Monday, 11 January 2010

Guest Blog by Laura Nelson - Inspiration haven




I have found my favourite place. My favourite place for writing. I am a geek as well as a writing freak; my dream place is the British Library. I march through the swing doors, laptop under my arm, the dark red building towering above me, and I walk through to the café to buy myself a cappuccino. I take a seat under the high glass book cabinets – the gold font on the book spines gleaming under the spotlights – and prepare myself to write.

Rather, I take a seat and I start listening to other people’s conversations. Or I look around: what is everyone else doing here? What is their purpose? The British Library café is a magnet for people with their own stories. They come here with business proposals. They come here to chat about university life. They come here to browse the free internet on their Apple Macs.

They come here to write, too. The pens are poised, fingers are tapping on keyboards. Chins are being scratched, hair strands are twisted. Heads are looking around; eyes meeting over the tops of cups, corners of laptops and the dog-eared edges of spiral-bound notebooks.

And the tension is magical. It helps me to work. I think: if they are all writing novels, then I can too. And so too do my fingers start to scamper across my keyboard, and words appear on the blank page. If I’m short of inspiration, I needn’t worry – I glance up and encounter another erudite conversation or obscure dialogue; a discussion about state-of-the-art clothes design or a negotiation of a freelance copy-editor’s contract.

There are plenty of distractions – just what a writer needs. Rows of antique books on the high shelves, lofty ceilings and tall white pillars. People on the balconies passing to and fro the reading rooms with their transparent plastic carrier bags. (What have they been researching?) There’s the tap-tap of computer keys, the clinking of the cutlery and the babble of voices.

There are unusual characters with unusual stories. A serious-looking youth glances up and asks me if I remember the words of that nursery rhyme: ‘This little piggy went to market…’. A brown-suited moustached man approaches me; he wants to know if I will visit him in his 50s-style tea shop in Bethnal Green.

Talking of tea, there’s limitless supply. And coffee. The smell of coffee infiltrates the atmosphere, stimulating the imagination and loosening the finger joints as they hover over the keyboard. A trip to the café counter offers the chance to have a break (needed frequently), replenish the body with caffeine (the writer’s drug) and – as my seat has inevitably been taken by the time I return to it – swap seats (a welcome change).

The café also caters for the calorie-hungry writer’s brain. Names of food items seem to be conceived with the novelist in mind. ‘Fallen chocolate cake’, for example – it’s food my protagonist may eat as she finds her dreams disappearing and her hopes sinking; the nadir of my novel. Tasting it, I imagine feeling ‘fallen’ myself. I scurry back to a table, crack open the laptop and – in haste – write the scene of my heroine’s downfall before the magic begins to wear off.

*
Laura Nelson has a short story published in the next issue of Decongested Tales.
Her short stories have appeared in the literary magazine Litro and here and in the science magazine Nature. She recently completed her first novel, Zebra Dance, wrote a guest blog here about finishing it and has just begun her own blog

15 comments:

Roderic Vincent said...

Sounds great. Actual books rather than amazon imaginary ones. Next free writing day I'll get down there. Perhaps tomorrow to reward myself after a business meeting in town.

CarolineG said...

It's one of my favourite places too, Laura, and your post has made me long to have a day to spend there!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Laura, what a wonderful evocation of a place and an experience - makes me long to go there.
Susiex

Samantha Tonge said...

Sounds wonderful, i don't think i'd get any writing done there, Laura!

The Virtual Victorian said...

Oh, I so want to be there...what a lovely picture you've conjured. But I think I would get too distracted, wondering what everyone else was up to...dreaming!

Gillian McDade said...

Sounds like a great place to spend a few hours! Thanks for the post, Laura.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

ooh Laura, you've inspired me to go there. I'm ashamed to admit I've never been. Note to self. Go to the British Library with your laptop. Soon.

Karen said...

My husband goes there frequently - he'll be the one browsing dusty books about stamps! - but your post has made me want to visit it myself :o)

Karen said...

Most of the links don't work by the way - I'd like to have a look at Laura's blog!

Samantha Tonge said...

Ah thanks, Karen, i'll try and sort that out...

CarolineG said...

The links should work now - sorry about the confusion!

Delilah said...

Thanks for your lovely comments everyone - I'll meet you in the British Library - just name a time and place! The links are sorted out now (thanks Caroline).

Laura Nelson (alias Delilah)

Lydia said...

How wonderful that sounds! I want to go there right away! However, since London is a once or twice a year treat, I'll have to make do with my windowsill with a view over the garden where mercifully there is little to do this time of the year!
www.lydiajones.co.uk/blog

Roshni said...

Sounds beautiful. I've walked past the British Library so many times - and even sometimes deliberately walk through the front courtyard if happens to be along the path I'm headed.
Definitely need to head in now!

Stroppy Author said...

It is indeed a good place to work, I agree. But do you never work in the reading rooms? Working in both RR and cafe is good :-)