Career Advice

Does Working in a Coffee Shop Make Your Writing Better?

By Kylie Jane Wakefield July 4th, 2012

Writers have been congregating in coffee shops as long as man has been roasting coffee beans. There’s nothing quite as romantic as the classic image of a writer, cigarette in hand, obsessing over her latest work in a small cafe. Today, whether writers visit the cafe for the delicious drinks, the free wifi, or the company, the coffee shop remains a staple in the freelancing world.

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, it was found that “Compared to a relatively quiet environment (50 decibels), a moderate level of ambient noise (70 dB) enhanced subjects’ performance on the creativity tasks, while a high level of noise (85 dB) hurt it,” according to The Atlantic. “Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively.”

Although coffee shops can be pricey and inconvenient, overall, it’s more advantageous to work in them as opposed to at home. Writers already lead isolated lives, but getting out of the home office and into a productive, invigorating space can result in a better quality of work.


Since freelancers don’t keep normal work hours, the coffee shop can provide a daily routine and structure. The opening and closing hours dictate how long a writer can stick around, and, unlike home, the shops aren’t full of diversions. “Though home offices seem like the perfect work environment, their unrestricted silence, uninterrupted solitude and creature comforts breed distraction,” the New York Times‘ David Sax said. He says that coffee shops filled with other busy people typing away on laptops “provides structure, and freelancers, like children, secretly crave structure. You come to work, for two or four or eight hours, and you take comfort in the knowledge that everyone else is there to work as well. There’s a silent social pressure to it all.”

Spending Money

Freelance writing isn’t the most lucrative career, which sometimes makes it hard for those in the profession to spend $4 on a fair-trade coffee. In interviews with shop frequenters and owners, Mashable‘s Erica Swallow found that there are spending guidelines depending upon how long a customer takes up a seat. Four interviewees said that one drink should be purchased every two to three hours, and that if a laptop user is there during lunchtime, he or she needs to buy some food, too.

After working at a coffee shop for a few days, Sax spent, on average, $12 per day. This kind of spending, for a writer, can break the bank. It totals more than $50 per week, $200 per month, and $2,400 per year. And the government, unfortunately, probably won’t classify Greek yogurts, caramel macchiatos, and fruit salads as tax write-offs.


Working at home can be lonely and alienating. Writers need to get out the house and change up their scenery or risk boredom and lack of inspiration.

A coffee shop is usually a bustling place where like-minded people gather to do their own projects. A conversation can start over the use of a power outlet or what kind of beverage someone is drinking. “Part of the beauty of coffee shop workshifting is that you will run into other workshifters, and while most can offer only their camaraderie – not a terrible thing to have in and of itself – others may surprise you by turning out to be important business contacts,”’s Adam DiStefano said. Networking and being social at these shops will only fuel creativity.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Charleston’s TheDigitel and Nouhailler

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