Once upon a time, I wrote in shared spaces – my local library, a couple of coffee shops and my favourite space of all, upstairs in the independent bookstore where writers were invited to congregate on Monday mornings for a silent, productive 120 minutes. (shout out to the BookShelf in Guelph)
Of course, that was before we learned that masks can be a sign of respect and shared spaces are dangerous places.
I’m still struggling to replace my writing spaces. I have a home office – a sturdy desk, good lighting, lots of room for books and papers and pens. But it’s an office. It’s where I read emails from colleagues and draft reports and now, watch screens full of tiny faces watching me. When I sit in that chair, the logical, analytical part of my brain turns on. It works well for editing. Not so well for creating.
“I realize that what I’m looking for is not physical comfort. It’s emotional and it comes from hearing the sounds of people […] The background hum that reminds me putting words on paper is a solitary task, but living is not.”
And so, I search. The chair in my living room (where I’m sitting now). On the bed in the extra bedroom (maybe I could fit in a tiny desk, but it’s very dark). Outside on the deck (quite nice most days but not a long-term solution). And as I do, I realize that what I’m looking for is not physical comfort. It’s emotional and it comes from hearing the sounds of people. The murmur of a woman shushing a young child who has listened to enough stories. The tapping of a keyboard as two high school students finish their latest project. The steady chatter of the barista as she listens to the complicated coffee orders and repeats them back with a smile. The background hum that reminds me putting words on paper is a solitary task, but living is not.
I will adapt. But when the world opens up again, you’ll find me back in the coffeeshop. I’ll be the one with the pen and paper, nursing the latte, and smiling inside as I try to ignore the couple arguing beside me.
Deb Stark lives in southwestern Ontario. Her work has been published in CommuterLit, From the Cottage Porch (Sunshine in a Jar Press), You are Not Alone (One Thousand Trees) and the Globe and Mail (Facts & Arguments). She recently placed second in the Toronto Star’s 2020 short story contest.