Although I usually work at home at my computer, this summer I discovered (or more accurately, re-discovered) a wonderful working space. It’s the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, California. Established in 1894 through the generous donations of Redlands’ philanthropists, brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley, it has held onto its original, “old-fashioned library” style with wooden floors, tables, and bookshelves, and even a beautiful rose window. It’s a cool oasis on hot days and, most of all, it’s quiet !
The other libraries in this area are now “media centers,” “teen centers,” or “children’s activity spaces,” noisy and bustling, all valuable in themselves, no doubt, but not a place that’s conducive to writing, at least not for me. This island of calm in downtown Redlands is the perfect place to work. A number of years ago the Smiley library did switch from the traditional card catalog to a computerized version, and I do sometimes feel like a dinosaur as many around me work on their laptops while I still use a notebook and pen. Nonetheless, its timeless architecture and ambience give me the motivation I need to get the job done.
For example, on my most recent morning there, I planned to work on a short story that I want to submit soon. I had done “Nancy’s interviews” (in which the writer “interviews” each main character by asking a number of basic questions about him or her, vital statistics, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. to get a better “feel” for what the character is like and add depth to the story), the word wall, and other pre-writing exercises. When I sat down to work, however, the dreaded writer’s block set in. I didn’t know how to begin or how I wanted to say what was tossing around in the back of my mind. I’m sure if I’d been home, I would have answered a few e-mails, read some blogs, thrown another load of wash in the machine, walked down the driveway to the mailbox, maybe even made a phone call of two. But, since I was there and nothing else was calling to me, I forced myself to stay seated and write something. Before long I was covering pages with ideas, paragraphs, and dialogue. In about 3 hours, I had a very workable first draft. And, I felt refreshed and very satisfied. I made myself a promise to repeat this experience often.
Since I’m not a resident of Redlands, I do have to pay $25.00 per year for a library card, but I believe it’s money well spent!