of two boys, I’ve learned to tune out a lot. So I can write anywhere … and have to as I can’t stop the voices (I just try not to let them intrude on date nights). I still write on my bed (oddly enough it’s the best place for me to write dialogue) and the bulk of my writing at home is done on my couch. But when I need to get out, I head down to Calvin Fletchers. It’s my magic coffee shop.