On writing in cafés

It’s NaNoWriMo season, so it’s the perfect time to talk about writing in NYC. While I may not be participating in the massive dash to 50,000 words by November 30, I’ve been adding to my own personal word count with this blog. I’ve been writing most of these posts by hand, either in parks or cafés. I’m writing this one (or at least, I wrote the initial draft of it) with an empty hot cocoa cup next to me, across the table from one of my writing buddies, in a café near our offices.

I only recently, with this blog project, switched to longhand. I’ve been a computer writer since seventh grade, when I wrote a (short, derivative) novel longhand and then became a really good typist typing it up. Except for my journal, I’ve embraced typing and never looked back, until now.
In this café I can see from my table ten people using laptops. It’s a big café, so I’m sure there are more. Odds are good that many of them are students, and maybe they’re getting some work done. I was sometimes productive in college…and sometimes I was watching puppy cam.
When I’m writing on my laptop, there are so many distractions. The internet is full of things just waiting for me to read them, and even if I turn it off (or forget to get the password for the wifi), there are other things to distract me. I can jump from project to project, or I can get caught up in rereading in the name of “editing”.  When I write by hand, I have limited space to cross things out, skipping around to start something new feels stupid, and I only have myself (and my writing buddies) as distractions.
And when I type a piece up, I actually do edit. At least a little. Typos are banished!
There’s also something satisfying about creating a tangible record. The internet may end up being forever (probably not) while this notebook may get lost or trashed sometime in my lifetime, but there’s something special about this physical object that I’ve manually filled with my thoughts.
Since writing the draft of this post a month or two ago, I’ve filled up the notebook I mentioned entirely and begun writing in another notebook. But I’ve also written some of the last few posts on the computer at home, saving my notebook for writing away from home,  whether it be in Prospect Park or just at a café with a writing buddy. There’s probably something profound about the differences between my writing when it’s done way rather than the other, but I’m too tired this week to come up with something clever to say about it.
This concludes my bird walk from regularly scheduled musings about NYC—except for the observation that while this may not have said much about NYC, much of it was in fact “noted” (written down in a notebook) in New York. You’re welcome.

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