synonyms for starbucks



A Way to Get Ideas and Also to Make Them Good: Free Writing

I was taught about free writing many years ago as a journaling technique (and it works for that too) but I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable for coming up with ideas, and for figuring out how to fix plot flaws or stalls.
First you need a pen and paper. It can maybe be done on a keyboard, if you write extremely slowly, but it isn’t nearly effective. Your handwriting doesn’t need to be neat or even particularly readable. Get a pen that flows well, and the paper should be at least 8×10–no tiny little notebooks or napkins for this. You have to feel like you have all the room in the world–a regular spiral notebook like you used in school is perfect.
Make sure you’re not going to disturbed for a while. You want to make sure you can do this for at least thirty minutes without interruption. For me, Starbucks is perfect for this (as long as you’re wearing headphones) because you can just turn off your phone. At home, people might walk in or you might feel the need to check on the Internet. But of course you can do it at home or anywhere else you prefer. Just maybe not at work, or in front of the TV.
Put the pen on the paper, and start writing everything that comes into your head. Not just ideas for your project, but all of your internal dialogue as well. As in: “Okay, I need to come up with an idea for this short story I’ve been asked to write, about pineapples. I have no ideas. This is awful. All right. What do I know about pineapples? Well, they grow in Hawaii, right? Maybe I could do a story set in Hawaii? I’ve never been to Hawaii though. I’ve seen it on TV a lot. There was the Brady Bunch episode in Hawaii. Probably not enough to set a story there. So maybe I could do a story about someone who has moved here from Hawaii, and is homesick, and becomes obsessed with pineapples as a way to deal with the homesickness? That could work. I’ve been homesick. Boarding school was horrible. Maybe they’re at boarding school? Okay, then what? Well, maybe there is some kind of crime syndicate operating in the new town and she uncovers it because of her obsession with pineapples. No, wait, maybe she gets a job working with pineapples and that’s how she stumbles upon it, because they’re using pineapples in their crimes. Why would that ever happen. All right, so maybe…”
Basically, you’re letting your entire thought process spill out onto the paper, and by doing that you’re harnessing it. If you only try to write down the good ideas, or the ideas you recognize as workable, you’ll miss the tiny little sparks that could burn into big ideas.
It sometimes takes a long time. You’ll be writing “I don’t know. That’s stupid. Why can’t I come up with anything? What time is it? Oh man, I only have an hour” for what seems like forever. But: it works. It really does. All of a sudden one tiny little piece of an idea will connect with another, and a whole, brilliant idea will come pouring out of you like a stopper has been pulled. It’s the most amazing feeling, like a miraculous release.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down with literally no ideas AT ALL other than “I want to write a YA novel” and stood up with characters and a fully-formed plot.
It works just as well when you can’t figure out a problem in something you’re writing. Your brain will be noodling on it, but sitting down and writing every little thing you’re thinking somehow makes all the ideas you have fall into place.
The important thing to remember is that no one–NO ONE–but you will ever read this stuff. That’s part of why I like to do it in cursive in a notebook rather than typing it–no one COULD read that. So you can write down every bad idea you have in order to make room for the good ideas, and no one will ever know.
It’s one of those things you might have to try to really believe in, but I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Just make sure you commit to really doing it, with time and a whole lot of large empty pieces of lined paper.

Oh, and when I first learned how to do this, back when it was a method for journal, the people who taught me were big on lighting a candle and playing baroque music while doing it. You can listen to Vivaldi on your ipod if you want, but should probably only do the candle thing if you’re at home. Or write in a place that has candles on the table, maybe.


Starbucks on a Monday night…


7:35 p.m. Have come to Starbucks after work. Walked; The Husband is picking me up at closing time. The idea was that this way I’d absolutely have to get writing done because I wouldn’t be able to leave. Realized how stupid this was when I came in and found the place packed; there were literally no free chairs and it’s cooooold out. Went across the street to the drugstore and got a new compact which I genuinely needed, and when I came back I caught someone just as they were leaving. Will drive next time. There are other Starbucks around but none I want to walk to when its dark and cold out.

7:42 p.m. The amount of pride and self-satisfaction I feel when I don’t forget to bring my reusable cup is not at all in proportion to the achievement.

7:45 p.m. Sat down next to a table of pretty college girls just in time to hear “and he had to go to jail, but only for like six months, so that’s not that bad.” Really wish I could have heard the beginning and middle of that conversation.

7:50 p.m. When you log into the Starbucks wifi, the little “agree to our terms!” website states that it’s fifty degrees outside. I wish it would also tell the AC system, which is currently blasting cold air on my head.

