I have a letter in this month’s Writers News which I wrote in response to a plea from another reader. Her printer had broken, she couldn’t afford a new one and she wondered if anyone knew of editors who accept work by email?
I couldn’t help her with that but I did have another suggestion: if she only has a few pages to print out (ie: not a novel!), she should try her local library, because mine has PCs and a printer, which anyone can use for 15p per printed sheet.
Which made me think about using libraries in general. Apart from the fact that they’re under threat and need our support if they’re not going to disappear for good – see here for more details on that – they’re a great resource for writers – and the perfect place to write.
Yes, I know J K Rowling made writing in cafes very trendy (she even wrote part of the final Harry Potter book in a cafe – presumably under a very big hat), but they don’t work for me, mainly because they all seem more like crèches than coffee bars these days (one solution though, is to grab your drink and flee to the first floor – if there is one. Parents with prams are like Daleks: they can’t go upstairs).
But apart from the noise and distractions, I feel really self-conscious trying to write in a cafe. All that tidying up around me and glaring, and silent pressure to buy yet another one-shot-skinny-latte at £3 a go…..
But libraries are a different story!
10 Reasons Why I Love Libraries:
- OK, the obvious: you can borrow books (and audio books). But, once you’ve joined, you can also order any book you like (sometimes for a small fee of £1 or so but if the book is available in other local libraries, they’ll order it in for you – and that’s a free service)
- You can save money on heating and lighting at home, by writing in a library.
- You can read a stack of newspapers and magazines (all in the name of research, of course!)
- As well as books, in many libraries you can borrow CDs and DVDs.
- Writing in a library is a great way of avoiding procrastination at home. (You can’t hoover in a library or sneak a look at ‘Come Dine With Me’).
- You can pick up local leaflets, read the notice board and find out what’s going on in your area. (I got an idea for one of my published stories from a notice in my local library about a knitting club).
- Many libraries have reading and/or writing groups. You could join in, or ask if you could do a reading/talk (and if yours doesn’t have a reading or writing group, why don’t you ask if you can set one up?)
- Libraries aren’t all stuffy and silent any more, or full of women with buns telling you to ‘Shhhh!’ Many of them have cafes and areas where you can eat and talk, as well as quiet areas for work and study.
- Have you got a local university library that you could use for writing? Some universities will let members of the public ‘join’ if you provide 2 forms of ID. You can’t borrow books but then, you probably don’t want to. The advantage of university libraries is that they stay open late (sometimes all night), especially during exam time.
- Books, books, books! Being surrounded by thousands of books is inspiring. And every single book started with one word on a piece of paper….
Update (17/12/2010): Novelist Andrea Levy has been writing in a library (it doesn’t say which one but presumably somewhere in London) for sixteen years. She admits she writes ‘total cr*p’ in the library (first drafts) and then edits her work when she gets home and onto the PC. Click here for a video of Andrea in discussion about writing in the library. It’s interesting stuff!