Naima Morelli

Bohemian productivity aka How to write and work in a café


Productivity and Bohemia are concepts which are seldom associated.
You have to admit though that having grown up reading Sartre and Simone the Beauvoir – or at least having seen the pictures – you are not immune to the charms of café.

Every city has is own aesthetic when comes to cafés.
Not everyone is snob enough to live in Paris and go to the Café De Flore – whom has turned into an established place for loaded folks anyways.
What it is left to us is send to hell the Café De Flore, and create our own, well… café mythology.

If you live in Rome you certainly know the cafés Canova and Rosati in Piazza del Popolo.
During the sixties these two cafés gathered the so called “artists from Piazza del Popolo”, but now Canova and Rosati are the equivalent of the ultrachic cafés in Saint Germain, Paris.
Sure, it is always cool to pass by Piazza del Popolo and say hi to the Italian dandy artist Ontani– last time I checked he had a permanent permit to be parked at Canova – yet these cafés are too posh for us.
Same things with the cafés in Via Veneto, once Antonioni, Mastroianni and Fellini’s reign.

You have to consider as well that in Italy there is this tradition of kicking you out if you take too long to sip your coffee.
If you are in Rome and you are a writer looking for a place to read and write quietly, you will be likely accepted in some cosy and shabby-chic looking cafés in Via Giulia, Pigneto or San Lorenzo.
You can start to create your own café mythology from there.

Since I’m in Melbourne now, so I’ve to forget about Gambrinus (Naples) style cafés, and embrace this arty dishevelled aesthetic that makes Melbourne so particular.
So, once a week I’ve a fix appointment with once of my friends to work sitting on a ripped-sofa cafè, surrounded by “I’m an artist with a day job” sort of people that Fitzroy is crowded with.

I had brought with me the printed version of my book about Contemporary Art in Indonesia to go through it, but the loud and pumping music inevitably distracted me.
Not all the cafés are so noisy, but in general it’s probably better to bring a book that is not a demanding reading.
Meanwhile my Sri Lankan friend was busy making her zine, which is totally Melbourne.
Short history of the zine: do you remember the fanzine? Get rid of the fan and you’re done.

Here you are a list of pros and cons of writing and working in a café.

Pros of working in a cafè:

The Joy of not working in an office in front of a computer or, even worst, in your boring room

The bohemian flair of writing in a café. Come on, admit it!

Everyone need a brief distraction every now and then, and to have a look at real people passing by in a so much better distraction compared to Facebook

In the café you have handy inspiration. People passing by can become part of your novel, your poetry or your article. If you are in Melbourne you have an abundance of “prototypes”, if you are in Rome the quaint is always around the corner.

Going to a café with a friend who is working on his/her project as well is always good. You can take breaks and have a chat, confronting your work and having an immediate feedback.

Cons of working in a cafè:

Noise, loud music and people conversations can be very distractive, but if you find a café with likeminded people coming there mainly to work and write, you are better off.

Your books and other sources are not handy, unless you bring your computer with you and you don’t need paper material.
That’s it. If you have chosen to work in a cafè you are probably not the kind of person that is secretive about his work and need to work in an isolate, soundproof bunker.
I started to work at this article in a café in Fitzroy, Melbourne and I finished it at home.
Bring a notebook in the café to gather your ideas without being too serious. Go there in the weekend and, above all, enjoy your espresso.




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