Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Friday, 27 May 2016

Where Do You Like to Write?

Are you one of those writers who likes to write in cafes? If so, you're in good company. Philip Pullman is so appreciative of the Cafe at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, he acknowledges it in his Dark Materials trilogy. If the stories are true - and I think they are - JK Rowling wrote at least some of Harry Potter in the Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh. But a good writing cafe isn't just any cafe.

I've been to the Elephant Cafe, and I can see what JK liked about it. It's big enough to be anonymous, but quirky enough to be friendly. There are private corners, a jumble of chairs and tables of all sizes, and big windows that let in light and views. It's full of people who seem to like being there, and also - less predictably - elephants. Not live elephants, obviously, but ornaments and quite a lot of elephant-themed furniture. You can even sit on a chair shaped like one. It's easy to see how your imagination might be set free in a place like this.

Where I live, we're enough to have several cafes that provide good coffee (essential), and room to sit and let your mind wander. In fact, I try to match cafe and book, and may change cafes when I change book, like some people start a new notebook. But I do have one I keep coming back to. It's not unique like the Elephant Cafe - I don't think there can be many of those around; it's not even independent: it's part of a well-known chain. But like the cafe in Edinburgh, it has a big secondary room that is irregularly shaped, well-lit and comfortable, and the background noise is just right. I can't actually remember whether there was music in the Elephant Cafe, but that is as it should be. The soundtrack here is at exactly the right level: unintrusive, but to my taste if I want to pay attention to it. Otherwise, the chatter of other customers merges into it to become the sort of white noise against which I like to write.

What about you? Are you a cafe writer, or do you have somewhere else you prefer to write? Or do you just snatch time when and where you can?

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