The Starbucks Writing Academy

by Ken Levine

An interesting discussion arose from Sunday’s post
– whether or not to write at Starbucks. It brings up the question:
where do you write and why? For you non-writers, it brings up the
question: why do you go to Starbucks at all when Dunkin Donuts has
better coffee?

Usually I write with a partner and most of the
time we dictate scripts to our assistant while I pace back and forth
with a yoyo so a public coffee house is generally not the ideal
workplace. It’s bad enough when the assistant says, “No, really? You
really want me to put that in?” without total strangers chiming in the
same thing. But when we’re just working through a story we’ll often meet
at a Coffee Bean. Yes, there’s always that danger people will think
we’re just posturing pretentious writers so we counter that by wearing
priest collars.

But I’m less self-conscious than most writers.
That stems from two years of going to Dodger Stadium and doing
play-by-play into a tape recorder in the upper deck surrounded by drunk
crazed mouth breathers. After you’ve heard “Hey, look at this idiot!”,
“Keep your day job, moron.”, and “Whattaya think you are, fuckin’ Vin
Scully?” seven thousand times you tend to develop thick skin.

I’ve
seen partners huddled over a laptop at Starbucks and don’t really mind
it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll have a big ugly fight.
Those are always amusing. Plus, I always hope to one day eavesdrop on
two porno writers. “So when the black guy takes her from behind I think
we need a line…”

One time I saw two partners writing at Jerry’s
Deli in Westwood. But they didn’t have a laptop. They had a big desktop
iMac. And a printer! When they were finished they got out two huge boxes
and spent ten minutes packing it all back up. I’m surprised they didn’t
also have their own fax machine and microwave.

When I’m writing
by myself I usually work at home but I don’t mind getting out in the
world. As long it’s a fairly quiet environment. There’s a spot in Santa
Monica called “The Office” that provides workstations and the internet
and charges at least a hundred dollars a month. I go to the UCLA
research library and get the same thing for free.

I also love writing on planes. It really makes those 13 hour Jet Blue tarmac delays really fly.

There’s a Coffee Bean near UCLA that’s always loaded with spectacular women. I will sometimes write there and bring my Emmy.

But
you do find definite types writing in these java joints. There’s always
Mr. Smug — the guy who looks off into space, as if he’s contemplating
deep concepts far to complex for you to understand. From time to time he
will arch an eyebrow and type in four words. Then there’s Mr. P.O.C.
(Piece Of Cake) – he can’t get down his brilliance fast enough.
Furiously clacking away, he can bang out ten pages an hour. It’s a
pretty safe bet his script will be a P.O.C. (piece of crap). And
finally, Mr. Tortured. A good day is five pages or five people feeling
sorry for him.

My guess is if you write in a Starbucks that is
not in LA or near NYU you will be the only one working on a script. And
if you write in a Winchell’s Donuts in LA you’ll be competition free
too.

The only factor important in how and where you write is what
makes YOU most comfortable and allows you to do your best work –
whether it’s in a Starbucks, locked in your attic, in an intensive care
ward, Bob’s Big Boy, the D train, or a diving bell. One of the beauties
of being a writer is that you can do it anywhere. Take advantage of
that.

But leave the pipe, sweater you wear around your neck, tweed jacket with patches, and iMac home. Thank you.

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