8:10 p.m. Anyone using a speakerphone at Starbucks is an asshole. I feel comfortable making this blanket statement.

8:17 p.m. I wonder: if I tweeted about being at this particular Starbucks and it being freezing, would the Starbucks person in charge of reading twitter call them and tell them to turn off the AC? I guess I could just ask them to myself, but it might be awkward and I want the baristas to like me.

8:23 p.m. Goal for tonight is to figure out the entire plot of the third book in my vampire romance series. This means I need to remember what happened in the first two. Which is proving to be more difficult than is at all reasonable.

8:24 p.m. It pleases me that when I type “at” my phone asks if the next word is going to be Starbucks.

8:39 p.m. Just finished my first cup of coffee. I have written SO MUCH! Oh, unless we aren’t counting Facebook comments and this blog post, in which case I have written zero.

8:43 p.m. Oooh they have new salads.

8:44 p.m. While I was looking at the salads some guy cut if front of me. I didn’t start a fight but I could tell my glare stung.

8:45 p.m. It is at least fifteen degrees warmer at the counter than in the corner where my table is.

8:47 p.m. I finally asked if they could make it warmer in here and they said it’s all controlled by corporate. I have no idea if this is a colossal pile of bullshit or not. On the other hand the barrista remembered my order and I forgive anything when they do that.

8:51 p.m. As I turned away from picking up my refill, super creepy guy asked what I was drinking and when I said it was just decaf with soy, he said “oh, because it looks really special!” Ugh.

9:15 p.m. Chick at counter is asking for a venti cup of ice. They don’t want to give it to her (I’ve heard about this; I guess people get out of paying for an iced coffee by getting ice and brewed coffee and adding milk or something?)and she clearly thinks she’s going to flirt it out of them. Chick at counter is not nearly as cute or charming as she thinks.

9:16 p.m. Wow, it took less than a minute for that to turn nasty. Chick at counter just called barista an asshole. Now she’s making a huge deal of writing down all their names to complain about them. People behind counter could not care less about chick at counter.

9:40 p.m. The kid next to me is playing his music so loud I can hear it clearly coming from his earphones. I’m worried about his hearing, and also worried about how elderly I’ve apparently become.

10:20 p.m. I moved to a table that is not directly under a fan (place is clearing out). Just noticed a small puddle of water at the other side of the table from me. I know that if I do not wipe it up, there is about a 90% chance that something I have on the table (currently: iPod, phone, iPad, keyboard, keyboard case, spiral notebook) will end up wet and yet I just can’t quite get myself to stand up and walk the five feet to the condiment bar where the napkins are.

10:21 p.m. How do I have that much stuff?

10:50 p.m. Was getting nowhere with figuring out plot, so made a list of my goals for the next book, and the character’s goals as well (as in, one of my goals is to have some good fight scenes; one of Tess’s goals is to get the medicine to the people who need it, and one of the Senator’s goals is to not let anyone find out his horrible secret). It was remarkably effective. This is going to become a regularly-used technique for me I think.

10:58 p.m. It’s a shame I’m not currently writing a *ahem* “love scene,” because the guy sitting across from me right now is so breathtakingly handsome, it would just write itself.

10:59 p.m. I know it would be totally inappropriate to try to take this guy’s picture to post on my blog, OK? I’m not going to do it. Sheesh.

11:02 p.m. Table full of teenagers next to me getting up to leave. There was something extraordinarily sweet about the way one teenage boy asked another teenage boy if he’d remembered to get his charger.

11:25 p.m. Forgot to tell The Husband which Starbucks I was at. Doy.

11:28 p.m. My keyboard case got wet. 😦

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The deal with the word count

Okay, you know how sometimes you’ll write something on one piece of software, like on your iPad or whatever, and it will say you have 3100 words and you are incredibly pleased and happy with yourself and you stop writing because your goal for the day was only 3000? And then you get home and upload it and open it in Word and discover that oh no, you only wrote 2800 words? And then you have to stay up and write another 200 and it sucks? (I mean, for people who make word-count-for-the-day goals it sucks. I know people who would rather die, but it’s the only way I can make it to the end of big projects). Or you were hired to write something that is 2000 words, and it’s only until you paste it into Word that you find out it’s only 1940 words, and the temptation is to go through and put “really, really” in front of every adjective). One solution is to only write in Word in the first place, but I use a much cheaper app on my ipad, and I like using Scrivener to organize projects, and whatever, Word is not the boss of me.
So, I figured out (a couple of, anyway) the reasons that different softwares don’t get the same results when they count words: Some of them count hyphenated words as two words. And some of them count anything after an APOSTROPHE as a new word. Like, “Can’t” is two words. Or “They’re” or “aunt’s.” Which is insane and evil because why would anyone want that?
Obviously you can’t try to just not type with contractions because then your writing will be dreadful. A better way is just to know ahead of time how your software counts. Type a sentence with an apostrophe: “my best friend’s wedding” and see if it counts as that as four or five words. Then see if tried-and-true is one word or three. Once you know, you can factor that in. Counts apostrophes? Multiply your word count by .97 and you’ll be closer. Counts hyphens? Multiply by .99.
A similar problem: When you’re writing screenplays, you generally count by pages rather than words. I discovered that the software I was using to write on my iPad was saying I had way more pages than I had. It took me quite a while to realize that because there’s no zoom feature and my eyes are old, I’d changed the font to be sixteen point rather than the standard twelve point. I can’t really blame the software for that one, I know.

