I read an article ages ago about a writer who built a shed in his yard and outfitted it with a window shade reading: GO AWAY. He wanted to write in total solitude, and while I realize that that’s a valid position, I’m the opposite. While I’ll slog through office tasks and emails in my home office, I write at coffee houses, usually a ubiquitous Starbucks. I sometimes giggle to myself that this place is the American equivalent of a Dutch smart shop. While those outlets purvey hallucinogenic mushrooms and hashish, legal in the Netherlands, Starbucks offers less controversial drugs: caffeine and sugar. However one feels about such substances, you can sit here for the livelong day, plug in a laptop, and get inspiration from the bustle that’s all around. As Parisian cafes of the 1920s nurtured Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, Starbucks nurtures writers across America and around the world today.
I wish there was more here that, as vegan, I’d want to eat. As it is, I pay for my “remote office” space by buying water, Earl Grey tea with steamed soy milk (that’s a misto, I’ve learned), a little bag of nuts, a banana (on the rare day there’s a ripe one), and formerly a bottled “Superfood” drink, impressively swamp-colored but packing thirty-five grams of sugar (thus the “formerly”). On a good day, I’m here in time to grab the brown rice and kale salads before somebody else does. Jackpot!
Of course I’d love to spend my days in some ma-and-pa juice bar where I could down elixirs in shades of green and having unlimited kale availability, but those places can’t afford to have me take up a table for much of a day while I court the Muse. My current host, for all its corporate, cookie-cutter limitations, allows that, and I’m fed here in intangible ways, connecting me to the life and liveliness of a city and its people that I can incorporate into my writing.
Today, for instance, I’m at a Starbucks on Seventh Avenue in New York City, looking out super-sized windows at Macy’s. It’s the Macy’s – from Miracle on 34th Street and those televised Thanksgiving parades of my childhood. For a girl from Kansas City who nurtured big dreams, this is all pretty magical. I’m here, in the midst of it all.
I have a table and an electrical outlet and all the inspiration I can absorb and assimilate and recycle into something someone would want to read. Although I’m skipping the pastries and the coffee, I’m feasting on the colors and sounds and energy around me. And I’m finding them exceedingly nutritious.
Victoria Moran is the author of Lit from Within, Fit from Within, Younger by the Day, Fat, Broke & Lonely No More, Living a Charmed Life, Main Street Vegan, and The Good Karma Diet, all written at Starbucks and other cafes across the country and around the world.