# of literary mags submitted to: 1
# of agents queried: 3
Remember way back in the summer when I was having trouble writing at home because it was so hot and stuffy that I would fall asleep in a sweaty pile of mush in front of my computer?
Well, now the problem has reversed. I sit at my desk wearing my winter coat, sipping from a cup of tea and shivering. I turn up the heat, but it doesn’t help much. The cold creeps in through the cracks of the house; my fingers and toes turn to ice.
This is what I have been dreading ever since I moved to Cape Cod.
Whenever I told people that I was nervous about the winter, they’d say, “Aye, lassie. It’s a damp cold that gets inter ye bones and makes ye weep.” They didn’t actually say it like a burly Irish sea captain, but it sounds better that way.
For the past two days, a steady cold rain has been falling from pale, heavy clouds, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to warm up. It’s hard to type when your fingers are numb. It’s hard to write when your brain feels frozen. This sort of dreary cold tends to make me feel lumpish and uninspired.
Yesterday I left the house in search of some place warm to do my writing. I knew I couldn’t go to a coffee shop – I am very easily distracted and have trouble writing when there is talking or any sort of remotely interesting activity going on nearby.
So I headed for a place both quiet and boring: Snow Library. Unfortunately, sitting upstairs was just about as noisy and bustling as a Monday morning Starbucks. Turns out there are a lot of old people around here who want to argue about their library fines. And the librarians are a surprisingly loud and feisty bunch.
So I packed up my computer and went down to the library basement where they keep the large-print mystery books. It was quiet down there at least. But it was also horrible. On the floor was a thin, industrial carpet the color of a puked up hairball, and the walls were painted-over cinder blocks. No windows. A moldy odor. An old lady in a walker hacking up her own hairballs every few minutes.
I wrote a paragraph or two and then headed home, dejected.
This morning when I woke up to the cold rain, I started to feel depressed. The air in the house was wet and cold. I didn’t feel like writing anything. I felt like snuggling back in bed and reading the rest of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (which, by the way, is amazing so far. I started it yesterday evening and am already on page 113).
But I decided to try a different library. I drove fifteen minutes to the Brewster Ladies’ Library. The library was founded by a group of women in 1853 in the home of a prominent sea captain, and then later, in 1868, the library building was built on Main Street in Brewster. I parked in the back and walked into the old building, past the circulation desk and the shelves of nonfiction. I walked towards the front of the house, looking for a quiet place to set up shop. There was loud construction going on upstairs, and I didn’t have high hopes for the afternoon.
But then I came to the front parlor: a beautiful old room with high ceilings and a large fireplace with garlands draped across its mantle. A Christmas tree stood in front of the window, and there were cabinets lining the walls, filled with crumbling old books. Everything was clean and bright and cheerful. I sat down in a wooden chair and opened my lap top on the table, gazing at the gold framed portraits hung on either side of the fireplace.
The room was warm and cozy and quaint. I took off my gloves. My fingers felt nimble – ready to fly across the keys. I smiled. It’s amazing what a little warmth will do. It’s amazing how a beautiful room can lift your spirits and breathe a bit of life into your brain. This room was exactly what I needed.
I do realize that I am a super big wuss. If conditions aren’t just right – too hot, too cold, too noisy, too depressing – I have trouble writing. I’m constantly admonishing myself for this fault and thinking that if I were a “real” writer I would be able to write anywhere at any time.
I think about cocky old Hemingway who would write while his belly grumbled because he’d gambled away his grocery money. (I also have trouble writing when I’m hungry, or when I’m worried about money.) I think about silly old Charles Dickens who probably shivered right down to his bones in dreary London while still churning out hundreds upon hundreds of run-on sentences. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Does it matter?
Instead of worrying about why I have trouble writing in loud, uncomfortable places, I just need to be aware of my wussiness and try to search out better circumstances for my wimpy self as quickly and effectively as possible. Who cares if it means I’m not a “real” writer? All I know is that tomorrow I’m going to eat a hearty lunch, dress warmly, and head to the east parlor of the Brewster Ladies Library to do my fake writing by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.
Pick one of your flaws or quirks. Instead of thinking about how to get rid of it (you know you probably can’t), think about how you can work with it.
Talk like a burly Irish sea captain for a day and see how people respond.