The coffee-shop writer – Jane Costello

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By Jane Costello

I can’t think of a time when I didn’t want to be an author; I’m convinced I pictured myself as a writer on the day I picked up my first book to read. Yet, it took a few more decades before I made the leap from unpublished hopeful to someone who now makes 100% of her living from writing novels.♥

And while I unquestionably have the best job in the world, with the possible exception of Jamie Dornan’s personal masseuse, some bits of it came as a surprise: namely, just how much of being a professional author doesn’t actually involve writing books.

I wouldn’t have believed it beforehand. In my head, an author’s existence was a leisurely and un-taxing one: afternoons would be whiled away creating characters and plot arcs produced in the same way bubbles are blown – drifting out of my imagination with blissful ease.

There were a few things missing from this imagined existence, such as tax returns to file, interviews take part in, YouTube videos to film, meetings to attend, edits to plough through – or blogs just like this one to write. All of these things are not just valid parts of the day job but essential. Problem is, unless you’re careful, there are times when the real reason you wanted to do this – to write – can end up taking a back seat.

Which is to be avoided at all costs.

I found myself teetering on the edge of this situation last year: I had a new book coming out, I had half a dozen articles to submit to magazines and newspapers, it was the end of my tax year (so I had my accountant banging on the door) and, helpfully, my kids were off school for the Easter holidays.

And in amongst this maelstrom of activity was the big one: the deadline for my NEXT book was looming in a month. At this crucial time, when all I should’ve been doing was concentrating on producing the greatest romantic comedy ever written (hey, you might as well aim high!), I found myself drowning in everything else – just like I had when I first tried writing a book, at the same time as holding down a full-time job.

I was recounting this conundrum to a fellow author during a literary festival (yes, there was one of those too), when she let me into her secret: Coffee shops. Her daily routine went thus: drop kids off at school, head to a coffee shop with laptop. Switch off phone, wi-fi, emails and cut all contact with the outside world, barring calls to alert you to the fact that your house is on fire. Write 2500 words in two and a half hours. Then go home and do all the other things you have to do.

I didn’t believe I was capable of hitting that word-count in that time. It took me ALL DAY to do that usually. Yet, this was exactly how I’d worked when I was trying to break through as a novelist: in short, intense, concentrated chunks – with zero distractions.

By now, you’ve probably guessed my happy ending and it’s that I managed the 2500 words in two and a half hours. In fact, I now do it every day of my working life. Which brings me to the moral of this story: Writing time is precious and should be respected – and that’s the case whether you’re an aspiring novelist or someone who’s had a dozen top-ten best-sellers.

And if that hasn’t persuaded you, then how about this: you get to drink coffee and eat cake too.


Jane Costello was a newspaper journalist before she became an author. Jane’s first novel, Bridesmaids, was an instant best-seller and her subsequent novels have been shortlisted for a number of prizes including The Melissa Nathan Award for Romantic Comedy and the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy award, which she won in 2010 with The Nearly Weds. Her eighth novel, The Love Shack, is published on April 23rd.


  1. kdownton78

    April 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Great article. I love it! <3

  2. Pingback: Ep 57 Words that should be in the dictionary, how to save time as a writer, are you a coffee-shop writer? How to make a motza as a self-published author. And we talk to Writer in Residence Rachel Power. | Australian Writers’ Centre blog

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