For a long time, I wrote in coffee shops. I wrote most of my six non-fiction books, mostly from coffee shops. (Full disclosure, they’re under a different name.) There are a large number of distractions, and we have to choose our distractions wisely.

Google “writing from coffee shops” and spend an hour reading about how some writers love it.

Somewhere I read about the value of the coffee shop distraction factor: Writing needs to penetrate the pervasive background noise of the coffee shop.

Many writers prefer the coffee shop distractions from home or apartment distractions. At home, there are too many other things to do. In a coffee shop, we’ve made a kind of commitment to write, not fold laundry or tune the ukulele.

For non-fiction, writing the cuts through distracting thoughts can be difficult. A brilliant non-fiction writer can provide a compelling and helpful metaphors for complex phenomena, adroitly balancing the abstraction of theory without dropping any of the crucial details from the model. In physical sciences, there’s a model of reality that abstracts just enough details to provide useful predictions. For really complex physical sciences like meteorology and climatology, the modern approach is to show the various models. Weather broadcasters are (nowadays) willing to expose more of the science behind the forecast. It’s a compelling technology presentation.

I write about software. The abstractions and models aren’t quite as sophisticated as they are in physical sciences. Writing about software is more like writing about math: things are or are not. The code either computes the advertised n factorial, or it doesn’t (and shouldn’t be in the book.) Writing that cuts through distractions isn’t as difficult because software only exists to solve a problem. Describing the problem provides a built-in narrative arc.

Non-fiction is much more fun — and it should be. If it’s not fun to write, I don’t see how it can be fun to read. However, even though there’s a lot of freedom to inject a lot of novelty into fiction writing, there are self-imposed constraints.

Will the paragraph compel the reader? Awkward conversation structured around a plot point instead of the character? Boring exposition? Trite writing? Will the reader close my book and pick up their phone to take pictures of their cappuccino?

Time to get beyond the distraction and shake things up. This is the best part about writing fiction. I get to reboot and rearchitect the story as often as needed to avoid the distractions of the coffee shop.