Editors Blog

The More You Will It, The Better Your Chances: An Inspirational Story For Writers

GIVEAWAY: Eliot is excited to give away a free copy of his collection to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Jarika won.)

 

      

Guest column by author Eliot Treichel. Life’s private reflections,
big and small, shape and define the characters in Eliot’s debut
short story collection, CLOSE IS FINE. Originally from Wisconsin,
Eliot now lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he teaches writing at
Lane Community College. His work has appeared in Narrative,
Beloit Fiction Journal, CutBank, Passages North, Southern Indiana
Review, as well as Canoe & Kayak and Paddler magazines.
For more of his work, or to contact him, visit www.eliottreichel.com.

 

 

AN INSPIRATIONAL STORY FOR WRITERS: “THE THING THAT GOES THERE”

My shift began at 7 a.m., three hours before the library opened to the general public. Seven was early for me, and I usually arrived at work about one minute to seven—or right at seven, or about one minute after seven—something that began to earn me gentle, half-hearted reprimands from my supervisors.

We were a skeleton crew in the mornings. If I was scheduled to work the sorter—which is what we called the immense machine that processed almost all of the returned library materials—I had to snap right to it, however groggy and dragging and still-in-dream-mode I felt. We were assigned to the sorter in pairs, and it was against policy to operate the machine alone, so as soon as I kicked my backpack and jacket into my locker, my partner would ask if I was ready, to which I would give an affirmative groan.

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Then, depending on who was closest to the main computer, one of us would awkwardly call out “running” and double-click the start icon. With a clunk and clang, the sorter would come to life, and the books, and CDs, and DVDs would all start zipping down the conveyor belt—not unlike the flood of chocolates in that famous scene from “I Love Lucy.” Once the returns had dumped into the appropriate bins, my partner and I would fine sort them as quickly and accurately as possible.

If I wasn’t assigned to the sorter, that meant I was on shelving. In that case, I would grab a cart of books, all of which had previously been dealt with at the sorter, and head off to the appropriate section of the library to put them away. We were supposed to just take whichever cart was next in the queue, but most of us cherry-picked in some way—maybe to skip an area that was chronically messy, or maybe to avoid a cart of picture books, which were a particular destroyer of the lower back.

In the mornings, empty, the library had a different aura. The high ceiling and tall stained-glass windows felt churchlike. With no one around, there was a stillness and quiet that clarified just how active and noisy the building was during the day. I found it difficult—especially on rainy, winter mornings—to resist leafing through the books on my cart, or to stop myself from pulling books off the shelves, titles I’d never noticed before, and just start reading.

I liked the third floor best. The third floor was fiction. At the time, in addition to my library gig, I was also working on my story collection, CLOSE IS FINE. Proximity, order, place—these were the ideas circulating within me.

Though the practice had stopped years ago, the library once labeled short story collections with little red-and-white stickers that said, fittingly, Short Stories. Anytime I spotted one—whether I was on my cart, or in the stacks, or even working the sorter—I’d make sure to survey the collection it was attached to, and if I couldn’t look at it then, I’d make sure to set it aside so I could study it later. Often, there was a sense of serendipity with these books, as if they knew what had been troubling my mind and had come to find me.

I did this one other thing on the third floor. I’d always make a detour to the spot where Close Is Fine would go if it ever found publication, which in this case was right between John Treherne’s The Walk to Acorn Bridge and Hans-Ulrich Treichel’s Leaving Sardinia. When I got there, I’d reach up and wedge my hand in and make an opening. I’d step back and let my eyes go a little crossed, and I’d force myself to see it: the title running down the spine, with the Cutter, the label on which the call letters were printed, at the bottom.

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I didn’t stare long, only a few seconds each time. But I stared hard. And I’d do it four or five times a shift. I tried not only to picture the spine, but to also give the book volume, and mass, and physical form.

Here, if you are wondering, I will confess to having seen the movie The Secret, which I borrowed from the library. It is the only time I’ve ever watched something and simultaneously thought, This is completely true and This is completely bullshit. But I was trying to do more than just Secret my book into reality, anyway. What I think I was really trying to do was to define my choices and priorities and teach myself commitment and patience—the stuff that writing is. If you really want to do this, I was reminding myself, you know what it’s going to take.

Although we were supposed to be straightening up the stacks as we worked, I always left the hole I’d made for my book. Sometimes when I returned, the gap would still be there. Most often, though, someone had pushed the books back together, tight and flush, the way our supervisors wanted.

In that case, I’d simply reach up again and put the space back. Then I would say to myself: Make the thing that goes there.

GIVEAWAY: Eliot is excited to give away a free copy of his collection to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Jarika won.)

 


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14 thoughts on “The More You Will It, The Better Your Chances: An Inspirational Story For Writers

  1. ragdolltb

    What a great story and so inspirational! Working in the library in college, to this day, was always my favorite job. I would also find myself perusing the titles on the shelves when I supposed to be putting them away.

  2. Marie Rogers

    This brings back memories of working in my college library. That was in the days of the “card catalog”. Now it’s all computerized. We sorted things by hand then. Your machine sounds scary. I never thought of envisioning where my book would be shelved, but now I will do so. Thank you.

  3. MDBrennan

    I loved this story about believing something into existence. I am working on my own short story collection now. I would love to read yours. Best wishes for much success with Close Is Fine.

  4. starla80

    I watched the secret and it took many times of watching it for it to catch on. I also have been trying to work at my local library with no avail. Any advice on how to get in? Apparently i’m over qualified to stack and check out books but that’s all I want to do for now besides write my own!

  5. vrundell

    What a lovely vignette! I can completely understand that positive visualization, that desire. Congrats on creating that space, and on filling it!

    Honestly, I had no idea a library would have a ‘sorter’ machine. Our library makes patrons sort their own books/media into bins which are hand returned…

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