I wrote the last several posts sitting in the exact same spot in my bedroom.
So I decided to get out of my house today, get some fresh air, and try writing in a new environment.
I’m not sure what it is about coffeeshops that attracts people to camp out with their laptops and do whatever it is they do. It’s a little noisy and distracting – people milling about and conversing, coffee grinding, music playing in the background.
Maybe it’s the coffee? But I don’t even drink coffee.
So as I sit here, sipping on my juice, I’m realizing another benefit of being here, one beyond the caffeinated roasted bean water that these humans seem to crave.
First of all, being in a fresh new environment like this is extraordinarily helpful for centering myself.
I look around. What’s nearby? Paintings by local artists on the walls. Those are cool. Good Charlotte is playing on the speakers embedded in the ceiling. How nostalgic.
The sun is setting outside and the lighting in here is warm, reflecting off the wooden floors and tables and orange walls. The aromas of various foods and drinks fills the air. I was enticed to order my own when I got here.
Most importantly though, I’m in the midst of a group of people that is constantly morphing and changing. A few people enter or exit every once in awhile. I hear snippets of conversations, stories, arguments.
I hear the barista call out orders every few minutes.
The short, stocky gentleman cloaked in a green not-quite-trenchcoat with perfectly round glasses who’s been hovering uncomfortably close to my table and shifting his weight from one leg to the other reaches for his cup and finally leaves.
The incredibly loud guy in a suit who’s been explaining why all of his latest financial moves have been so fruitful and good rises and, without putting a pause on the stream of words coming out of his mouth, grabs this strange beverage for his female companion, who hasn’t gotten more than a handful of words in edgewise since I’ve been here.
“Medium dark roast!”
The girl a few tables over, who is also busily typing on a laptop, smiles. “That’s me!” I wonder if she’s also dealing with writer’s block. She’s been stuck on paragraph two of her paper for several minutes.
So I think the point is not that I’m in a coffee shop. I could just as easily set up camp on a bench in the park (if it wasn’t 30 degrees). I could go to the beach, or a train station, or an airport. Man, I love airports.
Watching people, hearing the little soundbites of their daily lives, helps me to shift my focus away from myself and the negativity I sometimes can’t help but dwell on.
I get a similar effect hanging with friends and family, especially one-on-one where I’m forced to become a part of the conversation and swap stories and ideas.
I’m naturally an introvert, or so I’m told by every personality profile I’ve ever taken. So it can be a real struggle to strike up a conversation, to ask follow-up questions, to hit up a friend to hang.
But I think it’s healthy to hang. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a journalist is that there’s always one go-to conversation topic you can bring up when you’re at a loss for what to talk about.
There’s nothing that people know better than themselves. Ask the right questions, and they’ll never shut up about their lives.
It’s kinda cool, in most cases.
Anyway, if you ever find yourself at the Ragged Edge in Gettysburg, I highly recommend their Battlefield Buffalo pita thing. It’s real good.