Archive for the ‘coffee’ Tag

Cafe Society (Day 22)

The coffee shop has a long tradition of being a place of creativity and innovation. Today I met up with Chris Ward who recently wrote a whole book about that association and how to make it work for you in the 21st century. He kindly gave me this copy:

out of office

As a person who spends one hour a day each way on the tube to work, so that’s 10 hours a week, or 1 day a week, so that’s 47 weeks a year, the book makes a lot of sense to me. The office and commute make no business, economic, environmental, transport or any other sense in this day and age.

Cafe No. 1: Campbell & Syne, East Finchley

I met my former colleague at Channel 4 Louise Brown for a catch-up and met her delightful new twins. Got to hold a baby for the first time in ages. That puts you in touch with what really matters and is worthwhile.

Campbell and Syne

Cafe No. 2: Shoreditch House, Shoreditch

Met up with some Channel 4 on-screen talent to discuss the end of the office, the end of the university degree, the end of borders, the end of cars, the end of the retail high street, the end of all sorts of things that make less and less sense in the digital age. Michael Acton Smith, who features in Chris’ book, walked past, not in his office. He’s done very well for himself by inventing Moshi Monsters in a cafe.

Shoreditch house club

Cafe No. 3: Albion, Shoreditch

I met Chris in Terence Conran’s Albion cafe. Outside in front I bumped into Utku and Noam from Mint Digital, creators of Stickygram, also not in their office. Mint and I thought up Quotables in a cafe opposite Great Ormond Street – it’s becoming a TV show this month (Was It Something I Said). Chris filled me in on the world of self-publication, design and printing which is how he chose to go with Out of Office. It got to No. 1 in the business charts.

Albion cafe shoreditch

Cafe No. 4: Dan and DeCarlo, East Finchley

I waited for Enfant Terrible No. 2 at this place opposite The Archer, East Finchley’s fine Art Deco landmark (a sculpture created by the man who designed the staircase to heaven in Powell & Pressberger’s A Matter of Life and Death). I wrote more of the Paul Arden chapter, an intense burst of writing to conclude the day. Chris Ward cites Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are… as a key text for his notional ‘Penny University’, a term used of the 18th Century coffee shops of London and their potential for learning – a penny bought you entry, a cup of the black stuff, the newspapers and snippets of journalistic gossip. Chris is in the habit of giving Arden’s tome away to everyone he ever works with.

dan and decarlo cafe

First light (Day 14)

A London coffee house 1668 (Photo courtesy of Lordprice Collection / Alamy)

A London coffee house 1668 (Photo courtesy of Lordprice Collection / Alamy)

Sitting in a cafe at Marylebone Station on Sunday morning the book, let’s call it When Sparks Fly for now, got its first airing. I read half of Chapter One to my other half. I hadn’t even read it back to myself yet, other than in bits and pieces. Bottom line, she found it engaging, followable and made up of stories she enjoyed hearing. Which was encouraging. Because at this stage I have no real idea how I’m doing.

The story point is particularly essential. Many books of the type I’m trying to write hit the Pareto rule junction. A vestige of maths or physics lessons at school, I can’t even remember which any more, this is the rule about 80% of the effects coming from 20% of the causes. Or, as here applied, you squeeze 80% of the juice out of a book from 20% of the effort. What that usually looks like is: Chapter 1 – here’s my model, here are some brief illustrations. And the model is good, the examples interesting, but by the end of Chapter 1 I’ve got the idea and I reach the junction. Get out while I’m ahead, I’ve grasped the idea, I’ve only expended 20% of the time and effort? Or plough on for the other 80%?

That’s why I started writing this book in a different way from how I’d normally write. I began with a narrative only layer, a sequence of what I hope are interesting and funny and moving stories which illustrate my points – but not much by way of analysis or theory. What was interesting in the read-through was that my wife questioned the need for much analysis and the question arose of how far the stories spoke for themselves, the implications for creative practice for the most part being pretty evident.

On the train journey to Warwick I also came up with an unusual way of summarising the principles, not a way I’ve ever seen, more visually driven. So that’s some good writing progress on the Brighton train this week, an original idea on the Warwick train, a writing landmark in Patisserie Valerie in Marylebone Station, an insightful meeting with Ruth MacKenzie in Notes cafe, St Martin’s Lane. Perhaps the best way of doing this kind of thing is to travel from place to place by train and stop in at cafes along the way.

Chris Ward, author of Out of Office, kindly got in touch the same day in the wake of reading this blog with the offer of a coffee house meeting to discuss the role of the hot black stuff in creativity and related matters so I may chuck the contribution of choo-choos into the conversation.

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