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In yesterday’s Guardian, children’s author Terry Deary declares that libraries have had their day.

“Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They’ve got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don’t expect to go to a food library to be fed.”

Deary makes some valid points. Authors do need to make a living.

But in my experience, public libraries create lovers of books — the very people who habitually purchase books, which then supports authors, booksellers, publishers.

When I was a child, my parents didn’t read to me. Books weren’t a part of their experience. Newspapers, newsmagazines, on the other hand, were always around, planting the seeds of my lifelong habit as a news junkie.

Books? Not so much. I remember reading a Harold Robbins paperback once, and learning far more about sexual deviancy than a child should know. :) But that was the book that was lying around in the house and I wanted to read.

My parents are intelligent people but they did not grow up in a culture of literacy. Both my grandmothers were illiterate.

When I was six years old, something called a bookmobile used to magically appear down the street from my house. Every two weeks, this big white trailer with the words Kitchener Public Library on its side would remain parked for a few hours. I would wander over and sit in that little trailer and read. And the librarian was there to help me choose what to read. Then I would take a few books home.

I developed a love of reading and of literature through public libraries. This love of reading led me to journalism school and to do a master’s in English literature. Not only do I write books now, I own many, many books by many, many authors.

I hate that authors make so little money. I hate that I have to struggle to pay bills so that I can have the privilege to write fiction while someone skilled in biology or in mathematics has the potential to make a good living doing what he or she loves.

But do libraries contribute to this? I don’t think so. Very much the opposite. Libraries handed me, someone who does not come from a legacy of literature, the gift of books. A gift that I continue to share both by writing and devouring books.

What do you think? Do libraries diminish the value of books by offering them for free?

BlogFlannery“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”

Flannery O’Connor

Years ago I read this quote from Flannery O’Connor, the great American short story writer. She wrote each morning and then tended to the peacock farm she lived on with her mother. Every day, she sat down at her desk and gave over those hours to writing. Sometimes she wrote nothing of substance; sometimes she wrote nothing at all. But because her mind learned this time was always going to be dedicated to writing, it began to trust and to flow. Most days, she was productive.

There are practical reasons to write daily:

  • you don’t have to re-read sections of your manuscript, which takes up valuable time;
  • your family and friends begin to respect your writing time because you do;
  • as soon as you sit down you’ll be in the flow, no need to struggle to regain your mental writing space;
  • your subconscious starts to kick in and then magic happens in your writing (e.g. a character you created will say things you didn’t expect and will begin take on a life of its own).

But ultimately if you write regularly, you are making a sacred deal with that creative source within you to be open, to receive.

I finished my novel in one year by writing about three hours, maybe four, every morning while my daughter was in nursery school. If I needed a push here and there I took longer, after making arrangements with my husband. But the average was three hours daily. And I rarely wrote on weekends.

We’re not talking life-altering commitment here. No need to quit your day job.

Flannery O’Connor gave just two hours a day.

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