A while back on a forum (I think on NaNoWriMo.com?) 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.
I don’t know why it is that I write so much better in public than at home. I have a very nice little home office, with a desk and a computer and a nearby kitchen in which I can make coffee.
But somehow, going out to a public place–most often a Starbucks, since I have gift cards and their gold card means I get free refills–makes my writing flow a thousand times better than it does at home. I love having people around me. Even though I put on headphones so I can’t hear them, and wear a baseball cap so if they jiggle their legs I can pull the visor low and block them out, I like having them there. Even though a lot of the time I hate them.
I left my job at a newspaper last summer, and since then I’ve been spending a huge amount of time in coffee shops, writing. Also working various part-time jobs to make ends meet–a wonderful one at the library and some not-so-wonderful ones other places. But writing is my real work.
I used to be horrible at self-discipline, and I’m still not great at getting started, but I have become very, very good at getting writing done once I get going. In the last six months I’ve written and edited eight short stories, written and edited (and self-published) a novella, wrote the rough draft of a full-length novel, completed three rounds of edits on a screenplay, and written the rough draft of another screenplay. Nothing makes me as happy as writing does.
Oh, and this isn’t going to be a blog about the deliciousness of coffee or the wonders of caffeine. Coffee has to be horrible before I notice it’s not the best coffee ever, and I drink decaf (doctor’s orders). Sorry.