Saturday, January 20, 2007

The writer's block

The writer spent the day quietly: watching television and reading old Sunday newspaper supplements. She read a range of reviews, recipes and reportage, completing one article and turning to the next without hesitation. When she tired of reading, the writer turned back to the television and sat staring for three or four hours: at detectives, documentaries and dramas.

Her mother brought cup after cup of sweet, hot tea, which the writer took with soft-voiced gratitude and without meeting her mother's eyes. She answered her mother's questions with short sentences or single words and did not turn from page or screen to do so.

At four o'clock, the writer stood.

"I'm going for a bath," she said. The writer was through the door and closing it behind her as her mother answered, remarking something about dinner as the door clicked shut.

Upstairs, the writer - sitting staring and still beside the bathtub - ran the water long past the point when the hot water tank emptied. When she slipped beneath the water, the writer found the water comfortably hot. It did not remain so for long. She watched the dull water shifting around her in the fading light of the bathroom. The writer picked up a magazine and read an article about a famously successful biographer's latest work. The biographer described the excitement and profound enjoyment she had gained from the project.

When the writer had finished reading, she hung her arm over the edge of the bathtub and closed her eyes. The magazine trembled slightly in her hand as it skimmed over the carpet, moving from side to side like a pendulum marking time. It fell to the floor as the writer withdrew her arm and sank beneath the water until only her face remained above the surface. She brought her hands to her head and massaged her scalp under the cooling water, before sitting up to wash her hair.

Ten minutes later, the writer walked slowly downstairs. She heard a newscaster announce the time from the front room and she stopped, her hand on the door. She closed her eyes for a long moment. When the writer entered the front room, her mother, sat on the sofa watching television, pointed the remote control past her in one darting movement. The newscaster fell silent with a click.

"One hour?" the writer's mother asked, her voice loud and bright.

The writer stopped in front of the mirror that hung over the fireplace, staring at her mobile phone on the floor. Her mother crossed the room behind her to the kitchen door and waited. The writer felt her mother's eyes on her and shifted her weight from her left to her right foot. She looked up and met her mother's stare. The older woman smiled.

"All right?" she asked, still smiling.

The writer waited, stared.

"Yes," she said, "Alright."

Her mother swept the long strings of beads that hung over the doorframe to one side and walked into the kitchen. The writer continued to stare at the space where her mother had been.

"Alright," the writer said.

She crossed the room and knelt before a dark blue rucksack, its top unhooked and hanging open. She yanked free a thin, brown notebook and stood up. The writer walked to a low table that stood against the wall with a telephone at its centre. She picked up a biro that lay next to a small, square notepad. She turned and walked to the dining table, sweeping the old newspaper supplements into a loose, untidy pile. She pulled a chair from underneath the long, darkwood table and sat down, placing the notebook before her. She kept the biro in her right hand.

The writer opened the cover of the thin, brown notebook and looked at the first page. At the top, right-hand corner was a circled number one, and in the centre three words, underlined. The rest of the page was filled with her own handwriting. Some sections had been crossed through, and others had arrows leading to further lines of smaller script, scribbled sideways in the margin. The writer stared at the page. She held her breath.

The writer turned a page, then another, and another. All were filled with her own, slightly sloping script. She turned more pages; two, three at a time, until the sheets were bare. She flipped to the end of the book, to the very last page. The writer ran her hand lightly over the smooth white surface and pressed her biro to the empty page. She began to write.

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.
- John Steinbeck


Anthony Burt said...

Excellent! Clever and poignant.

I love the way you never felt it necessary to explain this post with any "I thought" or "I knew" incerpts. This seems, to me (although I might be wrong), to be a completely different kind of piece from you compared with what I've read previously.

Using the third person as a safety net, as I've said in my blog, is sometimes easy but here it makes for a great tool to create a moving, colourful story. I pictured "the writer" in complete clarity throughout, great stuff!

Kitty Kat Kate said...

Morning Clever Dude!

Wow, what a great insight into the writers block. I love it Cheverchops!

Like Anthony, I could really picture 'the writer' in every movement and thought-brilliant. Really liked your choice of images 2, especially the last one.


Love u and your writing! x x x x

Dill said...

Fantastic work hun, i really like that piece.


Dill said...

Fantastic work hun, i really like that piece.