The day I realised my soul wasn’t mine was the day I changed my mind.
It was a cold, winters morning in a North London Starbucks, so chill that everyone slunk deep into their coats when the doors swung open. I sat in one of the few plush, leather chairs all coffee chains seem to have and suffered the jealous eyes of other customers standing in the queue. They coveted my territory like animals denied mating rights, visibly wounded by my success and desperate to see me usurped. With my laptop on and coffee in hand it was clear I intended to stay, blogging, as I had been for the last twenty minutes:
Lazy Sunday Thoughts
Is there anything better than a venti mocha, with cream, on a Sunday? Just sitting in Starbucks thinking about the worthy cause of Fairtrade coffee that’s advertised everywhere in here – a perfect way to combat the guilt of a full-fat drink. It means all growers worldwide are ensured a good price for their product,which means no-one is left in poverty. I wasn’t even aware of this cause until *$s [Starbucks] brought it to my attention
I took a sip of said guilt-free drink and felt guilty anyway. The stamp on the back of my cup conjured images of wearisome plantation workers haggling with corrupt businessmen, jubilant when the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation arrived with UN Bluecaps and offered them bags of money. In reality I didn’t have a clue on whether this was the case or not. Starbucks told me it was true, I believed it, then wrote it.
I took another sip, this one colder than the last. There was a powdery residue of cocoa on my tongue.
This place, not necessarily just Starbucks, but similar venues, was everything it meant to be a writer. Coffee kept me stimulated and the words flowing. The atmosphere was quiet so I could concentrate. The staff were friendly, the food locally and ethically sourced – it was an achievement of modern society that such a place existed to cater for the creative. But I was supposed to be a writer, so then for what was I writing? Most of my topics involved coffee in some way, and a lot of my “musings” were painfully contrived. In this case I admitted to myself that what I wrote could have originated from a Starbucks training pamphlet.
Like the plantation workers, my identity was difficult to sift from the company that informed me of their very existence. They weren’t farmers, but Fairtrade farmers, a logo on a cup and a warm feeling that I was helping the world’s poor whenever I drank. These weren’t people: they were a brand, an identity, and didn’t that make me the same thing? A blogger, like so many others, that formed part of Starbucks’ image as the creative person’s haven?
More cold cocoa. Some cream clung to the side of my lip and was quickly removed with a tongue swipe.
I deleted my initial post, and started again:
A Blogger’s Manifesto
1. A writer of any type has a purpose, whether they want to or not. If they don’t think they have a purpose, their purpose belongs to somebody else.
2. Writers have a duty to create their own purpose.
3. Writers are obsolete until they prove otherwise, and are of no benefit to anyone unless they do something no-one else can do. This is essential if writing is to be a serious profession and not just a hobby.
Pause. Another sip. Posted.
Now, time for something else. I spent the next two hours writing a job application for Starbucks, citing my gushing praise for the chain over my blogging history as evidence of my enthusiasm. From there, I watch other writers enter the store daily and spend my time observing them. Then I write what I see, each time expanding the Blogger’s Manifesto.
My aim is to give other people purpose, and I still maintain that my job application is the best post I have made to date.