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Letter Box: Leaving Stuff on Tables

Dear Synonyms for Starbucks,
When you get up from your hard-won and coveted seat in a Starbucks, what do you leave on your table to save it? Is it safe to just leave your laptop or purse or whatever, if you’re just getting a refill or going to the rest room?
Perplexed in Portland

Dear PiP,
Yeah I have no idea. I mean, I see people walk away from their laptops sitting open on their tables, or leaving purses with $100 bills sticking out of them, and I admire those people, but that is just not me at all. I feel like an idiot packing everything up–and if everything includes a big laptop it’s incredibly annoying–but I’m also scared to leave anything I don’t want to lose. Even though it’s possible to get a lock for the laptop (which is attached to a long cable you wrap around the table leg, so it can’t be grabbed), I always worry someone will spill something on it or something.
So, mostly, I only bring a laptop to Starbucks if I have a writing buddy (on of the many reasons a writing buddy is a nice thing to have). Otherwise, I write on my AlphaSmart or Ipad, both of which are easy to stick in my purse. To save the table, I usually leave a spiral notebook (cause who would want to take that?) and a sweater or hoodie on the chair. Probably no one is going to risk getting caught stealing for a ragged old hoodie (and honestly, if they need it that bad…). The one valuable thing I sometimes leave on the table is the wireless keyboard I use with my iPad. That’s because if I stick it in my purse I either have to turn off the blue tooth or know that my purse is going to hit both the “play music” key and the “full volume” key just as I’m entering the ladies’ room. So I leave it on the table and put my notebook over it. I figure if someone is actually moving things around looking for the stuff worth stealing, someone else will probably say something.
A thing I HATE to do (but do now and then anyway) is ask a nearby stranger to watch my stuff. One, I don’t know them maybe THEY’RE THE THIEF, and two, what if something happens and I’m gone for a long time and they have to stick around make sure I’m not robbed and they miss their kid being born.
On another note, if you agree to watch someone’s stuff you cannot leave for any reason until they either 1. get back or 2. are gone more than forty minutes, at which point it’s okay to alert the staff.
PS Oh, and never leave just your drink to save your table. Someone WILL throw it out and claim they thought you’d left.
PPS Of course you already know that it’s only okay to save your table for a few minutes while you get a refill, go to the rest room, or mmmmaybe take a quick call outside.

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Okay, so, sometimes you try something new, and then you know.

A while back on a forum (I think on we were discussing places to write around here and someone suggested the Ikea cafeteria. I sort of filed away the idea, intending to check it out sometime. I live right by there, and had heard that the food and especially the coffee were super cheap, but didn’t imagine that they’d want me to camp out with a laptop, taking a table intended for shoppers.
Today, though, I had some outlining to do with pen and paper, and decided to try it–I figured a spiral notebook would be less objectionable. 
Of course, the first thing I did after entering was get lost. Partly because Ikea’s are set up to make sure you see every inch of the place and partly because Certain People would apparently rather look at their phones than pay attention to where they’re going. (Me. I mean me.)
I eventually found the cafeteria (it probably only seemed like it took hours) and it’s true, the food is incredibly cheap and surprisingly good. The coffee is about what you’d expect, and your sweetner options are sugar or Equal, but it’s also 75 cents a cup with free refills. Besides, I’m blessed with the inability to tell good coffee from bad. I drink generic instant at home all the time.
It was loud, but so loud it wasn’t really distracting–the dull roar became almost like silence.
I found an okay, two-person table. Kind of cold in there, and not very comfortable chairs, but… it was fine. I wrote for a while. I ate a nice fruit cup and drank my coffee. No one bugged me. The mugs are small, that was annoying. It was after the third (small) cup that I realized the problem with writing at Ikea. No real way to save my seat–not leaving my jacket in a place that big and empty of employees–and certainly my tray would be taken if I left it for very long. And, well, I am a girl who needs to pee. I mean, fairly frequently.
When I realized that particular inconvenience, all the other things–weird chairs, AC unit blasting directly over my head, shrieking children, and the vague feeling that someone was going to ask me to leave soon, made cheap coffee suddenly Not Worth It. It would have been awfully cool and adorably quirky if Ikea was my favorite place to write, but… Nah.
I’m at Starbucks now. It’s warm. The barrista recognized me. There are people nearby I’d probably like, if I ever spoke to them, which I won’t unless there’s an earthquake or something but still. There’s soy milk in my decaf, plus three types of powders (chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg). It cost two dollars, but the cup’s a lot bigger, and I still get free refills.

