Monday, May 1, 2017

Magical Seats of Inspiration and the Dangers of Isolation

I used to love Barnes & Noble.

During college I practically lived there. Back in those carefree days, I spent hours nestled in a solitary corner, writing and reading. It really became my go-to writing and reading place, along with three others: Ponderosa, Taco Bell and Old Country Buffet.

No, seriously.

I didn't lead a very exciting life, quite frankly. Once my college basketball career ended, I pretty much spent all my time reading and writing. I spent most my five years in college single, and if it wasn't basketball season, I was off by myself, nurturing my writing dreams by either scribbling endless chapters of a never-ending novel into composition notebooks, or blowing an hour or so - literally - at those three restaurants, hanging out and reading and writing. 

Even after I was engaged for two years, I would escape to those places for treasured moments of solitude (I guess that I had to escape from my ex-fiance and her family should've told me something, but alas, I was young and stupid). After I got married (to Abby, and not my ex-fiance) and before kids, or when they were very little, I still spent a lot of time in those places. I have very vivid memories of reading my first Leisure Fiction ARC (Fires Rising, by Michael Laimo), and the first few issues of Shroud Magazine at Taco Bell, wondering if I'd ever get to work with them.

Anyway, I spent many hours in those places, fanning the feeble flames of my dreams. Especially in Barnes & Noble. Back before it remodeled about 18 years ago, they only played quiet classical music and offered plenty of tables to write at it. I had a corner one, as I said...and it was mine. If I showed up to write and someone was sitting there, I'd circle the place like a Great White Shark (okay, a little creepy, I know), until they finally left. For my first book review gig - which paid in contributor copies of the kind of periodical you line cat liter boxes with - I was poor, so I read books at Barnes & Noble for review. I read my very first Stephen King  novel there, Desperation.

After they remodeled they started playing jazz and pop music, but I didn't mind so much (though I liked the classical music better) because they had these WONDERFUL couches and plush leather chairs. You remember those, right? I spent hours in them, reading and writing, and lots of times gave in and bought what I was reading. The summer I wrote the first draft of Hiram Grange and the Chosen One, I split time between Barnes & Noble and the library at my Alma mater, Broome Community College.

And then, one day....

The couches, chairs, and tables....were gone.

Sounds crazy, but this muted my love of Barnes &  Noble. The only place to write were the small little tables in the Starbucks Cafe, and honestly, I've never been that happy with them. They're small, everything's crowded, and it's just not a great space. Ironically, because I've spend much less time there the last few years, I've spent less money there, too.

Of course, I've had to really think about what a "writing space" means the last few years. I realize that in many ways I got a little finicky. Before kids, I "needed" a "special" place to write; usually those places I mentioned. After kids, the need for office space developed. I ended up creating one in my basement, and I wrote there for many years.

The problem was...

I was still escaping.

I didn't realize it, but little by little, I was escaping from my family, from Abby, Madi, and Zack, and hiding out in my office. It was putting a strain on Abby - a subtle one, which I'm not sure she even realized - because it left her alone to deal with Zack, while I was holed up downstairs in my office, writing and reading. This is one the things which came to light when Abby and I decided in August 2015 some serious changes needed to be made.

I took some time off writing.

Separated from my office. And the funny thing is, when I started writing again and the mojo came back,  I realized I no longer needed a "special" place to write, nor did I need to write in my office. I now write every day on the living room couch at 5 AM in the morning, while Abby does her morning devotions in the recliner next to me. I steal bits of writing time at school during library studyhall duty. I'll sometimes scribble some bits down before bed, once again, with Abby by my side.

Writing is a solitary endeavor. It needs to be. The problem with that, of course, is that it's very easy to drift away from those you love most because you've become so absorbed in your solitary writing. 

That doesn't mean I don't get back out to my special places occasionally. But I realize now I don't need those places to write anymore, and I don't need my "office" - although I plan on doing some writing there this summer while Abby's at work and Zack's at summer school. What I need most for my writing is my family - my wife and kids. I love writing. But I love my family more. I need my quiet time to write, but I need to be connected to my family in order to live.

I still read, and write, and dream. But I do it with one hand connected to my family, so I won't drift away, again.