The writer sat at her computer, staring at the blank screen waiting for inspiration to hit. Waiting for the screen to tell her what to say. She waited a long while. She looked out the window at the cityscape before her. Noise from the street drifted up, reaching her apartment 20 stories above… honking, tires squealing, the occasional shout. Nothing in the din told her what to write. She waited.
At the same time, a young man sat pen in hand, a pile of blank lined paper stacked before him. He too was seeking inspiration from his surroundings. He previously had two solid weeks of great writing, page upon page of some of his best work, he felt. But on this day, nothing. He tapped the paper with the end of the pen, matching the rhythm of the rooster crowing in the barn behind their house. His parents would call him to start his chores soon. He needed to get something on paper before then.
Her anxiety started to rise; she had been here before. Before publishing her first novel, before the book tours and the signings and the tv and radio appearances, there was the work. The drive, the need to write a book, a novel. The story was in her, she knew it… She just had to get it out. But nothing came. The easy flow of the narrative in her mind seized up when she tried to put the story on the page. The words didn’t work. The plot was sticky.
His anxiety started to rise; what if he couldn’t do this? All he had ever wanted to do was write. From writing in the school newspaper to contributing a few special interest stories to the local newspaper, he felt most alive and excited when writing. But what if that was just a phase? What if it passed as surely as his awkward years when his legs and arms felt too long for his body, tripping through life for months on end? What if it just stopped?
She looked at her collection of framed pictures and letters from all the famous people she had met during those frenzied months. Smiling, beautiful people all expressed their love and admiration for her work. Now it felt like they were looking at her with mocking skepticism. One hit wonder, she thought; the literary equivalent of pop group A-Ha.
Don’t give up, he thought. He stood up and paced around his small bedroom. Arms crossed, releasing tension by clicking, clicking, and clicking again the pen that had yet to be put to paper. He heard his parents stirring in their bedroom down the hall. He didn’t have much time. Rubbing the back of his neck he looked up to his bedroom ceiling, still speckled with the glow-in-the-dark stars and moon from his childhood. He quickly moved back to his desk chair, sat down, and began to write.
Don’t give up, she thought. Resisting the urge to pick up her cell phone and check social media, she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She breathed in deeply and held it, feeling the tightness of her chest increase as the seconds ticked by. She knew that tightness, it felt the same as all those times when she felt she didn’t belong in the room when presenting the book she was so proud of having written. Let it go. Slowly she let her breath go, opened her eyes, and put her fingers on the keyboard.
They both wrote. They wrote from their hearts; not their best work but work, nonetheless. They kept on. Words came and thoughts flowed and even the bits that seemed like only gibberish were enough to propel them forward. Years later, when they met at an authors’ panel, they shared the stories of their days spent struggling to come up with anything to write. And they agreed on one thing above all else. Just keep writing.
Author’s note – Today’s short story is the second that I have shared as I continue preparing works for submissions. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for improvement; all are welcome!