Genius, it is said, is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. And writing, a form of genius (or so writers would have you believe), is 1% putting words to paper and 99% procrastinating and fretting about putting words to paper. It’s a clunkier and more verbose corollary, sure, but what do you expect from a writer.
Coffee shops, with their caffeine, wifi, and generally lax rules about loitering, have long been the venue for beleaguered writers caught in the battle between perspiration and procrastination. And now, one cafe in Japan has picked a side. The Manuscript Writing Cafe in Tokyo only admits writers with a deadline to meet, and won’t let them leave until they’ve met it.
As reported by Grape, the Manuscript Writing Cafe can be found inside the photography studio Koenji Triangle. In order to be allowed into the cafe, you have to be a writer and you must have a piece in need of completion. According to proprietor Takuya Kawai, this is “in order to maintain a level of focus and tense atmosphere at the cafe.”
Paying by the hour, writers who make it inside check in with the reception desk and tell them how many words they need to write and by what time. A cafe manager will then keep them on task with hourly check-ins to see how things are progressing—patrons are even able to select if these check-ins are more mild or aggressive. And if the pressure of a watchful eye wasn’t motivation enough, the Manuscript Writing Cafe won’t let you leave until you have completed your task. You are literally trapped in a prison of your own procrastination, which frankly isn’t really that much different than writing to begin with, only now you are paying by the hour for it.
The Manuscript Writing Cafe isn’t specifically for those creating new words either. It admits anyone doing translation work, layout work, and image processing, amongst other non-literary endeavors.
It’s a novel take on the time-honored writing tactic of locking oneself in a room with the intent of not leaving until progress has been made. But it neglects the great lengths writers will go through to not be productive. Something of a writer myself, I’d rather die penniless from by-the-hour fees, overcaffeinated, and looking like Christian Bale in The Machinist than even consider doing the thing my vocation requires of me that would, in truth, only take a half hour to complete if I just put my mind to it. I can just do it tomorrow.