Note- The diary entries are part of my personal ponderings about certain things in my life that I’m trying to write about more often. Just observations, thoughts, the parts of my brain scattered about brought more closely together in the attempt to make a picture of things. Much like a constellation. And like diaries or sightings of such constellations, they’re bound to be sporadic in appearance, and non-consecutive in topic- apologies! x
One of the most terrible dilemmas that could ever face a writer is finding somewhere to go. Somewhere to ‘be’ the writer, where they’re not anyone else, and write. Suppose some writers never have this problem, and I’m deeply envious. They can step into their writer’s guise, their wordsmith jumpsuit hung up next to the dressing gown in the bedroom, or by their side at the breakfast bar, sitting in the seat next to them, ready by the postcard-window on the train.
For me, increasingly so over the years as I’ve tried to become a writer, I’ve felt this essence of needing to go somewhere in order to write. Or at least start, and maybe then carry the bank of paper sounds home with me to rearrange after. A designated dressing room for my writer’s suit. An event. A means to go somewhere and do the writing thing that I apparently like doing. Only, over time, that need to go out to write, to go get dressed, has manifested in a realm of problems, a single question at the nucleus- where?
Where do I go to write? For a quandary so simple, I find it’s guise decidedly and frustratingly complex. My place of transformation needs a feel, a sense, sometimes in my direr blocked moments, even a sense of smell. The writer has long worn the stereotype of haunting coffee-shops proudly, and rightly so. I like those watering holes, caffeine-infested or not, I like that there’s a table, a chair. And when thrashing around for words or ideas, plenty of human-bloomed inspiration is around. Plus people watching is always fun. Sometimes the coffee shop can work for me, but then these places seem to have an expiry date of a sort. Like I can only visit so many times before the rotten dreariness stemming from my own hyperactive mind rolls in. A see-saw of over-observation and lack of stimulation, both grinding on my brain and preventing me from writing. I saw that guy last week, the same groves are on that table leg, the coffee machine no longer sounds soothing, but grating, rattling from all of the orders.
I remember how much undergraduate me used to struggle with this, and that was when writing was an obligation, not just a fancy I appealed to. That brings me to the memory of another hallowed writing ground I used to eventually avoid: the library. I hated writing there with a passion. Although, I did love it in its own way, for the sharp architecture, angled mirrors, impossibly clean glass five floors up and artwork everywhere. The beautiful place turned to my enemy whenever I tried to write there. On reflection, I think it’s because where I could barely emulate the writer as it is/was/will be, the personality of the serious writer was truly out of my reach. Sitting at the long desk with other students in silence but always distracted checking my phone, nervously pondering on grades and imminent failure whilst those around me worked to be the good people. The good writers and academics with their heads down. No, no, the pressure is too much for me in a library. It feels wrong, even now, at my small, cheerful local library, with that nineties feel.
Where else, then, for picky me? Outside is folly. Too much stimulation. It makes me aspire to Romantic, wax lyrical about the shape of a wind-shagged conifer whilst researching my twitter feed. Suppose I could rotate coffee shops until they all run out, or just force myself to assimilate to the gravities of the library and simmer happily on with a scream for a face.At the moment, I can hold off on these dour considerations. I struck lucky recently, and found somewhere completely different. Unlike areas I’ve previously thought of. Now, I go to my local swimming pool.
And I love it.
I flash my town-wide gym card to get in (avail the guilt by claiming it’s a mental exercise in my wimpy, excuse-gorging head) and I’m bathed in a world of roaring water, pumping chlorine. You don’t realise how noisy a pool is, even without the people. It fills your ears to the brim. The smell is too intoxicating for some, mixed into your breaths. The air itself is damp, swirling around, make hot by jets and conditioning. You’re meant to keep moving to avoid the drowsy, heavy setting. You’re meant to be swimming, where the water’s skin is cool, and the water kisses your ear lobe. But sitting still? Trying to concentrate? Dry, and writing?
Preposterous. And yet, for me, its conditions are perfect.
Again, perhaps it’s the right amount of stimulation. Letting that distracted part of my brain play with all these strange sounds and smells and feelings, whirling right in there, and letting the writer get on. Much like the parents who sit around me, similarly clothed and dry, drinking coffee, watching overhead as their kids play below them in the pool. The chlorine is fresh and sharp. The dim lights reduce the distractions, casting them to shadows. The noise is the best. The echo. The rumble. Consistent and ceaseless, like white noise. It all crowns together, wreathing to defeat the symptoms of distraction and halt like a 3 in 1 balm, lemsip for the writing brain. Numbing the painful anxieties, fears, overthinking, and letting me get on.Maybe it’s strange to strangers who might clock on to what I’m doing. Where I don’t have a kit, or bags, and am far too immersed in my work to check on my kids- nobodies that secure about their own. And I’m scribbling away, dazed against the fun going on around me, the leisure, the play. I’ll admit, I’m scared someone is going to throw me
Maybe it’s strange to strangers who might clock on to what I’m doing. Where I don’t have a kit, or bags, and am far too immersed in my work to check on my kids- nobodies that secure about their own. And I’m scribbling away, dazed against the fun going on around me, the leisure, the play. I’ll admit, I’m scared someone is going to throw me out, because I’m at a pool and I’m not playing along. Doing what you’re supposed to be doing which is swimming, or here to relax and enjoy yourself. But so far, I don’t think anyone has taken much notice, or maybe they just don’t care as much as I do about what people come to swimming pool for. Maybe I should relax as well, and revel in how comfortable I feel writing away, even though the quality and quantity of my writing still picks at me with the irritating sting of a bad scab. A predicament to consider for another day.