Papers at the Cafe

A more or less fictional account from the life of a writer.


How much more stereotypical could I be? Half a chocolate croissant sits in its flakes on a plate next to my orange juice. I clack the end of my pen on the table. An open notebook before me, my left thumb runs up the edges of the filled pages. Poems. The ones that just happen. The ones only I read.

Inspiration cannot be the only fuel source for a writer. If it were so, a work would only be completed once in a century. Writing takes dedication. It takes the discipline to keep pen to paper, to keep tacking one word onto another.

In my head I find a thousand unspoken ideas, all screaming for life. But somehow the laundry and the dishes win out, and what should be a pile of messy pages is reduced to a post-it note, something for me to come back to another day.

I chose a café this morning not because I always come to a café. My wallet is not actually big enough to eat out very often. No, I chose a café because artists always seem to choose cafés. Probably because in a café there is nothing to do besides munch on a pastry and scribble in a notebook.

Around me are suits. There must be something grounding about having your work handed to you, explicit to-do lists, achievable goals. Here I am, committed to completing three different books (three because even I know twelve would be spreading myself too thin), at least two blog posts a week, and still telling myself I should be working on four other projects. I’ve got a guarantee of about three and a half readers, and most likely no paycheck.

But I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

I give myself deadlines, which I won’t label as a bad thing. It keeps me writing after all. But sometimes I want to stand up and stretch, and try something else for awhile. Paint myself a different backdrop.

And there’s nothing to stop me, not really. Just me, telling myself I have other things to do. Other responsibilities I’ve made up for myself.

The bell on the door jingles at the same time the register drawer shuts. A man in a long coat comes in. A woman with a box of muffins stumbles out, cell phone glued to her ear. Sugary breakfasts on all the tables. It smells heavenly.

My pages keep staring at me. My favorite pen grows heavy. I uncap it.


Some days the ink flows like a river.

Others, each stroke sheds more blood,

For the words though ready,

Are painful to dismember from inside.

I my own surgeon, try to be more precise than a warrior.

The words must be freed.


The tabletops are white. Metal detailing. I wouldn’t call this place trendy. Not the right word. But Carla Bruni hums through the speakers, the same twelve songs, over and over. No one seems to mind, probably because no one here speaks French.

One guy in the corner booth has big headphones plugged into his open laptop. He uses a knife to smear strawberry cream cheese on a wheat bagel. Something tells me he’s editing a video. The way his eyes flick at the screen making judgments. I stare nervously at his uncovered latte, a little too close to the computer for me to be comfortable.

I could make videos. I often think of making videos, but for some reason or another it doesn’t happen. Goals on a never ending checklist. If ever there was a time in my life to attack the list, it would be now.

My notebook is getting impatient. The single stanza sits, waiting. Maybe it’s finished. I can’t decide. My finger traces over it. Perhaps this is what I need right now. Other things can wait. I’ll focus on my poetry. As soon as I finish my croissant.




Photo by:

Kelly Sikkema

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