1. First find a table socially distanced from other cafe guests and get out your laptop.
Do you ever wonder if when you pull out your laptop at your favorite coffee shop, the baristas think, Oh wow! I wonder what she's writing? Or is it more like, How long is she going to be sitting there? I hope she knows we close early tonight. It doesn't really matter as long as you go on to step two.
2. Get in line to order something to drink and/or eat.
Before the pandemic, I loved to go to any coffee shop to write and edit. There's something about the smell of the coffee and pastries, the busy-ness of the place, and the chatter of the customers and workers that energizes and inspires me. It's weird because when I work from home, I want to have almost complete silence--I don't like the TV on. I rarely listen to music, and I have to shut myself away in a room with a door closed if anyone is having a conversation in the house.
But in the coffee shop, I thrive. And they are opening again--not just outside--but inside too, and people are starting to sit inside again. The noise and chatter is still not the same as pre-pandemic, but neither are we.
What really seals the deal and makes me productive at a coffee shop is a scone and an ice tea or in the fall... a pumpkin spice latte.
3. Order the pumpkin spice latte with almond milk.
When I did the Whole 30 eating program, I realized that dairy and I should not be friends. Mostly, my dairy reaction comes when I drink a lot of milk, so I'm lucky that I don't have to be totally dairy-free.
But this means, I have to order my pumpkin spice latte with almond milk.
"Well," says the coffee shop barista, "Do you want the whip cream on top?"
"Of course," I say and even nod my head yes. I mean doesn't whip cream make the words pour out of me faster and better? Yes, it does. At least that's what I tell myself.
4. Sip the pumpkin spice latte while you type away on your latest WIP.
The first sip of the pumpkin spice latte goes through my body almost like a jolt of electricity. It wakes up my senses: the smell of fall when I bring the cup to my lips and the tingling on my tongue from the hot, sweet drink. There's always a smile on my face when I whisper, "Oh, that is so good."
I'm not sure if the words typed on my laptop really are better with the pumpkin spice latte. I've never compared what I wrote at home to what I wrote at the coffee shop, but I bet if I did, I would see a remarkable difference that everything is better with a pumpkin spice latte.
5. Smile at the other cafe guests and at the barista who is staring you down at closing time.
Maybe writing at a coffee shop helps me remember that I'm not alone. Writing is such a solitary task, but we are writing for other people--we are writing for our readers--so at that point, our words become a connection to other human beings. I like to have that connection while I'm writing though--I don't really love being solitary most days.
For me (and for a lot of us), the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic was rough. I started looking for that connection I need while I write and the cafe noise at my parents' house since I couldn't go to coffee shops for a very long time.
My writing has suffered during the pandemic, but I don't want it to, so I have a new plan to get productive with my words, which I'll share here soon. And maybe, just maybe, it has to do with a pumpkin spice latte.
6. Save your words, pack up your laptop, and be on your way.
Before I leave, I smile at the barista and try to remember to put something in the tip jar or buy a treat for home, especially if I sat there a while. After all, they helped me create this section of my work-in-progress, so they need some kind of compensation, right? I drain the very last drizzle of pumpkin spice syrup I can, clean up my crumbs from the pumpkin scone, and put my laptop away, feeling satisfied at my productivity and thankful that we can once again sit in coffee shops with our masks on, at least for now.
As I drive home, I'm already planning my next coffee shop adventure, and soon. you know, everything will be better with a peppermint cafe mocha--inculding my WIP.
Margo L. Dill is a writer, teacher, editor, and publisher, living in St. Louis, MO. Consider taking her next Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers class that starts on Wednesday, October 6, which is on sale this fall for $50 off! And of course, you can drink a pumpkin spice latte anytime you want during the class.