“Well I can't stay inside talkin' Gotta get outside rockin'”

Posted by jlubans on March 18, 2021

Caption: The vast Doce Cuarenta (12/40) coffee house* on the outskirts of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. (Photos by author, March 2021)

My title comes from the lyrics to “Cappuccino Bar” by the rocker and musical maestro, Jonathan Richman.
Overly caffeinated, Mr. Richman is itchin’ to do something besides talkin’. He bolts from the coffee bar and sings:
“… I'm out there with my guitar
Playin bang bang rock and roll.”
This by way of introduction to an exploration of how coffee and cafes help get one creatively going!
How is that?
Well, there’s the caffeine.
Studies confirm that caffeine “suppresses unwanted and unnecessary insights and instead helps you focus on the work at hand” – in other words with caffeine you don’t day dream, you stay on task, you buckle down and “pick that bale of cotton”.
Doing so, coffee blocks “your ‘monkey brain’ which is constantly jabbering …”.
Coffee, it is claimed, helps you listen to your inner (and linear) “ox brain” and - steady as an ox - allows you to plod forward step by step to get the job done.
But, you can brew your own coffee and stay at home or in the office – no need to go out.
Does going to a café add value? Are we more creative in a café than at an office desk?
The BBC has answers.
Besides the chemical effects of caffeine, there are good reasons to step out.
Reason 1- Background noise.
It’s asserted that if you’re very slightly distracted from the task at hand by ambient stimuli, it boosts your abstract thinking ability, leading to more creative ideas. A low-to moderate ambient noise can boost your productivity.
Reason 2. Observing others working inspires one to get working.
Being around other people engaged in work or study can put you in a mood to do likewise. Like going to the gym, we see the guy next to us lifting twice as much weight as we are. We put down the 15-pound dumbbells and go with the 35 pounders. This is termed the social-facilitation effect.
Reason 3. Visual variety
Caption: Green farmer depicted at Doce Cuarenta.

Working from home (or the office) can get boring; oen we sit in the same chair and look at the same four walls, the same windows. And we do it solo, often in silence.
But, in a café, unfamiliar noises, the movement of people, the retail environment and the variety in interior design can provide enough distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative. “Visual stimulation – how the place is decorated – has an effect on people’s creative thinking process.” Researchers call it “convergent creative thinking.”
Reason 4.
The café’s ‘air of informality.’

Caption: Featuring indoor and outdoor seating, a place for everyone. A Todos Santos author friend told me it’s where she goes to write.
Unlike the implied formality of a Zoom pixelated conference room, "there is an air of informality when meeting up at a café.” That informality hearkens back to Ray Oldenburg’s, the “third place”, that one leg of a satisfactory life’s tripod: home, job, and “other place”. It’s where the regulars welcome each other with small talk, exaggeration, good humor and kindness. Where no one remains a stranger, as long as they adapt to the norms of the place and await an invitation to join in. I wrote about one such place back in 2011.
The informality and camaraderie found over time in a cafe can lead to collaboration, can lead to friendship, can lead to good group effort.
Even if you remain solo – I, the inveterate introvert - the good vibe of a third place can foster good feelings within yourself.

*You’ll find Doce Cuarenta on a dirt road well off the La Paz highway going north from Todos Santos. It sits amidst landscaped grounds, palm trees and other greenery bordering sandy gravel parking lots.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

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