Sometimes, the demands of family, friends, personal fitness, and the general day-to-day can be huge hinders to our writing. Add in a 40+ hour workweek, as so many of us have, and coming home to your couch and a marathon of Netflix becomes incredibly enticing. Sure, you only have those last few chapters to round out… but you’re just so tired, and the purring kitten on your lap is just so warm, and it really wouldn’t kill your WIP to wait another day, would it? Heck, you may even come up with an even better version of that scene you were stuck on if you just let it marinate for another 24 hours.
Am I just relaying my life at this point, or do I have any fellow writers nodding in sympathetic agreement?
Regardless, the above scenario is too easy to fall into—it’s one of the reasons why, just a little over a year ago, I wrote about creating a designated and dedicated writing space that helps you treat your writing like work (because, as enjoyable as it might be at times, any serious writer will tell you our craft is exactly that: work). However, for many of us, that writing space isn’t in our own homes. Maybe it’s because of the aforementioned habits that are so easy to fall into, or maybe there just isn’t a quiet space in the house to retreat to regularly. In those cases, many turn to the writer’s safe haven and home-away-from-chaos: the coffee house!
To make your trip to the cafe productive, make sure you have everything you need. Here’s a checklist of items every writer should have on their person while setting out to create—scroll down for a printable version!
- Your materials. Excuse me for getting meta, but you might have to make a checklist to precede this checklist (or just print out the one provided at the bottom of this post). It may seem obvious that you have to have your notes, your work-in-progress, and your preferred medium with you to write, but it’s all too easy to forget that laptop charger or extra pad of paper behind when rushing out the door.
- Some tunes (and headphones!). Most coffee shops provide some smooth jazz or other kind of easy listening for their patrons, but maybe that just isn’t your thing (I’m writing to fantasy and video game scores right now). Bring a writing playlist and your headphones with you so you can block out your surroundings, like that one person speaking a bit too loudly on their phone or the constant hissing of the milk steamer.
- A plan. To avoid getting sidetracked, it’s best to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Do you simply want to get through that next scene? Edit the next two chapters in your completed manuscript? Work through a short list of writing prompts? Give yourself a goal and treat yourself when you’re done, such as with that flaky pastry you’ve been eying or a solid 15 minutes of internet browsing time.
- Blinders. This one is figurative—unless you own a horse and want to get whimsical. Just because you aren’t surrounded by the distractions at home doesn’t mean there won’t be other distractions present, so come prepared to hone in and focus solely on your work. Scrivener’s full screen mode is great for this, and if you’re prone to looking up and getting sidetracked by the other coffee lovers, Write or Die provides a great variety of “punishments” for pausing too long, from deleting your words to blaring annoying sounds (just make sure your headphones are plugged in to prevent irritating other customers). There are also a number of great apps and services out there that limit your internet time and shut it down for whatever time period you set if you’re prone to getting lost in hours of research or Twitter browsing.
- A timepiece. This may seem silly since you’ll likely have a computer, a cell phone, AND a clock that’s sure to be located in the coffee shop somewhere, but checking these things provides too many risks for distraction. Tabbing out of full-screen on Scrivener to check the time on your task bar can throw you off your writing flow, checking your phone could draw your attention to a recent text, and looking up to locate a clock can pull you out of your “zone” entirely. Having a watch on your wrist—or, if you want to be a fancy writer, a pocket watch open beside your laptop or notebook—can help you monitor your time there without taking you too far out of your character’s latest plight.
And that’s it—you’re all set! If you’d like a more expansive list, I’ve provided you with a printable checklist you can keep with your writing materials at all times, here: