Tag Archives: coffee

Notes From a Coffee Shop

Life lessons inspired by large amounts of caffeine…

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. As a writer (yes, I said it again, Maynard. I’m a writer. Eek.), I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

I harbor no illusions as to the fact that these establishments provide the appearance of socialization and physical motions of co-mingling with civilized society to those of us who find we are spending way too many hours isolated in our homes, brilliantly brainstorming at our sturdy, yet solitary, writing desks. When I begin to feel that I am no longer channeling Emily Dickinson’s genius, but rather her hermetical tendencies, I toss my laptop (er, heave my laptop) into a cute carry-all and hightail it to the Living Room.

Of course, I am not the first person to write in a coffee shop. And no matter the time of day, I am one of at least a handful of diligent cabin-fever-escapees downing shots of espresso and tipping big on their three-dollar lattes in hopes of both offsetting the guilt of taking up space for five hours and encouraging the muses of literary genius to be generous.

My observation this afternoon is that crowded coffee shops come with an unwritten (no pun intended) code of etiquette that patrons observe with equanimity, despite the encroaching tension that could stem from the ratio of available tables to available electrical outlets. I suggest to you, Gentle Reader, that this code of etiquette could be applicable to life in the broader scope and perhaps, if followed, could even make the world a better place. (As anything coffee-related is wont to do.)

For instance:

1. “Yes, you may share my table.” Writers know that there is room for all. Your work is just as important as my work. We can share the same table provided that you don’t smell, talk loudly on your cell phone, try to convert me to your beliefs, judge my sexual orientation, or in any other way interfere with the general maintenance of my life. I will respectfully do the same for you in return.

And…

2. “Yes, I will help you plug in your power cord.” I am closer to the outlet, or it is in a funky place, and I don’t mind taking a minute to help you. This is a pay-it-forward moment. One day, you might be in a position to help me plug in my power cord, or move my couch, or listen to my boyfriend issues, and when that day comes, I will be really glad I helped you today.

Also…

3. “Big tippers appreciated.” Telling people they are awesome is always a win. Even if they really are not all that awesome, very often the acknowledgement of people’s potential awesomeness inspires them to rise to the level of said awesomeness. It’s inevitable. And is that dollar in the tip jar really going to kill my coffee budget? I don’t think so.

4.  “I have to pee.  Don’t steal my shizzle.”  I did my undergrad at Mount Holyoke College.  At MHC, there is an honor code, the concept of which I am sure is not unfamiliar to some of you.  For the rest, I kid you not:  I could leave my book bag in the library for three days and no one would mess with it.  Here, we have the coffee shop honor code.  The plain truth is that I am NOT going to haul my laptop into the ladies room, I’m sorry.  (Not that anyone would want it, anyway.  Seriously.  You would have to be one desperate writer to steal this thing.)  But, if you keep an eye on my stuff while I’m away, I will keep an eye on your stuff.  It takes a village and in this caffeinated version of one, we look out for each other.

I might be onto something here… 🙂

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The 10%

My morning desk

No, that doesn’t say 100% or even 110%.  It just says ten.  10%.

I was talking to my mother recently, and she shared with me a tidbit she had picked up from one of her many spiritually-minded friends.  It was about financial energy and it went something like this:  When you receive your paycheck every month, instead of sitting down immediately to pay bills, pay yourself 10% first.  The thought is that it says to the universe that your abundance is not all about what you are obligated to pay out to others, but rather, that that it includes enough that you can give to yourself first in whatever form you would like.

I thought about this for a minute in terms of time, specifically time spent on creative projects and time spent on “day job” projects.  More often than not, my time is first given what I have to do to earn a living.  Since no one has given me an advance for my novel (yet), I do other things like teach online.  The obligations I have to my students are extensive, and my strategy each morning is usually to complete the daily work for my classes and then, afterwards, to focus on my passions.

However, when I think about this energetically, it seems backwards.  I am basically announcing to the universe that my work obligations are the most important thing in my life by the way I prioritize them.  Plus, inevitably, I spend waaaay more time on work stuff than on my own creations, which is sometimes disheartening at the end of the day.  Creative energy can turn dark if it is untapped, and feelings of resentment and frustration stem from passion unexpressed.  Enter the 10%.

I still have to earn an income.  Those work obligations still have to happen.  But, what if my first priority of the day was to give myself 10% time-wise?  What would that look like?  For me, it would mean that before I start to grade papers, I would spend an hour or two journaling or blogging or writing 1,000 words or finishing that poem.  For me, it would mean that I could have coffee and create for a minute, rather than feeling the immediate need to put out all of the fires that might be happening with my stressed out students.  For me, it would mean I could prioritize my creative energy and designate it as something valid and worthwhile.

To others, it may mean something completely different.  It may mean taking the time for a long walk alone or an early morning surf session.  It may mean writing a letter or researching a trip.  Whatever it means to you to say, “This is my passion.  This makes me happy.  I can take 10% of my morning and devote it to exploring this idea inside of me.”  It is not selfish.  It is not irresponsible.  It is survival.

Of course, it also needs to become habit.  I am literally staring at 30 papers right now that need to be graded before I leave for the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expooo and I feel really antsy about getting them done.  But, I know it will happen.  And, I also know that I’ll feel better at the end of the day because I took 10% of my time this morning to blog about the 10%.  And, now that the universe is going to implode with redundancy, I will sign off.

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Leap. Trust.

2012 V-Day/InnerMission Productions
San Diego – Photo: Paul Savage

Yes, I am fully aware that it sounds like the forward to a self-help book.  I get it.  However, I think this question is important, if only for the fact that it goes through my head a hundred times a day.  (Am I alone?  Guys?  Guys?)  And when it comes to writing here, for readers other than, you know, me and my mother, it is an extremely important question.  And one that I pretty much don’t have the answer to.  Sorry if you were waiting on pins and needles.

Blog blog bloggity blog.  What do I have to offer?  I could blog about yoga, like Jennie O-6, or about veganism, like Anthony Z, but I’m certainly not as cool or organized as those two.  Me?  I just write.  I just.  Write.

But not enough.

What is it, that weird thing inside of me that knows what I am supposed to Do With My Life and yet refuses to actually do it?  I have gone to great lengths in my avoidance of doing what I was Meant To Do.  (Insert MFA in Acting here.)  And now, my life is a mish mosh of half-hearted activity, survival schemes, and creative decadence.  No regrets.  Lots of lessons.  But, ultimately, it has become important to ask myself the Big Question.  In the words of Zooey Deschanel on a recent episode of New Girl, “Do I self-sabotage?  Am I a cylon?”

Well, I hope not.  Except for the immortality part, that would suck. But at least I would know the origin of my uncanny arm strength.

So, here is what I have to offer.  My struggle.  My honest-to-goodness-this-sucks-but-I-know-I-have-to-do-it struggle to write.  Be.  A writer.  Ugh.  Even that sounds so pretentious and boring.  But Maynard told me I had to say it.

I.

Am.

A.

Writer.

Are you with me?

I need coffee.

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