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Tools for Writing in Public: The AlphaSmart

alphasmartI have a lot of different ways of writing when I write in coffee shops (and I’ll probably talk about them all at some point) but one of my favorites is also the one people seem most surprised and impressed by: my AlphaSmart 3000. The AlphaSmart is essentially a keyboard with a small screen that shows four lines of text at a time. You can’t really edit on it, and it wouldn’t work at for anything that needs formatting (so, I don’t use it when I write screenplays). But man oh man, it is wonderful.

Here’s what’s great about the AlphaSmart:

  • It’s very light. I have put it in backpacks and then forgotten it’s there.
  • It’s super-durable. I have dropped said backpacks on the ground really hard before remembering it was in them. It rattles if you shake it but works just fine.
  • It has the same size keyboard as most laptops.
  • It runs on AA batteries. So you never have to worry about recharging or running out–just pack a couple extra batteries if you’re worried; but don’t be. It runs FOREVER on those batteries.
  • It’s cheap. I think I got mine on Ebay for $45.
  • You can write on the beach with it. I do this sometimes. I wouldn’t want to carry my laptop or iPad on the beach, but the AlphaSmart… I just don’t worry that much. And writing on the beach is FANTASTIC.
  • You can carry it with you pretty much anywhere, and it’s great anywhere, but the VERY best thing is when you travel or commute. It’s perfect on buses and subways because it fits on your lap, can be shoved into a bag without being folded or whatever if you have to stand, and people are much less likely to steal it than a laptop, because it just doesn’t look all that impressive. I like taking it on airplanes, too, because you don’t need to make a big deal about bringing it through security. And you can use it (easily) with the tray table folded up.

When I’m trying to get a lot of (non-screenplay) writing done in a short time, I keep in it my car. That way if I get some unexpected free time I can grab it and go into the nearest Starbucks, or a park, or if I’m ten minutes early somewhere I can just sit in my car and type on it for a little while.
When you’re ready to get what you’ve written onto to your computer, you open a text document (word, or whatever), plug in a cable to the AlphaSmart and the computer, and hit send. It’s like you’re typing into the document (so if you have AutoCorrect on in Word, it fixes your spelling mistakes as it goes).
The bad stuff:

  • It only holds roughly 25,000 words. Then you have to move it to your computer and clear up files.
  • There is no word count function (on my version anyway; later versions might have it) so you can’t really know if you’ve hit your daily quota.
  • Mine does a weird thing where it switches punctuation so I have to do a find/replace; friends who have them don’t have that problem and it might be because I did something weird to it.
  • A friend pointed this out and it’s true; when you use it strangers constantly interrupt your writing to ask what the AlphaSmart is and how it works and whatnot.

As I said I have an AlphaSmart 3000; there are several versions (the 2000, the Neo), some more expensive than others. I’m really happy with mine. You can find them by searching on Amazon (they have 12 just like mine, right now, for $25-$58) or on Ebay. Make sure the cable comes with it.

Five Splashes of Soy Milk (out of five splashes)

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The Grocery Store Starbucks, and Our Shared Civic Duty


I live in a place with lots of traffic, so I never really know how long it’s going to take me to get anywhere. Especially since I’ve moved from Hollywood to the Valley–going over the hill could take twenty minutes, or it could take an hour. I hate being late so I always leave early, and this means I’m often in a strange neighborhood forty minutes before I need to be there.
Luckily, with google maps on my home computer, not to mention the GPS search function on my phone, I can always find a Starbucks to hole up in and write. I usually include it when I get directions somewhere–I do a quick search to find what Starbucks are nearby (obviously, there are other coffee places, and I look at those too. But as I’ve said before, I usually have a gift card for Starbucks, and I’m on a serious budget these days). Sometimes I’ll leave even earlier than I need to–just figure I’ll get an hour of writing in before the appointment.
Another thing I’ll do, if my husband and I miss each other because he’s in rehearsals for a play; I’ll do a search for a Starbucks near his rehearsal space, drive him there, go to Starbucks and write, and pick him up after. Quality time in the car together, and I get to be productive.
Most of the time, this works out delightfully. I find a new Starbucks (or, often, one I’ve been to before but forgotten) and have a lovely time getting lots done.
But now and then, it’s not so great. Of course sometimes it’s too crowded, but I can almost always find a place to squeeze in at a counter or on the patio.
But the worst, the VERY WORST, is the dreaded GROCERY STORE STARBUCKS.
The fact that these are listed the same as a regular Starbucks on google maps is a TRAVESTY.  I don’t understand how it happens, and it has caused me grief innumerable times (I know you’re thinking I should just see if there’s a grocery store at the same address, but at least around here grocery stores and coffee shops share the same strip mall all the time). Not just Starbucks; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has burned me this way too.
There is, however something we can do. We have power, and we can take care of one another: We can leave reviews that mention the Starbucks is inside a grocery store. If you know of a Starbucks that is inside another store, take a moment. Mention it in a google review (also: Yelp!). Put the fact that it’s in a grocery store in all caps at the top of the review. If this becomes a thing, you might be protected from this horror.
At the very least, you might not end up at the SAME GROCERY STORE MORE THAN ONCE, as has possibly happened to someone I know.


How to Create a Perfect Writing Playlist


I love the chatter and background noise in coffee shops, unless people are actually talking near me or the store is playing any music at all, at which point I have to put on headphones.

When you’re writing, you want to be focused on what you’re putting on the page. Pausing to change songs is a problem, and so is pausing to enjoy songs. You want to be able to turn on your ipod and then not touch it again. You want every song to be perfect background to your creativity.

Here’s how to make that playlist.
It’s not about hand-picking all the right songs; it would take forever and you’d get impatient and make the list too small and you’d get bored with it. The much better way it is to just get rid of all the wrong songs.

First: Make a new playlist with every song you own –unless you already have a smaller playlist that is just songs you like. In that case, copy that one.

Next, get rid of all the songs you’re going to stop writing to skip past. Songs you secretly hate, but own because they’re by your favorite artist, or because your friend bought you the album, or whatever. We all have them. There’ll be good excuses below to explain why they’re not on the playlist even though you loooooove them (in case your bff, who keeps buying you Prince albums, sees the playlist). Sometimes you can remove whole artists or albums at a time this way. And don’t feel bad–I hate “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols and that does not in any way diminish my love for every other song they made.

Now, get rid of anything that will pull your focus.

  • All albums that are just spoken word— Seinfeld wondering what the deal is, Rollins telling about that time he was in an airport, that sort of thing.
  • All the songs that tell a story. Anything that has a strong character singing about a specific event. Because chances are, you’re not going to be writing about that character or event in that moment. (If, for instance, you’re writing a sex scene, the single worse song that can come on is “The Gambler.” This is a proven fact. )This can go fast if you go through your show tunes albums and just pick out the few that AREN’T like this.
  • All the songs that don’t work as single songs but require the song after it to immediately come on. Songs from concept albums–a lot of Pink Floyd songs are like this, for instance. If hearing the end of one song and not hearing the beginning of the next is like missing a step, your brain will screech to a halt while you notice it.
  • Songs you love too much, or anything that could be called your “jam.” If when it comes on you have to stop everything to listen to it and drum on the table or whatever, it needs to go. Put it on a different playlist.
  • Songs that make you think strongly of a specific scene in a movie. If you can hear “Maniac” and think of anything other than Jennifer Beales dancing, well, that’s surprising. If you’re not writing, right then, about a person dancing, it can get in the way.
  • Songs that invoke a particular memory or emotional reaction in you. I love REM’s “Losing My Religion,” but every time I hear it I spend anywhere from 45 seconds to fifteen minutes thinking about the guy I loved and lost when I was nineteen. This is not good for writing. Or “Eye of the Tiger,” the best song possible when you’re trying to motivate yourself off the couch, is not a great one when writing a death scene, say.

When you’re done, you should have a whole bunch of songs that are pleasant and ignorable. Songs you like but don’t make you pay attention to them. Of course as you write, you’ll find there are still songs on the playlist that pull your focus or that you never realized you hated. Make a note of them, and remove them from the playlist next time you’re at your computer. It will happen less and less often.

Oh, and play the list on shuffle, always. If you get used to a pattern, your brain will complain if it’s missing.