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An intermittent blog

The Ecstacy and the Agony - Writing in Cafes

An unexpected opportunity for a cup of Peet's while editing at Baystate in Springfield. The only drawback: no reusable mugs offered.

For most of my writing life, I've preferred the setting of a coffee shop for first drafts and for final editing and proofreading, and sometimes for the many phases in between. There's a particular, perhaps peculiar ecstacy that fills me when I'm working in a public space with ideas flowing fast and furious through my fingers. Maybe it's something about being entirely contained on the outside, looking rather normal and ordinary, but knowing wild things are happening in my brain that no one knows but me. At any rate, I love writing in coffee shops.

Much of my first novel, Heaven, Indiana was scrawled (my handwriting is chaotic, especially when I'm in creative mode) in journals that I carried with me to The New York Style Deli in Seattle.

My play Ismene was penned in large part in French cafés, the year my husband and I vacationed there.

Earth As It Is meandered: When the NY Style Deli closed, I moved my base to the Essential Bakery in our Seattle neighborhood, thence to Plattsburgh, NY where we lived for a decade and I followed three or four small cafes through their entire life cycles but could always find a productive hour or two at the Bagel Pit, née Baxter's Bagels, with side trips in Chicago, Provincetown, Burlington--Here's looking at you, Nunyun's!-Vermont.

When we scouted the town we'd retire in, we noted two coffee shops at or near the main intersection, and now another has opened just down the street. I'm writing from it now. Rise Above is the name, and I consider it an auspicious one, though I still have loyalties to Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters as well, and occasionally also sit to write at Greenfield Coffee and Green Fields Market.

The problem is I'm supposed to be living a gluten-free, sugar-free life at this point and now trying to focus in coffee shops with enticing almond croissants, corner pieces of banana or carrot cake, breakfast rolls drenched in cinnamon, delicate rugala cookies, and even gluten-free macaroons at times – well, it's agonizing.

Will I find a way to continue my love of writing in coffee shops and cafés while adhering to my late-in-life dietary restrictions? Will my health deteriorate as I persist in old habits, munching goodies while jotting words? Will I have to find new places to supplant the coffee shops that don't tempt? Libraries perhaps?

In these times of climate catastrophes and political ugliness, to have such a delicious dilemma to distract me provides at least momentary respite.