Every time I see an empty commercial building, I dream of taking out a lease on it, or, better yet, purchasing it.
I have no desire to run a restaurant or a gift shop. But I harbor a fantasy of owning a Writers’ Haven. A place where writers could rent space cheaply (hourly, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly) or come and read or hang out in a café and be with other writers.
The bottom floor would have a sunny, well-lit, comfortable lobby where participants could wait for friends or make phone calls. A Welcome Desk would figure prominently, with a friendly but firm staff to take care of paperwork, and make sure that the rules were followed.
There wouldn’t be many rules. But they would include:
1) Respect others’ time, space, and quiet.
2) No cell phones. Zero tolerance policy. If your cell phone rings anywhere other than the lobby or the cafe, you are banned from the center for good. If you receive a vibrating call, you can only answer the call or return it in the lobby or café. You CANNOT answer it as you are walking out of the room, screeching at the top of your lungs.
3) No chewing gum or food in the writing and reading areas. There’s a place to eat and snack. Beverages are allowed.
4) No personal stereos or iPods. Even if you’ve got that plug in your ear, if I can hear it from here, it’s too damned loud.
The first floor would contain the café, which would have a variety of delicious foods – some filling comfort foods, some healthy foods, and wonderful treats like chocolate cake. And plenty of coffee. The aromas of fresh, seasonal food stimulate creativity. Readings and even short plays are staged there.
The second floor would be split into two sections. At the back of the building would be The Sanctuary. It would be designed along the lines of an English country house library, with many sorts of books, large wooden tables, comfortable chairs in which to sit and write, and comfortable chairs in which to sit and read. No computers allowed in the room. Only longhand. The doors to the rest of the building would be soundproofed and kept closed, and the staff (hopefully working on their own novels) assigned to the room would enforce the rules. It would smell like books.
The front section would be more relaxed and modern, with a series of large and small tables with computer hookups. Maybe even play music quietly. Tropical, slightly citrusy scents would fill the air, since citrus is a mood enhancer.
Writers’ groups could book either of the above for their meetings.
The third floor would contain a series of small, private rooms that writers could rent out, if they want office space.
This offers different levels of privacy and quiet, depending upon the creative process. And, it would be near enough to the center of the town so writers can take a break and walk around, and visit other businesses and restaurants in the area. Anyone who wished could come to the café. And yes, people can write in the café. They don’t have to write in one of the rooms.
It’s a pipe dream, but, when I get sick and tired of hearing the staff talk loudly on their cell phones in the public library, or have to deal with bone-crushing walkman noise on the train, I think about such a haven. And I smile.