It’s a terrible feeling to believe you’ve damaged something beautiful and sacred, especially when that something is brand new.
A few weeks ago, my city opened a new library about two miles from my house. It’s in a recreational center which houses a swimming pool, two hockey rinks, and a gym. (A coffee shop will open in another month.) Add in the soaring ceilings, the cozy armchairs clustered around a circular fireplace, a quiet study room and modern furnishings, and you can understand why it’s become my go-to place to write when I need to escape the house. Also, why I think of that space with particular reverence, and why I’d be embarrassed and appalled to put a metaphoric chip in its windshield.
Unfortunately, that’s precisely what I did on the weekend.
I’d started off so well, too. If you caught last month’s blog post on Writer Unboxed, you’ll know I’m currently fascinated by the concept of Minimalism, or mindful consumption. (Always have been, but I’m experiencing a Renaissance.) One manifestation of my commitment? A reduction in the “treats” which had stealthily migrated to a near-daily expectation: coffee or tea purchased when I’m out doing errands.
So I’d unearthed a double-walled tea jar from a cupboard. I’d filled it with my favorite peppermint tea and taken it to the library. I was scoping out a place to sit, smiling with contentment and the self-respect which comes from living my values, when I managed to tilt my backpack and send the container flying.
One nano-second later, there were jagged glass shards a few feet from playing toddlers. The tea? A portion disappeared into the carpet, but most poured into one of those subterranean wells which house electrical outlets.
Scarlet cheeks aside, it was a valuable learning experience packed mostly with good news, because:
It affirmed how much the Minimalist mindset has seized hold of my thinking.
In the midst of assessing the safety and aesthetic issues, I had the thought, “Damn, my beautiful tea jar.” Within seconds, however, that was followed by, “Yay! One less thing to store.” (For more on Minimalism, resources, and how the philosophy might benefit your writing, please check out Minimalism When Writing Fiction.)
I’m now prepared for best-sellerdom.
Did Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James have to do research on how it feels to be a klutzy, every-woman heroine who manages to attract the attention of a powerful, wounded male? If so, at least with respect to the clumsiness, I am super-prepared, Zesties. (Since the library is adjacent to a rec center, when designing a hero, I’m thinking a hockey superstar would be the way to go. Either that or the sexy custodian who is summoned to mop up my mess. Naturally, he’s the son of a local mob boss. He’s performing community service for the crimes committed during his initiation and is deeply conflicted over his pending inheritance.)
This is not your mother’s library!
It probably helped that my tea didn’t discolor the carpet, and that we didn’t see a cascading effect of sparks and power outages throughout the library, but boy, in the last ten years librarians have evolved their approach to customer service. They were understanding. They spoke in audible voices. They smiled. They forbade me from picking up the smallest pieces of glass lest I cut myself. To be fair, that might have less about protecting my health and more about preventing a paperwork-generating bleed-out, or rust-colored carpet stains, but still.
You know another industry which is rethinking how it treats its customers in the maturing age of social media? The publishing one. Yup. If you’d like to read more about it, and how three authors seem to defy readers’ expectations, all while growing their reputations, here’s my latest article on Writer Unboxed: Should You Set Limits with Your Readers?
What about you, Zesties? Do you have any recent, embarrassing stories to tell which can put my peppermint-scented faux pas to shame? What about an alternate hero to my every-woman klutz heroine? Who’d be a natural in this setting?