Regular visitors to idle blogs, idlers as they might be known, will be familiar with the coffee shop as an important element to the writing process. It’s all very well setting up a lovely study at home from which children are banned to sing the theme tune to Yo-Kai Watch if you have opportunity, but chances are that instead of writing you’ll spend the day enmeshed in the intricacies of telephone banking, or rearranging your books in the order that you recall reading them. Leaving the house is a good idea for anyone, particularly writers, before you’re talking to yourself and hearing the furniture reply.

It’s good for people to see writers at work. It may not hold attention for long, after all, how entertaining is a person sighing loudly, but still, we need to publicise our existence. One of the most common responses to discovering you’re a writer, after initial shock involving a slack jaw, is the question ‘are those still going?’ You reassure them that books are indeed ‘still going’ despite a part of you being deeply aware that needing to explain this shows how the battle lines are already redrawn.

Our local coffee shop has a such a regular clientele that no one needs to order anymore. As in PG Wodehouse novels, customers are known by their regular order: Flat white, English breakfast, Tight arse who brings in his own banana, etc. And as any creative knows, the fetish of how  and where you write is crucial. The aforementioned Wodehouse invariably wrote with a Pekinese warming his feet and was finished by an early lunch, while Hemingway’s prose was soaked in whiskey and manliness and probably started at lunchtime.

As a tea drinker in a coffee shop I feel like an imposter, but as I’m tapping studiously away into my laptop, carefully compiling playlists for future unwritten novels, I feel at home. That is if I’m in a corner, although I’m unsure why being cornered is the perfect muse. Where sailors had mermaids, I seek a nice secure corner. I’d rather not analyse this too closely, but the knowledge that your back is covered is reassuring.

However, I’m not alone in seeking a corner for creative purposes. Sadly there are only ever four in a room, and there are clearly other writers on the run, refusing to sit back-to-the-door. I had been hoping for a blue plaque on the window seat corner, but another writer has started arriving before me. He’s too tired to write, and sits there with a smug look, occasionally mingling with a bafflement as to who or where he is, but at least he has the best table in the house. I have little sympathy, and he had better be writing a better novel than me. He’s got no excuse not to be. In fact there should be some method of measuring this, to ensure the corners get the writers they deserve. I’d suggest this, but who wants competitive writers kicking off and knocking over inkwells.

I suppose writing at home might be preferable, there’s less competition, but no one can see you sighing there. Although perhaps the most lucrative future might be subverting the laws of physics and invent rooms with more than four corners to accommodate more writers.

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – The sequel is due to be published in March 2019, depending upon whether I get a corner table.

and here,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035


and on ebook here –