the book look

There are a lot of incentives to help writers — namely, novelists — finish their books, because writing is hard. From internet-blocking apps, to participating in writing a book a month during NaNoWriMo , to a residency on an Amtrak train that goes across the country (no, really ) — the ways to trick yourself into actually writing never cease.

Writing residencies were created as a way for people to set aside their regular lives and just focus on their writing without the distraction of their phones, small child or need to cook dinner. But I have come up with the perfect (cheap!) writing residency program that doesn’t involve a train or isolated cabin in the woods, and I am 100 percent willing to test it out myself.

You’re welcome, struggling authors. Here is my proposal for you.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars in order to go off into a cabin and wander around in the woods Henry David Thoreau style, aspiring novelists (and journalists with severe transcribing phobias) can just live in a friendly neighborhood bookstore — preferably one with a cat, for company.

It doesn’t even have to be your bookstore — it can be a program where writers move into bookstores, one for each bookstore, and earn their keep by meeting word counts and keeping up the store infrastructure by buying cups (pots) of coffee.

Instead of a stipend, the writer-in-residency will be paid in a certain amount of free books a month (where do you think that money goes anyway?) and free meals.

Sure, the bookstore owner may complain at first that the writer-in-residency is “taking up space with that ridiculously large mattress” or “has barricaded themselves in the fiction section and is hissing at people who enter, muttering ‘just three more sentences’” or “hasn’t showered in at least five days.”

But what is a better way to motivate yourself to write than by being surrounded by thousands of books and innumerable stories? Those are just programming kinks, we’ll work those out later.

Rather than just plopping down at the same table with your same coffee order and being creatively stuck, think of the possibilities that could arise if you actually could stay, sleep and write there?

Every writer has experienced the horrible moment when the announcement “Attention, the bookstore will be closing in five minutes, please make your way to checkout” comes on. Now, by partnering with bookstore owners across the country to let writers stay in the bookstores permanently, that moment of soul-shriveling inspiration death is avoided.

Yes, it might be creepy when the lights go off and you’re the only one in a whole store by yourself, just you and the bookstore cat. But getting locked in a library is a common-writer fantasy, and don’t worry — most writers are used to the dark because they’ve been reading under the covers with a flashlight since they could understand words.

It’s just reading under different covers, with a different flashlight and a much larger book selection. Potentially the police may be interested to know why there’s someone creeping around in a closed store with a flashlight, but this will be explained away with the flashing of the shiny “bookstore writer-in-residency” pass that you have.

By day, the writer-in-residency will provide extra lure for the bookstore patrons, who can check up on the writer’s progress and hopefully, benevolently provide the writer with non- coffee-shop based foods, because the same bagel three days in a row can get old.

If a particularly bad case of writing block arises, reliable friends are there to help pull you out of your funk: Dorian Gray , 50 different versions of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton (even the knockoff versions) and even possibly Lestat the vampire , who will scare you into finishing that chapter (and into huddling with the bookstore cat, rocking back and forth on your mattress, too scared to move).

Instead of being creatively blocked and full of paralyzing fear of the blank page, writers will be spurred to action by the watching eyes of thousands of published books, motivated by old literary friends — which they can conveniently pick up and read if boredom strikes, or a new novel comes out.

Yes, the bookstore owner may be alarmed when you devolve into your natural writing state of a coffee-slurping, sweatpants-wearing, soundtrack-streaming sleepless creature in the midst of their business. But it’s too late, they already signed a contract back when you appeared “put together,” “motivated” and “shoe-wearing.”

In exchange for putting up with such a terrifying and potentially lethal creature, the bookstore owner will find it worth his/her while to enter in the morning to eerily accurate displays predicting future bestsellers (hey, writers recognize a strong plot formula), the coffee already percolating, books restocked in proper sections and their proper places, the cat wearing a collar woven from “string bookmarks” and sales up by 50 percent.

It will be like “Elf ,” when the Gimbel’s manager comes in to find the LEGO statue, but made from books. The writer-in-residency will become a sort of personal mascot for the bookstore, and when their novel becomes a bestseller and sells 10 million copies, people will flock to the bookstore in order to see where the magic began.

Look, there’s no way that the bookstore residency program won’t work. It’s a match made in heaven: writers who love reading, and a place full of books and comfy chairs willing to let them keep writing until they’re done with their own novel.

Now someone take me to Barnes & Noble and I’ll show you how great it is in practice.

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