As I write this post I am NOT sitting in a café. I do NOT have a freshly made latte complete with love heart or – from some more detached cafes: a fern! – swirled on top of it. I do NOT have some half-munched scones and jam by my side, nor a delicious enticing – insert superlative adjective overload right here! – chocolate thing by my side either. I don’t have friendly staff who care about whether I have enough water by my side and neither do I, as I write this, have a street view of cars whizzing by and people dressed in suits, track-suit pants and anything in between walk past.
There are no fussy dogs perched under tables outside which I can see, accompanied by sunglasses-wearing owners. There are no competing tied-up dogs from neighbouring tables outside, tempting one another for a duel through snarls and barks and any kind of provocative behaviour which makes an owner growl (a bit like their pet) “RRRRRRR…. STOP that!!”
I can’t people-watch, I can’t dog watch, I can’t gaze-entranced-at-desserts-in-glass-cabinets watch.
At the moment there’s no frenetic atmosphere to be a part of: no clanking of plates I can hear (not that it’s a particularly soothing sound but still…) no cranky chefs I can faintly make out, no waiters’ small talk, no neighbouring neighbours’ conversations about anything and everything.
There are no delicious smells wafting past, no exotic-sounding paninis to purchase. I can’t hear any coffee machines whirring and burring and boiling and spitting and getting a real work-out, screeching each time the milk gets hot enough.
Nothing like that.
Don’t get me wrong, at the moment I have peace. I’m in a quiet place and I have an opportunity to write in this serene environment.
If I’m a real writer, which I hope to be one day, maybe I’ll be so engaged in my work that I’ll hardly notice the environment, the atmosphere (or lack, thereof) and all I’ll notice is the computer screen and words churning out at a reasonable pace and the sound of my hands inelegantly typing, just grateful to hit the right keys, not looking like a secretary on an ad from the 1950s – back erect and fingers typing away as graceful as a swan, should a swan ever want to type.
And the words, and my imagination and lucid, wild ideas will enrapture me and sail me away to the land of Intense Concentration!
But, you know what? Apart from the fact I know it’s not “good grammar” to start a sentence with a preposition like BUT …(if you don’t tell anyone I won’t!) …. I have to admit I just love writing in cafes. They’re my favourite place to write.
Something about writing in a café, if it be with Macbook (my one true love, by the way) or notebook and pen, is just so enticing. It allures me every time.
It might be the coffee, it might be the atmosphere, it might be the fact that you can never get writer’s block in a café, squeezed in between Real Life as it happens around you and the inspiration that is people-watching and basically just everything-watching.
When you write in a café all your dreams come true. (Sensationalism alert.) You want water, it appears. You want a jolt of caffeine made your favourite way? It appears. You want to look out the window and see people you don’t know wandering past, which – intrigues you because everything is intriguing if you really think about it? You can.
You can, in a café! Sounds like a slogan, I know.
And tonight, as I write in my quiet room with none of these above mentioned things around, I am reminded of something else. Something I didn’t expect to know when I began this musing.
That in the peace, the silence and the familiar come inspiration as well. It’s a different kind of inspiration from the café scene, which is more thriving and energetic and sporadic.
It’s an inspiration stemming from the part of us that is raw: just comes from us: who we really are as writers when we’re away from cafes.
Somewhere inside of us there’s this abundant fountain of inspiration and it’s there when we go to cafes, activated by the charisma of human interactions and the clear, roasty smell of fresh coffee but it’s also there in the quiet moments as well.
What’s the answer? Only we know ourselves and for every artist it’s different. Some writers need a special “white” room, others need Starbucks to work and some don’t have any diva demands at all.
For myself I’ve learnt that my inspiration is fostered in cafes but developed in my quiet, homely places.
And, really, really really if we are artists and our mind is the epicentre of our creation then inspiration is everywhere. As Hemingway once said, once he saw – and lived in – Paris as a young man he could take that experience and carry it with him for his whole life as a “moveable feast.” Inspiration can be like that; something we always carry around with us, no matter of our location.