Tuesday, 11 November 2008

If in doubt, head to a café

JK Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter book in a café near her flat. Below, if my wibbly wobbly boing-there-it-goes mobile internet connection lets me, should be a picture of the very café.


Now, I’m not sure where she used to live exactly (Scotland being a big place), but that is a rather nice upmarket looking local café. It even has a hanging basket, which is a sign of high society indeed. Now if I wanted to write in my local café, I would be sitting at a chipped Formica table on a screwed down plastic chair, while people around me stare into the distance and dribble. Anyone actually wanting to linger beyond finishing their cup of muddy tea would be viewed with deep suspicion, or indeed would also be dribbling. It further doesn't help that every café around here smells of fried egg sandwiches, in fact the local shopping establishment in general smells of one giant fry up. They are not exactly the most inspiring of venues, so I’ll give the local ones a miss.

But I do like the idea of uncurling from of this awkward spot I have to sit in using my computer, and going for a stroll in the November sunshine. This settled, I decide to print out Chapter Three and take it with me in search of a nice café that doesn’t smell of fried egg. Forty minutes of striding gets me to a brave new world. I’ve yet to uncover an independent café (and when I do it shall get my patronage) but in the meantime there is always the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Getting a sofa in one of these places requires a lot more dedication than I can usually be bothered to muster, so I take my tall soya café latte (coffee, just say coffee) over to a table, and start reading through Chapter Three. It really does work wonders, within minutes I am in my own little world, writing and crossing out and editing and twiddling my pen deep in thought. I end up staying there nearly two hours, and could have definitely bedded down for the day (except I would have emerged a caffeine and sugar fuelled wreck by closing time). As it was, I did 6 pages longhand and am completely overhauling Chapter Three with enthusiasm. This is great news, as I really need to pep up my motivation these days, and not only with coffee (although that was rather nice too). Depending on the weather tomorrow, I might just well stride out again.

6 comments:

Rose said...

It's definitely really interesting that you found working in a cafe helpful. I always find working on trains I get bursts of inspiration. Maybe being in a public place focuses the mind more. Plus there's no TV/ radio/ internet access to distract!

Finding an independent cafe is harder than it should be isn't it. I went to a lovely little place for lunch the other day, a greek leaning place in Fulham. I had take away but was very impressed with how they knew everyone locally- it made me a bit sad because I suspect lots of people, including me, pass this place by in favour of somewhere they know and actually it was great.

musicobsessive said...

I have to say that I admire your dedication. Editing for me comprised fiddling about with the odd sentence on the computer and then deciding to add in a whole load more that I'd forgotten about and then finding that the flow was all wrong so having to redo the whole page...*big breath*...and I didn't have a nice cafe to do it in...and I couldn't find the motivation to keep at it indefinitely so it just got published as it was.

But it probably shows. So like I said before; you sound like a real writer to me.

Forest Pines said...

Back when I lived in that area, there was great debate as to which cafe, exactly, JKR meant. The best-accepted claim was, at one time, a cafe called Donaldsons on South Bridge which has since closed and been turned into a Chinese restaurant. The Elephant House was another claimant; they have a branch just around the corner. When I lived in the neighbourhood, being a student, I was too poor to use either; which makes me suspicious that if she was as poor as she says she was at the time she'd actually have eaten in one of the greasier places in the area - one, I remember, was so bad that I was sat in there one day when a leak burst through the ceiling. Right onto me and my lunch.

Jayne said...

Hello Rose! I agree with the 'no distractions' - it does seem to work wonders. And funny you say that about working on trains - nearly all my creative ideas, including this story, have come from spending seemingly endless hours commuting. Tubes especially, there is nothing beyind the window and so the mind can drift, I suppose!

That place in Fulham sounds nice. It's always worth making a note of decent independent cafes when you bump into one so there's an alternative to the usual suspects! But they seem so rare...

Jayne said...

Hi musicobsessive! I get a big grin of happiness whenever you say things like that!

Editing... I guess I am just terrified of slipping at the last hurdle. Thank you for admiring my dedication to the cause, I think it's sheer bloody-mindedness myself!

Editing all depends on nice cafes, I think. Everything flows a lot better after a latte and a chocolate brownie.

Jayne said...

Hello and welcome forest pines! Thank you for shedding some light on the 'real' cafe, and that's interesting that you say that when a student you couldn't afford either, as that picture of the Elephant House cafe looks very upmarket when money is tight. To me at the moment that would be a treat cafe, definitely not one I could go to every day, or even every week! I suppose it depends what you order, but most cafes take a dim view of someone sitting there scribbling for three hours over a glass of tap water.

Still, it's all about a good story. The media need the story behind to be just as good as the story in front, and JKR saying she was as poor as a church mouse before Harry makes for a very good story indeed. *makes mental note to get job as a cleaner before sending book to publishers*

And poor you with that leak! I hope at least they compensated with a non-soggy lunch, although perhaps by then you'd lost your appetite...