The Literary Elite at Starbucks | HumorOutcasts

The Literary Elite at Starbucks

April 19, 2011
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I decided I needed a quick pick-me-up, so I headed to Starbucks. I was sitting with my coffee and crossword puzzle at a table in the corner when I started to eavesdrop on the conversation between the two people at the tables next to mine.  Technically, it was not eavesdropping as they were both talking pretty loudly, and their conversation was hard to avoid. Each of these people had a laptop in front of them, and each was supposedly busy creating the next great novel or movie or whatever.

I have to admit that right away I got intimidated. I know that sounds silly, but people who write in public on laptops just do that to me. They seem so artsy and sure of themselves. It’s not that I can’t write in public. I was a reporter, so I had to learn to write in the most unusual places such as the state penitentiary for men. I always say if you can write a story and make a deadline during a prison lockdown, you can write anywhere.

I should explain that I didn’t go to the prison because I liked the creative atmosphere. The prison was part of my beat, so I had an obligation to go there at least once a week. Every once in a while there was a security problem that resulted in a lockdown and me spending more time in the prison than anticipated. For all of the inmates who might have been paroled since my last visit, I just want to say that I am NOT making fun of you or your confinement here, and I wish to thank you for all the kind compliments about my appearance you gave me through the years of your unfortunate incarceration.

Anyway, back to the Starbucks writers. They started to discuss dialogue and plot development and blah, blah, blah, and I started to think how boring my writing was.  They were talking about creating literature while my last assignment was writing about the vampire craze and how it affects the retail world.  It’s easy to see why I would think my work lacks excitement although I did get an invitation from a California store owner who asked me to come to her store to witness firsthand a blood-drinking ceremony.

As I sat at my table pretending to do my puzzle, I started to wonder how these writers got work done surrounded by so much pastry.  If I did my writing in a Starbucks, I would be 400 pounds. No, I would be 400 pounds and unpublished because all I would do is eat the baked goods!

As I continued to listen to their conversation, the “What Kind Of Writer Are You?” drama started to play in my head.  Most writers have some kind of individual drama that plays inside their brains on occasion.  Mine usually does a matinee and evening performance on a daily basis. This is how it can go:

Insane self: “You are a waste of a writer. Look how boring your assignments are!

Sane self:  “Shut up! I have tons of publishing credits to my name.”

Insane self: “Yes, but your books will never be featured on Oprah’s Book Club!”

Sane self: “I don’t need Oprah! Wait… did I just say that?  I’m sorry, Oprah.  I do need you! Don’t be mad at me! Oh God, I think I need to switch to decaf!”

Yep. It is sad but that is but one act of my internal play. I have another observation about the Starbucks writers. I spent an hour there and those two writers did not write one word. Yes, they talked writer talk, but they did not do writer work.  I guess I should not jump to conclusions or scoff, because every writer is different in their work routines. Really, how do I know that one of these literary minds before me might not become the next Hemingway or Danielle Steele?

Okay, I admit I read Danielle Steele.  She is my beach buddy. There is something about the ocean that makes me want to read sex and violence books big time.  I’m sure Freud had a theory on it, but it’s my vacation and I can do whatever I want, so don’t judge me.  There are plenty of closet Danielle Steele fans out there.

After an hour in Starbucks, I left those two writers to their supposed craft.  I went home to my messy, messy desk, dug through notes, put on Frank Sinatra and began to type.  I guess my routine is not that much different than the coffee shop writers’ routine after all.  They have music playing in the background; I have music playing in the background. They have coffee; I have coffee.  They have baked goods; I have a stash of chocolate doughnuts hidden in the freezer waiting to be devoured. What can I say? Some days, chocolate doughnuts are the only inspiration I need.

Donna Cavanagh

Donna Cavanagh is founder of HumorOutcasts.com (HO) and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books (HOPress-Shorehousebooks.com). As "den mother" to the more than 100 aspiring and accomplished writers, producers, comics and authors, Cavanagh's goal is to allow creativity to flow. She is a former journalist who made an unscheduled stop into humor more than 20 years ago. Her syndicated columns helped her gain a national audience when her work landed in the pages of First Magazine and USA Today. She teaches the how-to lessons of humor and publishing at conferences and workshops throughout the country including The Philadelphia Writers' Conference and Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. The author of four humor books, Cavanagh hopes her latest book, How to Write and Share Humor: Techniques to Tickle Funny Bones and Win Fans, will encourage writers not only to embrace their humor talents but show them off as well.

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One Response to The Literary Elite at Starbucks

  1. Theresa Wiza
    April 25, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Didn’t J.K. Rowling bring her baby to a coffee shop and write all of her Harry Potter books there? I don’t know how she did it. I can’t sit in my own home without getting interrupted. I am, however, looking for those star bucks!



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