Writing Etiquette in Public

I was up entirely too late last night, especially considering I had to be up early to get ready and go to my family reunion, but while I was conscious I figured I would write a post for my blog. 🙂  YOU’RE READING THAT POST RIGHT NOW!  Crazy, right??

In an effort to get something done (and because I was bored,) I went out to write the other day.  Just over to Panera Bread, where I bought a flatbread sandwich that was questionably worth what I paid for it.  Either way, it made me think of doing a little post about writer’s etiquette and things to think about when you leave the sanctity and procrastination-trap of your own house for the inspiration of the wide, wide world!

May they help you along your travels.

Are you really a writer if no one SEES you writing??

1. Consider public areas when possible.

Places like libraries are nice and quiet, they have lots of desks and nooks for people who are quietly trying to get shit done, and in general they expect patrons to come in and plant themselves for long periods of time without the expectation that you will buy anything.  Parks are nice too, but unfortunately they don’t come very often with outlets for laptop cords, so your time there is obviously limited.

2. Make sure you definitely buy something.

If you go to a coffee shop or sandwich joint, make sure your first stop is the counter!  Many of these places offer free wifi these days, but that doesn’t mean you should go park your butt for the long haul without even getting a coffee.  Chances are you chose a place with food for THE FOOD, though, so this shouldn’t be a hard rule to follow.

3. Don’t take up more room than you need.

If you’re in a cafe or someplace where people come in to eat, make sure you’re sitting at a small one-or-two-person table so that larger groups of paying customers have somewhere to sit.  The business will appreciate it, and you won’t look like a douchebag who needs 6 chairs.

4. If you’re going to stay the whole day, move around a bit.

This might not seem like it makes sense, but hear me out.  Lunch time is usually busiest for these kinds of little places, like Starbucks or Paneras.  If you plan on buying something else, they might not mind, but you could also consider leaving and going elsewhere for a bit, just around like 2PM or so.  When the rush is over you can come back and plant yourself again.

5. Remember places that are open late.

This isn’t really etiquette, just something to keep in mind if you’re a night-owl like me.  Not many places are open at night, but I know that by where I live there is a Denny’s that is ’cause my buddies used to go there and play Magic the Gathering at night.  As long as you order something to drink or eat occasionally they don’t mind–it’s not like the place is booming in the middle of the night–and it’s a nice quiet spot in the AM.

6. They aren’t responsible for your computer!

Chances are if you’re out writing it’s just you and your computer.  Don’t get up to pee, however, assuming that the employees will keep an eye on your possessions.  They’re your job!  Find someone to watch your computer, maybe someone else with a laptop.  Then, when they have to go, you can return the favor.  BRILLIANT.

7. Turn down the volume!

If you’re like me, you might have music going when you’re writing, or when you’re taking those between-writing breaks that can last anywhere from an hour to three.  Either way, your taste in music most likely isn’t shared by the rest of the patrons, and sitting trying to have a meal while you can hear someone’s death-metal leaking out of their headphones (or even worse: they’re not using headphones) can be dead awful.  (In fact, someone will probably ask you to leave.)  So make sure to have your volume at a human level, and USE headphones.  If people seem to be looking your direction a lot, it’s probably still too loud.

8. Clean up yo shit.

This might seem obvious, but you never know.  If you hang out someplace all day, chances are you will also accumulate a lot of detritus.  It may feel like the employees are there to clean up after you, but they aren’t your mother.  (Actually, your mother shouldn’t clean up after you either.)  Be courteous.  They let you use their space, table, electricity and wifi all day.  The least you can do is gather up your empty cups and wrappers and shiz and throw them away.

9. Leave on time, or a little bit before close.

For anyone who works this should be a no-brainer, but EVERYONE is excited to leave at quittin’ time.  Usually the closing process will begin a bit before actual close, like 15 minutes or so.  And no matter how happy our customer-service smiles seem to be, we in the biz hate anyone who is hanging around too close to closing.  We just want to clean and LEAVE, thank you very much.  So if you’ve been there a long time, don’t keep the employees waiting around for you and your complicated process of saving, shutting down, and cleaning up.  Get started early so that everyone isn’t cursing the day you were born when you finally mosey along.

10. Be a good patron!

This goes without saying, but just be a pleasant person when you go off into the world to work on your novel.  Some day, when you have finished it and are trying to market it, you might find yourself with a stack of bookmarks heralding your masterpiece in this VERY SAME VENUE, hoping to find an audience.  If you are a frequent customer, they will probably remember you too.  Make sure it is for the right reasons.  You want them to be excited about your success, to remember your time spent working there fondly; not hating you, your bad attitude, and your squatter-like tendencies.

I have all the faith that if you guys get out you are wonderful examples of tact and manners, but these are things for all writers to consider when we get out and write, write, write!  When I was in college, some of my most productive time was spent writing in a Starbucks lounge.  Where do you like to write outside the home?  If you haven’t, do you think you might like to try it?  It always made me feel less like sleeping.  (Being at home makes me sleepy.)

Ciao mi amigos,



13 thoughts on “Writing Etiquette in Public

  1. I work in a bookstore with an attached coffee shop and restaurant. It’s one of my favorite places to go to write, and I try to live by these rules while I’m there. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. oh man….I practically LIVED in a tim hortons when I was working on my last book. Thankfully it was midnight shift and I made really good friends with the staff. Every now and then they’d pass me a botched drink order and every now and then I’d clear their tables if they looked tired/busy and I needed a break. Awesome relationship! LOL

  3. Pingback: New Place of Writing AWESOMENESS | The Official Site of Celeste DeWolfe

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