I’m writing this the calm quiet of the Fireplace Reading Room at Stauffer Library at Queen’s. For those of you unfamiliar with the room, it’s a beautiful one: high ceilings, lots of natural light, four well-lit tables (where, currently, my fellow students are silently tap-tapping away productively on their computers) and (fortunately for today, anyway) no working fireplaces. Indeed, the fireplace room has become my destination of choice these days since Kingston became a den of heat and humidity. My apartment (normally a most glorious place for hanging out) is now a sweaty hovel where, these days, the humid air seems to skillfully evade my hardworking fan in favour of hanging out in an unmoving, damp mass right over my desk or my bed – or wherever I happen to be.
Being the type of person who generally likes the heat, I never thought I’d get to the point where I would be complaining about it. I’m usually the person who resents over-chilled office buildings and air-conditioned cars. After all, summer is short. Shouldn’t we be out enjoying it? But this Ontario heat has got me changing my tune, and here’s why: I can’t think. My brains have become slow moving molasses gently oozing out my ear and down onto the floor. When it’s hot, I can’t string words together in any way that makes sense. My mind lolls around weakly, trying to fathom why I’m trying to work when there is ice cream to be consumed and beaches to frolic upon. My powers of concentration lie in a wet puddle beneath my chair like a scrunched up bathing suit after a swim.
Then I (re)discovered the library.
I’d always heard about the virtues of taking one’s work elsewhere. “Oh, I can’t concentrate at home,” my PhD-student friends would tell me wisely. “Too many distractions.” I’d always agreed at a certain level, finding a coffee shop or other neutral space more conducive to getting work done on the days when I couldn’t concentrate at home. Generally, though, I’d be able to push through it and get stuff done on home turf.
But listen, kids, I’m changing my tune.
I started coming to the library to take advantage of the not-too-hot/not-too-cold air conditioning. It cleared up the brain fuzziness right away. But I also started to notice that the action of taking myself to another place to work (ie. away from my living space) made me noticeably more productive. With help from the tomatoes website (see my previous post) I started getting a good few hours of solid work done every day. I’ve now made the library a daily destination. It’s definitely making me more focused: I do work when I’m here, and then when I go home I do things like read novels and hang out with friends with a clean conscious.
If you’re in the Kingston area, do yourself a favour and come hang out with me in the cool, delectable silence of the Fireplace Reading Room. Your work – and your fuzzy, heat-soaked brain – will thank you.