Sunday, May 25, 2008

Writing in Cafes

Sci-fi writer Firdaus left a question in the comments to the previous post, and maybe you could answer it for him :
I need some suggestions here about a conducive public place to write. My criteria is it's reachable by public transport (preferably LRT) and have power plug for my laptop.

Usually I write at home but with the school holiday I found my little sisters keep breathing on my neck. Oh, having a door facing your back adds to annoyance as well. (Worse, they keep opening it from time to time). They are sweet, but I'm easily distracted ...
I'm not sure I can answer the question fulfilling Firdaus' criteria, but a very nice place to write is D'lish in Bangsar Village which opens at 10 a.m. It's quiet (until the lunchtime rush), light and airy, and has much better coffee than Starbucks. It's a bit of a walk up from the LRT, but the exercise does you good! Best of all, the management don't look at you oddly when you sit and scribble. (Helen Read and Abby Leong did my creative writing course and know exactly what you're up to!)

If writing in a cafe seems like a strange idea, have a read of novelist Susan Hill's blog, or check out this piece on Rowling. These people don't have little sisters to pester them but find the muse works really well in a public place with good coffee.

Postscript :

I've just remembered (I think Kam's words in the comments nudged me!) this lovely article by Alice Jones on cafe culture from The Independent a couple of years back, and think you cafe scribblers would enjoy it.

21 comments:

Emily said...

Sci-fi writer!? Wow!

If you get off the LRT at Bangsar and take the bus to Bukit Damansara, there is Epicure at Jln Medan Setia 1 ~ a two storey colonial style white building with an F&B outlet called Chef&Brew which has free WIFI, indoor and outdoor dining spaces. I would say Yes to a 'conducive' writing environment but am not too sure of the plug point for electricity supply though. It offers freshly brewed coffee, fusion food, weekdays lunchtime is fairly crowded but sats and sundays are absolutely divine for writers!

Emily said...

Chef&Brew opens from 10.30am daily.

ps: Bring a spare battery and I will recharge it for you free of charge!? at Lot G1.08!! opposite the courtyard from Chef&Brew!

Chet said...

I write at the IKEA cafe a lot. The place is huge and you can pick a table away from the crowds. It opens at 9:00 a.m. and there's a free IKANO bus to and fro the Kelana Jaya LRT, with the first bus from the LRT at 9:00 a.m. The only downside is I don't think there are any power plugs in the cafe. I don't need a power plug when I write at IKEA cuz I use a portable word processor that runs up to 700 hours on 2 AAs. See my avatar for a picture.

Emily said...

Hi Chet!
This is Emily from the Malaysian-Bookcrossers and we met at the recent KLAB!

Wow! 700 hours on 2AAs? Fabulous! You had it with you at the KLAB, didnt you?

Chet said...

Hi Emily!

Yes, I had the Neo with me during the KLAB weekend and was using it to key in the donated book titles.

BTW, Firdaus - IKEA cafe has cheap local breakfast every day. 99 sen a set with free coffee or tea before store opening hours. Unfortunately, ever since CNY thereabouts, they've been serving the same local breakfast every day!!!

anitakrishlee said...

This is something I have been considering too. With summer in the air where I am, I am thinking of writing in the park. Perhaps one of the parks in Kuala Lumpur for you? KLCC? You can always pop into a cafe with a power outlet to charge your batteries.

vovin said...

My favorite place to write is Rasa Sayang Restaurant, Yap Kwan Seng.

It's very noisy and beautifully crowded but i find myself very lonely despite lots of people surrounding me. I managed to wrote few chapters just sitting there for few hours.

Lots of power plug for laptop, free wifi and beautiful scenerios (read: female :P)

Although the food is not so cheap and totally disaster for my personal taste.

Ted Mahsun said...

A stairwell in an office building. Use the plug points cleaners use to plug in their vacuum cleaners. When I worked in Phileo Damansara a few years back I did this all the time. Helps if the office building isn't seedy of course :p Caf├ęs? Who needs em!

Dress smart so the guards/resident busybodies don't throw you out. They tend to leave you alone if you look like you're busy typing away on some "important document" even if it is in a stairwell.

Anonymous said...

There's another good place to try at Cine Leisure call Outpost. It's a cafe with reasonably priced food & beverage, has power points and free wifi. It's also a place for scifi fans to hang out. Most of the time it's rather quiet opposing the pandemonium at the cinema which is just beside it.

Firdaus said...

Thanks to Sharon for putting this up. I heeded Anita's suggestion to write at KLCC park. My writing is faster with the birds chirping and sound of cascading water. But it turns out to be such an eventful day that I witnessed a chasing scene at KLCC. Read up my story here

bibliobibuli said...

my goodness, firdaus, there's enough human drama here to fuel a very good short story!i wonder what the guy had done?

Firdaus said...

The guy is accused of scamming and stealing. This is a case of a unsuccessful con I guess.

bibliobibuli said...

yeah but i'd love to know exactly what ....

Ti Chin Han said...

Yeah, i can imagine how hard it is to write with people bursting into your writing room coz my kids do that all the time!

In addition to all the wonderful ideas above, in case you need to write at home, perhaps you can put a sign "Sci-fi In Progress" outside your door? Talk to your sisters and let them know that it is important that they let you write in peace. When the sign is not placed, they can go in.

If you can, why not rearrange your seating so you don't have the door facing your back.

Emily said...

or simply push the button to lock the door! and hang a PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB sign on the knob!

Kenny Mah // Life for Beginners said...

For me, it's the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in SS2, especially on weekday mornings that I am on leave from work. Other than the occasional insurance salesperson plus potential client in tow, it's quiet and empty and the table is the right size and at the right height for typing/writing. Better yet, one can get a pot of tea here... refills can last you hours...

kam raslan said...

This is a very important topic and I understand the implications fully.

My criteria are: not too hot, can smoke, comfortable, good coffee, quiet. Having Simon de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Satre at the next table is a plus but not essential.

Can I suggest La Bodega lounge in Bangsar (Telawiville). The public transport is not good but it's comfortable and, most importantly, one can smoke. The coffee is tolerable but not exceptional (standard Illy) but the good thing is that there is never any pressure to move on. The best coffee is at any San Francisco Coffee but their outlets are normally too noisy for writing. The worst coffee is Starbucks, and why the hell would you want to write at Starbucks anyway.

I like D'Lish but it gets so damn hot outside. Occasionally I've written in Chinoz but the coffee is really bad and there is always an annoyingly loud background music. Why do cafes think that having a woman singing something in Portuguese is cool? It's not.

There is a certain romance to writing in cafes so you should pursue that to the maximum and revel in it. So the best cafe would be in Berlin.

Chet said...

Correction and apologies - my portable word processor runs on 3 AA batteries.

Emily said...

Thanks Chet for the batteries update!

Anonymous said...

Ted: You really made me laugh..that's the first time I heard, a stairwell? I keep imagining the cleaning ladies bumping into a writer bent over his laptop! Good one, though...made me smile in the office, so I'm appreciative..

This is a great post, Sharon. Writers like you and Kam can probably start a writing cafe blog where everyone votes and rates their favourite writing cafe.

Eliza.

Emily said...

What a marvellous idea, we all make a list of cafes to visit for that purpose in mind (but of course for moi - it would be to partake the offerings of the cafes' daily menus!) but I think I can pretend to be checking out the premises for writing spurts! Then we 'tick off' all the creterias on the list of what makes a cafe conducive for writing/writers! As always any reason is a good reason for cafe hopping! LOL

Back to work tomorrow! I really dont know whether to jump for joy or sob!