I have always loved the library. When I was young, living in Queens, the highlight of my week was the arrival of the book-mobile. It was a library on wheels which carried only children’s books. I loved stepping inside and seeing books all around me, like a secret closet of stories. Libraries now have evolved. They still have shelves and shelves of books and magazines but gone is the old card catalog, now it’s all computerized. When I visit my local library there are as many people there for the computer access as there are people there to check out books. Perhaps there are more people there for the computers.
The library doesn’t just offer up books and magazines anymore. There are movies and music CDs. Before there was Netflix, I regularly visited the library to get movies. I have tested out new bands for free thanks to the library CD collection. These days I am as likely to borrow an ebook from the library as an actual volume. The online database is fabulous. I can search for a book and have it delivered to my local library, at no cost (unless I don’t claim it then they do charge a $1.00 fee). As easy as the on line access is, I still enjoy a visit to the library. On a hot day it is a great way to get out of the heat. A library is still one of the few truly quiet places left to us. Everywhere else you are bombarded with noise or one side of someone’s cell phone conversation. At the library you are free from those distractions. When I was working on my book, I found taking my computer to the library and spending an hour or two there writing yielded my best work. Better than working at home, the library was free of phones, spouses, children – it allowed me to really focus.
Today I wandered into the local library hoping to find a book, even though the on line database assured me the book had been checked out and wouldn’t be available. I was driving by the branch and figured there was no harm in double checking for myself. I was looking for “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Egan, for those of you who are interested. The computer hadn’t lied. The book was not on the shelf so I did what I always do when I can’t find the book I came for; I walked through the racks and waited for a one to jump out at me. More times than I can count I have stumbled upon a really wonderful book that way. Today was no exception. After fingering a few books whose titles were vaguely interesting and some by authors I’d read before, I settled on “The Seven Sisters” by Margaret Drabble. I can’t tell you why I picked this book and not one of the 5,499 others (just guessing at the count – there were probably a whole lot more). Something caused me to pull it off the shelf and walk it over to the checkout desk.
When I got home, I opened it up and read the following:
“Nothing much happens to me now, nor ever will again. But that should not prevent me from trying to write about it. I cannot help but feel that there is something important about this nothingness. It should represent a lack of hope, and yet I think that, somewhere, hope may yet be with me. This nothingness is significant. If I immerse myself in it, perhaps it will turn itself into something else. Into something terrible, into something transformed. I cast myself upon its waste of waters. It is not for myself alone that I do this. I hope I may discover some more general purpose as I write. I will have faith that something or someone is waiting for me on the far shore.”
Wow! That could have been written for me except that it was written twelve years ago by someone who certainly had no inkling of my existence or that more than a decade in the future, I would be sitting writing about the nothingness that is happening to me. I too hope to discover something at the end of the year, on the far shore, when I conclude this blog with “365 Days of Writing – Day 365 – The End.” I don’t anticipate “something terrible” as Ms. (Mrs?) Drabble indicates, but I do hope for something transformative.
Certainly there are days when I write because it is a new day and I must write something, even though I have nothing of any particular importance to say. Most of the time however, I feel I’m writing to come to terms with something or to explore that something within me. I may not feel transformed after each day but after 365 of those days, sure, I expect to reach more than just a conclusion. I expect to reach a turning point. I hope that at the end of the year, when I read back to Day 1, I will see that I am not the same person. I welcome you to take the journey with me.