A Writer’s Guilt


I was facing a blank page and wanted to write something. For the life of me I couldn’t and my mind just kept wandering in a sort of tangential way that it is oft to do.

This is where it meandered:

The day was wearing on and he had achieved very little. It was well past midday now and the inexorable feeling of being in a state of indecision seemed to be clouding his mind. He knew he had a lot of work to do, deadlines were piling up and the laptop kept staring at him, as if to say, “Come on, and use me for God’s sake.”

He looked out of the window at the grey drizzle and people wandering around outside, most of them confused by rainfall after a long warm summer. Some were still in denial, wearing shorts and a t-shirts, while others had decided that summer was definitely over and were sporting woolly sweaters and boots. The sky had a dull lustre as if it was also facing a moment of indecision, to rain or not to rain seemed to be the question.

Summer was finally over. The feeling that he had always had as a child started to surface. Though he always loved the seasons, it was the end of the summer that saddened him the most. As if innocence was melting away or as if a loved one was leaving. Yet still the words didn’t appear on his screen. The loss of innocence and a loved one was somehow uninspiring. Others would have written tomes on the subjects, but when he thought about them… the page remained blank and words failed him.

He had woken up early and had heard the rain before he saw it. The air had seemed fresher and the temperature had dropped. He closed the window but could still hear the sound of car tires in the rain and a scooter trying desperately to speed away.

The page on the screen was still empty and thoughts were still not forming in his head. It was as if he was muddling through the day passing one deadline and watching the clock tick its way to another. Clocks have an annoying habit of doing that, he thought. He remembered he had read somewhere that it would be best to just start writing anything and then the page would come alive of its own accord. What should he write?

May be a coffee and a cigarette would get the creative juices flowing, or how about sitting in a cafe and watching the world go by? Decisions, too many decisions sometimes. Random thoughts kept popping into his head. Did he prefer Joyce to Coelho? Had the new coffee he had bought tasted as nice as the last one? Getting to the gym was going to be difficult as deadlines were approaching, well, more difficult than usual.

He seemed to remember a time when these thoughts were just not there. They had not existed in his mind. He put that down to youth. He remembered being in love and wandering down a dusty road in his youth late at night for a secret rendezvous with a girl. He remembered the smell of autumn leaves burning on a Sunday afternoon and wafting across the valley of his childhood home on a still, grey, foggy day. He remembered the golf balls in the orchard at the end of the garden. He remembered the milkman coming up the drive in his electric float, bottles gently hitting each other in what now seemed to be a sepia tinted melodic tune. He remembered fog and cold morning runs.

Come on, he thought, where is she, where is my Muse?

She had completely deserted him and made him feel impotent. An impotent writer. Could anything be worse? Writing was creativity and nurturing all rolled into one, and a writer who couldn’t create was a writer who was dead, in genetic terms as well as in mental terms.

Was he a dead writer?

Focus, he thought again. Focus on the idea of summer and write something about that. Focus on the warm water and the sound of the wind in the leaves. Focus on the salt smell and families holidaying. Surely that would make a good start to a story?

He had written something the day before and when he read it, while having the new coffee he had bought, he felt it was like reading the ravings of a lunatic. It had been a sarcastic rendering of a prayer to the God of Technology. At the time, the subject had seemed to be a good one, as they always are, but the words were just amateurish, even childish, attempting too hard to be witty and ending up being churlish and weak.

He had tweaked it in the morning as the deadline for submission was today, but upon reading it again for a second and then a third time, it had seemed to be less witty and more ludicrous.

“Concentrate!” the voice at the back of his head kept saying while he continued to stare out of the window. A girl in her mid twenties was walking down the street. She was tall, with a thin face and chestnut colour hair that was swept back in a pony tail. The denim shorts she was wearing were fashionably cut to a hair below the curve of her buttocks and a thin yellow shirt through which one could see the outline of her black bra. Her walk was confident, and she kept peering at the shop windows while walking as if confirming to her that she was looking good.

He couldn’t decide whether she was beautiful. She was attractive, in a way, but there was something missing which he couldn’t put his hands on.

Who was she and what was she doing wandering down the street? Was she going to work, was she going for breakfast? That was it. He didn’t feel anything more. His muse was definitely off on her short break, an unplanned and undeclared holiday. He wished muses were more reliable. Or at least they could give you a bit of notice!

On a normal day, he would have rattled off a couple of pages on that one girl. Who she was, where she was going and where she would be later. How she woke up in the morning and what perfume she wore. Her desires and her needs, her family and her work. But today…today was just impossible.  It must be the rain, he thought, as he continued to daydream.

He could hear the clock ticking in the background and it hypnotised him. He could feel he was awake, but feeling as if he was having an out of body experience, looking at himself standing there staring out of the window into the rain. The trance was made more surreal as he could see out of the corner of his eye the screen staring at him. Admonishing him with its brightness. He had forgotten to put a screensaver on as if to remind him that a screensaver was his saviour from guilt.

Guilt… writer’s guilt.

It seemed worse than writer’s block.

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