Where the Magic (?) Happens

I do some of my best writing in cafes, but I’m kind of superstitious about what constitutes a great writing spot versus a place where I’m doomed to sit with fingers frozen over the keyboard, the caffeine pulsing through my body, forming a frantic, panicked feedback loop.

Um, yeah. Not pretty. So here are some of my qualifications for a writer-friendly cafe:

1. Good coffee. It’s gotta be worth savoring for the two to three hours that I’m sitting there. (Yes, I know this makes me sound cheap but I’m a good tipper.) Latte art is always a bonus.

2. Vibe. I don’t want to be the only one huddled over a laptop while people are chatting it up. On the other hand, nothing kills the vibe more than a bunch of solo table hogs who scowl at the sound of a zipper. ‘Cause if that’s the case, I might as well go to the library. But then I’d be sleepy and craving caffeine, and that’s no good.

3. Clean and comfy. In an ideal world I should never have to know that the last person who sat at my table ate a croissant. The vintage look can be cute but not if that worn-down velvet couch is going to give me spinal issues.

4. Music. The music should be human-selected—not some generic radio station—pleasant and catchy, without compelling me to stand up and break into song. (That would disrupt the workflow.) At my favorite spot, the employees are always throwing on the Pixies or Juana Molina or Dungen. Which just makes me feel at home.

If all those factors are in place and I’ve got my lucky amulet and my four-leaf clover and there’s a rainbow outside then maybe—just maybe—I can get some good work done.

What do you look for in a cafe?

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