Usually at 2am—the last thing I am thinking about is Starbucks. Well, actually—I am thinking about Starbucks, but not to get a cup of joe in order to stay awake. No, I’m thinking about Starbucks, because I know if I had spent the last four hours there, instead of at home trying to write my latest 1500 words, I would have finished my weekly blog a lot sooner and in a shorter amount of time.
But most nights, I’m writing until 2am, and though I know I could write a few more words, I have to get some sleep. A full day of teaching and mommying await me in the morning. It is not unusual for me to be writing into the wee hours of my day. It is the only time I have complete quiet and uninterrupted “me time” in my home. No one wanting Momma’s help with math homework that I don’t quite understand, or a moment to expound on the virtues of Bruce Lee and Jet Li, or to help explain a passage from The Zombie Survival Guide. From 10pm to 2am most nights I am alone, my mind has uninterrupted quality time to work with words and imagery, and I have a few hours to write and think without anyone or anything to stop me.
But I usually can’t sustain the writing-until-2am work ethic. My 5am wake up call is just a few hours away, and running at full speed on a couple of hours of sleep doesn’t do it for anyone over the age of 25. Working moms and dads who share my love of words would agree.
As a freelance writer, I normally have one weekly deadline, and then a few other projects that are also in the works. A short story, a poem I am in love with at the moment, and my soon-to-be-finished novel. As a mother and a professional—many of those deadlines have to be shoved to the side. It is the nature of having a day job and a family who loves me.
So when I am asked the question: “When do you write?” I have to think about what my answer will be.
“Whenever I can find an hour without someone bugging me.”
“Whenever my husband stops wanting to spend time with me.”
“Whenever my son decides I am no longer cool.”
Which could be any day now. Well—not the hour without someone bugging me—that will never happen, I just need to resign myself to that fact. So when I look at these options, I probably would never have a chance to write. Ever.
But I do. I make my deadlines, and I usually make headway on one of my side projects during the week. It’s slow going, but it happens. When you love words and writing—putting those two passions together is something you make happen.
Novelist and mother, Jacquelyn Mitchard, once said that a writer must approach writing as if they were involved in a secret love affair, so in order to spend time with your paramour, you have to steal time to be with the one you love.
So I write whenever I can steal time. And usually that means running away from home and holing up in the nearest and cheapest place that will allow me to sit, plug in my laptop, escape into my music, and write several thousand words before I have to spend another $5 for more coffee.
My place of choice to meet my affaire de coeur seems to bring shudders to “real writers” for some strange reason. But in order to steal time to write, I have to leave my house. I have to leave my son, and my attentive husband, so that I can bang out as many words as I can in whatever time I can hijack from my other obligations.
This is where Starbucks comes in. No, not some cheap motel, although, that wouldn’t be a bad choice if you wanted to escape for a couple of days, but Starbucks is one of the few places I can pay a few dollars—and bonus! Get coffee in return—for a couple of hours of solid writing time. I know, the coffee is overpriced, and one sniff of their pastry case makes me gain a couple pounds, but that is a price worth paying in order to finish a story or a blog without interruptions or leaving a story half done. If you are lucky enough to have a neighborhood coffee shop where you can set up shop, that would be a better deal—but if nothing else, you KNOW every few miles within your home is a ‘Bucks with an empty seat. It’s at least a place where you can carve out some writing time, and there will be no Bruce Lee/Zombie talk to take you away from your pages. Well, depending on what you are writing, of course.
There’s a bit of a stigma attached to the idea of hanging out at a Starbucks to work on your writing. I’m sure you’ve walked into a ‘Bucks to get your morning pick-me up and seen tables full of open laptops and heads bowed over keyboards. Perhaps only half are writing the next Great American Novel, or the next Best Oscar screenplay, but whatever they are writing, they are DOING IT.
So why the attitude? Why the pompous disdain for those who write in Starbucks? There seems to be a special type of scorn from fellow writers about those who work their craft in one of the few places that isn’t trying to kick them out the door. Even Carrie Bradshaw, Miss “Sex and the City” herself looked down her square peg nose at the thought of writing in Starbucks. And she wrote a sex column—hardly Hemingway by any means.
Thankfully, Carrie is a fictional character—but I have gotten the same type of reaction from some of my fellow wordsmiths. It seems to them that you are not a real writer if you have to write in a coffee shop. I of course, beg to differ—I just happen to be a writer AND a working mother, so I take my writing time whenever—and wherever—I can take it.
So I’m going to let those stiff-necked writer types look down at my chosen get away spot where I can spend a few lovely hours with my ink and paper lover. If nothing else I can spend time doing what I love and be that much closer to finishing my novel or making my next blog deadline. And if all else fails, at least I can get a nice hot cup of coffee and some “me time.” I’m not afraid to steal time for my words and myself. Tell me where you escape to steal time. Perhaps I can finally move out of Starbucks and get a new place of my own.