Cafe Creativity: Did You Know You're More Creative Working in a Coffee Shop? Do You Know Why?

Two people working in a coffee shop


What do painter Pablo Picasso, author JK Rowling, and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan have in common? They have crafted some of their best work in a coffee shop.

In a recent article by Bryan Lufkin (see link below), he indicates that working in public is different than working at home—or in the office. Lufkin states,

“…putting on your noise-canceling headphones to toil away at your desk is actually different than doing the same surrounded by other people buzzing over your shoulder.

“There are many ways coffee shops trigger our creativity in a way offices and homes don’t. Research shows that the stimuli in these places make them effective environments to work; the combination of noise, casual crowds, and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative. (So, no, it’s not just that double expresso.)”

Studies have long confirmed that low-to-moderate levels of ambient noise boost creative output.

During the Covid crisis I’ve missed working in coffee shops with the frequency I once enjoyed. But, my favorite coffee shop, Mocha Lisa Coffeehouse, is still open and I love working there for the reasons stated above. I relish sitting back and enjoying the visual stimulus of brightly colored rooms, art and photography displayed on the walls, hearing clinking coffee cups, casual conversations, friendly baristas, the gentle tapping of keyboards, soft music in my ear buds, and the scent of coffee blends.

Another factor enhances my creativity. I call it the mission effect. That is, the motivation derived by others doing the same thing I’m doing, in my case—writing. When you’re on the same mission, you’re collectively committed to achieve it. Lufkin says working in a coffee shop is “analogous to going to the gym for a workout.” Makes sense. Common purpose. Similar goals. Mutual commitment. Heighten motivation.

For me, it’s true. I’m more creative in a coffee shop. Not to mention productive.

But what if you can’t go to a coffee shop yet? Bring the coffee shop to you. A friend of mine, a “coffee shop connoisseur,” Lee Warren, recommended two YouTube videos of coffee shop sounds that you can play. (See below.) In fact, as I write this newsletter today, I’m listening to one of these sound tracks that feature a coffee shop ambiance, keyboard taping, people’s voices and light rain. (Unfortunately, today I have to make my own coffee.)
When I wrote my first novel, The Glimpse, much of it was written in a coffee shop because I felt laser-focused there—ideas were flowing and I had a remarkable sense of clarity and inspiration. There, I generated more book ideas, wrote in my journal, developed a mission and vision for my writing, and built momentum.

Most of all, for me, I feel a greater connection to my goals in a coffee shop. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of the last bastions of a place that calls us to slow down, to pause, to collect our thoughts, and to think about, well, what we need to think about.

It’s a place that, by its very nature, reminds us that life is always a little sweeter when we slow it down.



SOMETHING TO CHEW ON:  Where do you feel the most creative? Productive? Why? Let me know. Email me at:
Bryan Lufkin article:  Why you're more creative in coffee shops
Since so many coffee shops are still in lockdown, here is the next best thing – a couple of coffee shop ambience videos to play in the background while you work. Here's one that is an hour long. And here's one that is three hours
Photo above by Pavel-danilyuk


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