How to become a hot, intelligent-looking novelist when writing in public…


If you have any ideas about how to become a hot intelligent-looking novelist when writing in public, then please email me because I really need your advice.

There’s something very poetic about writing in coffee shops. I can envision myself staring off into the distance as I tap out the words of my novel on a slick laptop, drinking coffee, looking contemplative. In my head, that’s who I am when I go out to write in coffee shops.

The stark reality, however, is me hogging a table at Costa Coffee wearing broken jeans held together with a safety pin, torn Converse trainers with holes in them and a coffee stained shirt (a result of trying to write and drink coffee simultaneously). Clutching a flimsy, chewed Biro in my hand, I stare at my tatty notebook (also smothered in coffee stains) as I cram handfuls of chocolate muffin into my mouth, whimpering over my unfinished manuscript.

Some people (hipsters) attempt the contemplative intelligent look, but actually just look, well, like pretentious dickheads with too much time and money to know what else to do with themselves. The trouble is, there’s a fine line between looking contemplative and poetic and looking like a pretentious dickhead:

Fine line

Thanks to my lack of fashion sense or possession of a Macbook, I’m in the clear for looking pretentious. Similarly, thanks to my scruffy apparel (shirt with undignified coffee stains, and shoes with gaping holes in them) I’m also light years away from the romanticised intelligent novelist in my head:

No fine line

Look, I know that being a novelist isn’t about looking like a novelist. It’s about actually writing a novel. But sometimes I wish I looked the part. There are people who look poetic and contemplative and intelligent and creative and not pretentious. And I don’t know how they do it.

Sometimes, when I’m writing in a coffee shop, I see people who look a lot more like novelists than I do. I was going to take their pictures to illustrate this point further – but I thought that would be pretty awkward and weird. And I’m pretty sure the intelligent-looking hotties would find it a bit awkward and weird too.

So you’ll just have to take my word for it – there are people who sit in coffee shops with their notes and laptops and books and stuff, and they look awesome. They look like the coffee shop is their living room – they look like that table they’re sitting at, is their desk. They look like they’ve never had to struggle with fixing a chapter, or eliminating one of their main characters or spent an entire day trying to write a sentence. And what’s more, they aren’t scruffy. They’re kind of hot looking writer folk. They aren’t wearing clothes held together with safety pins, or shoes with gaping holes in them, or coffee stained shirts, nor are they pretentious hipsters with Macbooks and sunglasses. They’re these amazingly hot, intelligent, calm people just sitting there and writing novels and drinking coffee without spilling it all over themselves.

Who are they? Where did they come from? Why don’t they ever stop – not even to go to the toilet?

There isn’t really a point to today’s post. Other than: I’m jealous of hot, intellectual writery folk with laptops and their endless novel-writing* abilities.

*Admittedly, I don’t know that they’re writing novels. They could be writing anything. They could be writing an essay or they could be playing World of Warcraft. They still look like novelists. The bastards.

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Comments: 15

  1. Steven Chapman May 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm Reply

    They’re obviously not writers! They must be trendy fakes sent in by the stationary companies to make it look like being a writer is sexy…they’ll do anything to shift a few more notepads!

  2. Jojiebean May 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm Reply

    I wish I could believe you – but they look like writers. They have pens and paper and laptops and everything. But they're sexy. How do they do it? It just isn't right. Is it?

  3. Steven Chapman May 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm Reply

    Maybe they're robots? It's the only explanation.

  4. Elle May 24, 2011 at 5:22 am Reply

    perhaps a change of scenery. Its summer now, you could look like a writer in the park. Then you could look all romantic curled up under a tree. A plus side to the park is that the notebook makes you appear more artistic, as if you are "getting back to what writing used to be about" instead of using a cold sleek machine.

  5. Steven Chapman May 24, 2011 at 8:43 am Reply

    All I can picture now is Jo asleep under a tree, drooling on her already stained shirt, while a squirrel chews her notebook to pieces…

  6. @rik_ffg May 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm Reply

    Those trendies are just pissing their time away on the internet, mindlessly refreshing their Facebook page over and over again or, at most, writing sycophantic reviews of the latest Apple product they've just bought.

  7. Simone May 24, 2011 at 10:47 pm Reply

    i write in coffee shops all the time with my mac book in tow, and i'm quite sure i look like a pretentious twat bag, but i don't care – i concentrate better in public because i hate people so much i have to use all of my energy to ignore them…

  8. alonewithcats May 25, 2011 at 12:23 am Reply

    I never write in public. There are three reasons:

    1. I hate people, and thus being around people inspires violent thoughts, not masterful words.

    2. I have a Powerbook, but the battery's been dead for about three years.

    3. There is no third reason.

    I think I am the fine line? Please advise.

  9. Suniverse May 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm Reply

    Again, I can't write in public because of my near-constant need to use the bathroom and my inability to trust anyone to look after my stuff, so this is speculation, but:

    I think that you can skirt the issue by making periodic announcements like, "I am a writer, but not a hipster douchebag, despite what my apparel might imply" or "My goodness, working on this novel, as I am a writer, is certainly taxing all of my resources, so I cannot be concerned with what I am wearing."

    You'll be surprised at the instant respect you garner.

  10. Jojiebean May 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm Reply

    Thanks for your comment Elle. Weirdly, I tried the whole park thing this time last year. But then people were having barbecues and throwing frisbies and what not, and I kind of got distracted by all the grilled meat and flying objects. Kind of the way a dog does.

  11. Jojiebean May 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm Reply

    It's true. It would totally work out that way. If I wasn't harrassing unsuspecting picnicking folk for their grilled meat.

  12. Jojiebean May 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm Reply

    But they have notes too – like actual notes – on paper and everything!

  13. Jojiebean May 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm Reply

    Hmmm. I seem to have made a whopping error in my generic term of a pretentious dickhead. Let me work on that for a moment and come back to you. (What I'm trying to say is, I'm pretty sure you're not one of them – I need examples).

  14. @rik_ffg May 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm Reply

    I just re-read your post, then my comment, and it seems I missed the point completely, as you specifically excluded hipsters from your description of these people you, er, described.

    Ahem. However, my general attitude whenever threatened by anyone who might be cool, successful or both is to immediately demonise them by mentally belittling their achievements or imagining that something else is lacking in their life to compensate for whatever has proved impressive or threatening enough for me to be having these thoughts in the first place.

    In other words, even if you know they're most likely not vacuous hipster twats, it's best to pretend that they are. And even if you know they're not just looking at Facebook but actually writing something, it's best to pretend that they're just looking at Facebook.

    Trust me, it's easier this way. You'll no longer feel jealous (although you're much less likely to make a new coffee-shop-novel-friend).

  15. Brooke Farmer June 3, 2011 at 12:58 am Reply

    Maybe I am pulling this off somehow without even trying to really. I get hit on (read: interrupted when I am obviously very wrapped up in what I am doing) more often when I am writing than at any other time. I don't really have any suggestions. I tend to be in a skirt or dress but that's because I prefer a sunny patio to air conditioning. I don't think that is going to help you much.

    I usually have a really "smart" book on the table because I like to read a little bit of someone amazing right before I start writing. Maybe that's all it takes. I know the right book in someone's hands can be a big turn on for some (me).

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