Recently, my hubby and I tried to work together. He is a writer, too, though I doubt he would call himself this out loud, or even thinks of himself in this way; what I mean, though, is that he writes for a living. That he is a demographer at work on a dissertation and I am a daydreamer at work on a novel seems irrelevant when it comes to actually doing the work: both of us, after all, have to get our lovely little asses in our chairs and write.
Sometimes we try to do this together. It does not work often; we are different creatures. My hubby likes coffee shops and office spaces, the gentle pressure he feels to work when other living beings are thinking and moving around him, ostensibly doing their own work in the world.
I prefer to work at home, alone, where I have a little writing desk wedged into a corner of our living room, facing the wall so as not to become distracted. But distractions abound. There are dishes to be washed, after all, and snacks to be eaten, and back-to-back marathon episodes of Sex and the City to watch. There is also, of course, the couch, where yesterday, after changing into my workout clothes with every intention of walking outside by the canal, arms pumping, I proceeded to sit down and watch television for three and a half hours until I realized I needed to get ready to meet my hubby for a social gathering we had planned. At which time I stripped, showered, and re-dressed myself in what I hoped was casual chic before leaving the house, never having written, or worked out, at all.
So. Today we went to the public library, my demographer-hubby and me.
I will sing the praises of my local library, whatever local library that happens to be, until my dying breath. I am a believer in libraries. I am, you might say, an enthusiast. Scratch that: I am an unapologetic evangelist.
Just not today.
Today the library was so crowded that I could not think. There was no room for my precious characters, only the obnoxious sounds and rhythms of real, live people doing real, live things—like making video calls from public computers (is this a thing now?) in supposedly sacrosanct places like the library.
The librarian directs me to the Quiet Room. Oh, I must be mistaken, I want to say, I thought the library was the Quiet Room. Like, of the universe.
I feel defeated. I return to my table, where my hubby is writing, silently and dutifully, his gorgeous ass in the chair at the shared table we’ve managed to stake out in the bustling common room.
I’ll be right back, I tell him. He raises an eyebrow but says nothing.
I find the aisle where they keep the books about writers. Then I find the aisle where they keep the books about everything else. I come back to the table with an armful of books. My hubby looks up at me. “I thought you were going to write,” he says.
“I am,” I say. “This is writing.” Except we both know better.
So I sit down. I sigh. I flip through my books. I untie and tie my shoelace. I open my laptop. I think less than charitable thoughts at the woman behind me, who is gabbing at someone in a different time zone, the on-screen image fuzzy and frozen but still, apparently, close enough to the actual likeness of the person to merit the call. I go to the bathroom. I sit back down.
I whine about the state of the modern library to my hubby, who nods sympathetically and listens politely but then returns to his work because he is, in all ways, a better person than I am.
I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and promptly begin to fret in silence about the state of my misanthropic, curmudgeonly soul.
And this, it turns out, is the perfect condition for writing.
So there, in that quiet room of the universe, I write.