If you’ve taken a creative writing course, or desperately searched the internet for tips to increase your writing efficiency, you may have been exposed to “The Coffee Shop Effect.” It is believed that a change of location, not to mention the caffeine fix, can be beneficial for boosting creativity and productivity. Due to these findings, many tortured artists have crawled out of their hermetic hovels and set out on pilgrimages to pray at these altars of inspiration, hoping for even the slightest percolation of ideas. Each day, they make themselves comfortable in the metal chairs, allow their eyes to adjust to the Edison light bulbs and crack their knuckles before embarking on their literary quests. After months of unscientific observation of these subjects, followed by field work conducted by an English major, this article is proud to present the most comprehensive and extensive step-by-step process for becoming a coffee shop writer.
1. The Order
Many consider this to be the most important step, as the caffeine/sugar count will ultimately determine the quality of your writing; too little and the alternative rock aesthetic becomes more of an anesthetic, too much and you’ll compose a manic manifesto consisting of at least seventeen illegible fonts. The objectively greatest order to date is a grande macchiato with steamed coconut milk, two shots upside-down espresso, a caramel drizzle, mocha drizzle, two pumps toffee nut syrup, one pump chai, and two honey packets, though of course there are other orders if your palate is not sophisticated enough for this.
2. Staking Your Claim
Upon entering this temple built on coffee grounds, you must prove yourself worthy of divine inspiration by staking a claim. If your favorite table is taken, do not fret, but more importantly, DO NOT COMPROMISE. Assess your competitor. If they have ordered an herbal tea or have three or fewer stickers on their laptop, sit across from them and proceed to stare them down, sipping your grande macchiato with steamed coconut milk, two shots upside-down espresso, a caramel drizzle, mocha drizzle, two pumps toffee nut syrup, one pump chai, and two honey packets. They will inevitably leave after feeling your superiority. Now, you can make yourself at home.
3. Getting Ready
Take out your spiral notebook, legal pad, stress ball, worry stone, sticky notes and green pen (for extra creativity). Arrange them in the most impractical, yet photographically pleasing way you can, and prepare to document this momentous occasion. After all, the next Great American novel might be born today! Snap a photo of your set-up (drink included), and post it, preferably with a location stamp, a funnily-fonted day of the week and a filter. Once you have done so, you may remove your spiral notebook, legal pad, stress ball, worry stone, sticky notes and green pen from your working area and put them back in your Fjällräven backpack.
4. Opening Up
Writing is a delicate process, you cannot rush this. Take some deep breaths. Still nervous? Say this daily affirmation: “I am a writer. I accept the flow of ideas. This is not a phase, mom. One day, I’ll stop asking you for grande macchiato money, but first, I need to get through today.”
5. A Minor Setback
Take a hefty sip of your drink. If you’ve followed the previous instructions carefully, your coffee should now be cold and thus undrinkable, allowing you to avoid your work for just a bit longer as you go to order another cup. Once you have done so, drink it slowly and note every ingredient that tickles your taste buds.
You have ordered the greatest drink, selected the best seat in the house, and your workstation is ready for action. Listen to the rhythm of the other writers clacking away on their keyboards, the low murmur as they read back their words, the hissing of the espresso machine, and ignore the occasional dirty looks of herbal tea drinker you uprooted at the start of your adventure. If by this point the coffee shop is not closing, crack your knuckles for the fifth time since you’ve sat down and begin to write your masterpiece. I wish you the best of luck.
Alex Mika is the Long River Review Nonfiction Panel Editor and reader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.