Recently Starbucks Coffee started offering free wi-fi to all its customers, with no strings attached. You don’t have to sign up, register a credit card, or anything silly like that anymore.
And also recently, I started drinking coffee. (Yeah, I know, I’m about 30 years late to the pleasures of the quad espresso decaf on ice.)
So, because I started visiting Starbucks habitually (once per day), it finally started sinking in (especially here in LA):
There really are a ton of screenwriters who sit there in Starbucks and write their scripts. On their laptops. The cliche, she is real! Oui! Oui!
But frankly, I have no idea how they can do it. Me, I need peace, quiet, and the absence of that “suck” sound from the espresso maker, reminding me how bad of a screenwriter I am.
But I’m here to report, based on my 12-month super-scientific study (not), that the coffee shop is not the natural habitat of the screenwriter, and is in fact perhaps the most dangerous place you can be, as a screenwriter who’s trying to focus.
Here are a few reasons why I don’t write in coffee shops, corporate or otherwise:
Too much noise and distraction (aka “SQUIRREL!”)
the sucking sound of the espresso maker…
…screaming babies (AKA consumer larvae)
…and that terrible singer-songwriter caterwauling some Starbucks shifts love to paint the walls with (although, to their credit, they’ve stopped selling CDs)…
Yikes! How is one supposed to focus on one’s characters and dialogue, when one is surrounded by all of these caffeinated people and their extremely complex drink orders?
Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and perhaps a coffee drinker, emphasizes the need to work in blocks of uninterrupted time. The bottom line: You may pride yourself in being a multitasker, being able to write, shave, check email, and juggle your kids all at the same time, but where the real work gets done is when we humans are focused on one thing, and one thing only for a large block of time.
Public wi-fi is about as secure as Alvy Singer from Annie Hall
Unless you’re writing on an online-based screenwriting app, why does any screenwriter need to be online in order to write their screenplay?
I’ll buy two reasons: (1) research/reference, and (2) this video by pop star Taffy Bennington. But no other.
Not to mention, being online in a public place means you’ll probably be using the house wifi. Or worse, your cable company’s city-wide wifi. Oy! Sure, they say it’s safe, but they’re also the ones that say the guy will be by to work on your cable anywhere between 9AM and 6PM and he shows up two weeks later, dressed like a cabbage, chewing on a soda bottle.
Here’s how easy it is for some chump to hijack your private information:
The chump sits in his car outside of Starbucks, monitoring all wi-fi transmissions with his laptop, using special “sniffing” software, which examines the little packets of data floating through the air, checking for telltale chunks of data or poorly-encrypted text like email passwords, or website passwords, or even credit card numbers and other personal information.
Then, he just copies all those packets to his laptop, and from them, can re-assemble/decipher them at will to get whatever info you may have transmitted while checking that email when you should’ve been screenwriting.
Read this post at Lifehacker for some tips how to protect your computer while on the wi-fi. Your identity will thank you. Yourself.
Laptop theft and other sordid un-niceties
I can’t believe how many trusting citizens get up from their computers, top off their coffee at the counter waaay across the room, or hit the head, leaving their goodies sitting at a Starbuck’s table.
Wallets, cell phones, keys. Some have left screaming babies and have never returned. (I’m starting a tribe of warrior orphans. Inquire within.)
I suppose they’re thinking “Hey, that barista making $11/hour will surely deter any would-be purloiner, right?”
Welp, for my money, I don’t place bets like that. If the barista was making $16-$20/hr, had a gun, wore a badge, and did a couple tours in Iraq, I still wouldn’t trust my $1200 laptop to the consumer wilds of Starbucks. Humanity is ugly. Have you seen the video of the guy who got stabbed on the street, and laid there dying while a bunch of pedestrians passed by and didn’t bother to help? It’s now a major motion picture.
And finally, hot coffee kills.
A real danger! (With a bit of exaggeration) Yes, if someone spills it on you, you’ll probably live. But what if it was spilled on that aforementioned $1200 laptop you just bought on what was left of your credit card?
Times are tough, but they’ve always been tough for the majority of screenwriters. If you lose your laptop, chances are, you probably can’t afford to replace it right away.
And, if it’s damaged to the point where you can’t get data off of it, and you have no backups… (and please tell me you have backups.) …then there goes your script. Heck, there goes your life, for most of us.
In close, please don’t let my sky-is-falling poo-poo’ing of the coffee shop writing groove bust your chops. After all, what’s good for some caffeinated screenwriting geese isn’t necessarily good for the caffeinated screenwriting gander. If you love the coffee shop, and you love to write there, and it helps you get into your script, keep on starbuckin’!
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about someone pouring scalding hot coffee on you, stealing your laptop, and then destroying your identity. Happy writing!