Lee Davy walks into the library without realising that it’s no longer a place of serenity and silence, but a rock concert full of people he wants to kill.
An Asian woman talks to her partner. He sits opposite her fingering his mobile phone. The juxtaposition of a Mars bar sitting on of his salad making me want to drown him in a vat of lentils. She is loud. So is the old man behind me talking to someone on his phone. Then there are the screaming kids. They are playing tag. One of them stares at me. Out comes my tongue. He still stares. I try again. He’s still there. I mouth the words FUCK OFF, and he runs away crying.
There was a time when a library was like a frozen world. Nobody moved. Each time anyone as much as coughed an old lady – the type with spectacles hanging from the rim of her crow like nose, held together with a chain – would give you that look, and you would swallow that shit.
I used to come here to read Herge’s Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix and Obelisk. These days I don’t come to read. I come to write. And if everyone would shut the fuck up I might get something done.
On my way to the library, via a sneaky Seitan burger and fries from a Hare Krishna place, I listened to the memoir writer Mary Karr talking to James Altucher. She said that she doesn’t know a single writer who isn’t afraid of writing. That got me thinking.
Am I afraid of writing?
A few weeks ago I worked for the World Poker Tour (WPT) at Nottingham. I wrote for 17-hours on the first day. The only time I didn’t write during that day was when I was watching people playing poker. Even then I was scribbling the action onto a notepad. The days got a tad shorter, but I was working 10-13 hours per day for the next eight days. During that time, I never worried about writing. Nothing about the process or content scared me.
And yet I was still scared.
I get scared of fitting in everything. I hear the sacrificial lambs bleating as I carve them open, and the pain becomes cerebral. There is an almost paranoiac denseness that invades my heart. I know that I can’t do everything myself, but there is nobody else to do anything for me. I need an assistant. An assistant costs money. I can’t afford one because I quit working for the WPT. A crow perches on my shoulder and pecks at my earlobe. He whispers to me…I told you so.
There is a mystical union between the art of writing and freedom. It’s the first thing I say gratitude for every day. The ability to write when you want, and to a certain extent, what I want, brings a joy to my life that very few people experience. Be warned. With the freedom comes responsibility.
The alarm clock may be stuffed deep inside the gut of the alligator, but that doesn’t mean your life is not full of unexpectedness. Your day changes. Demands ebb and flow. You may plan to write between noon and 4 pm, but you have to take the dog to the vets because he won’t stop eating his shit and you need it to stop because you have grown apart. There is no more licking. The dog doesn’t understand what he has done wrong. He mopes about and eats more shit. Part of you is glad, because you don’t have to clean it up, but you love that dog.
So you have to change your plans. You now have to write between 4 pm and 8 pm. But that’s the death zone. It’s too early for stars. Mistakes creep in, rising from the ink of its own spilling. But you are a pro. You are in the shipping business. You buckle down and get this shit done.
This ability to write when you don’t want to write comes easily to me. My father was a hard worker. I am a hard worker. That’s not what scares me. What scares me is writing about things I don’t want to write about. That scares me. That’s when the real professionals take off their jackets and let their fingers fly in the all-consuming cold. They generate the type of heat that comes from the nakedness of your lover at 3 am.
And that’s why I am in the library. My ass is numb, my shoulders ache. The guy next to me won’t stop staring at the pink unicorn sticker on my water bottle that says, “Unicorning so hard,” and I am two seconds away from turning all Hannibal Lecter and ripping out the throat of the Asian woman who won’t stop talking.
But I love it really.
It’s not that scary at all.