Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On the Difficulties of Writing

The books said, change the writing environment and writer’s block will be catapulted into the violet skies of the absent. The writer took the advice and left her cluttered, document-filled office near the rear of her house to try sitting at the kitchen table with pen and paper, a tiffany lamp swinging above her and a Beta fish swimming round in a bowl next to the icebox. Sugared strawberries sparkling in a plate next to her pet fish, however, taunted her into eating them, the sweet so delicious she licked the porcelain clean and chewed the green leaves at the bottoms of the fruit. The paper remained wordless, red clouds staining the upper corners.

Moving down the hall, the bedroom’s bed offered a place for her to recline and think. She poised the pen inches from the paper. Except, the oceanic candles on the side tables teased her into lighting their wicks and the wool blanket featuring forests of pines convinced her to unfold it. Before long, the lights flickered due to her snoring and the lower corners of the paper got a good blue waxing, wordless still.

The bathroom’s shower then coaxed her in and as the water warmed, she relaxed on the countertop, knees up, paper and pen against her thighs, but still the paper drew nothing from her.

Calm, she told herself. Breathe, she said aloud, let it all flow out of the pen because I am following the book’s recommendations to the letter.

Nothing still poured from the pen.

After soaping and shampooing and rinsing in cold water (she spent far too much time staring at her face in the foggy mirror), when she emerged and faced the paper, the only thing she saw was a glob of dried lavender scrub smack in the center. No words had come whatsoever.

While her hair dried into black curls, the locks their brightest in the sun, their dullest when smashed against cotton pillowcases, she walked into the garden, naked as the day she was born, and sat on a chair. Citrus trees surrounded her, the oranges and limes and lemons rotting on the branches, the scented air sickeningly pungent.

Her dog, a smart beagle named Cocomo, hopped up onto her lap and buried his nose in between her breasts for the briefest of moments, and then began to lap up the scrub, the red, and the blue, right off the paper. He looked at her and panted, happy and smiling as if he’d just eaten chicken on the bone against all the rules.

The paper was blank once again, white and crisp and ready.

The bees buzzed, the flowers flushed, she shushed.

At that point, and at that point particularly, she went to a new place, a place slightly to the right, not left, and easy to the southerly west, inside herself, in her head, bringing forth a 1920’s steam engine pulling an 1842 passenger train which roared towards her house, swung around the corner, and ripped upwards from the bottom of the paper to the top and off.

With a screech that was not to be believed, the train stopped and a man in a purple fedora hat, a velvety black cat suit, and alligator boots stepped off, saying something in a language that no doubt was Portuguese in origin with a hint of Swahili. Exhaling in an exasperated huff, he gave a careless wave of his hand and reached forward gloved, grabbing hands. She was perplexed, but then she saw what he wanted. Without so much as a please, he grabbed Cocomo, turned on his heels, and got right back onto the quickly departing train.

The shock! Of all the soft things to grab, why Cocomo!

The writer immediately jumped up (after an obligatory scream), got on her pinkest, thinnest coat lying lazily on the lounge and took hold of her widest umbrella because the rainy season was coming. She pounced into some rabbit slippers and downed a waiting shot glass of a generic cola soda. The caboose of the train was still about to come through. There was time and she had the impetus.

At last, for Cocomo, she was to embark on the trip of her life, deep into the jungles of her imagination, the only place where one can write, truly. Only then, as she hung on for dear life to the railing of the speeding caboose, could she shake off the writer’s block that had been strangling her for years.


nappy40 said...

Now there's something to write about!

I have a young relative who wants to be a writer and he has journals and notebooks filled with his poems, short stories, plays. I haven't read any of his stuff because he's very guarded about it, but I wonder what's in there. He hasn't had many experiences, so what does he write about?

newspell said...

this is simple, yet very smart. oh, you have a way...

how have you been? things okay?

Adriana Bliss said...

LOL Nappy40, I've thought the same thing when I see writing-sorts filling journals in public places.

Nice to see you Rick! Thank you as always - things are well - we seem to be on an upward swing, which is all I can ask. Today, we're off on a short trip for a couple of days with the kids (taking advantage of their spring break). The weather's beautiful, the hotel room will be small. Should be an adventure. :) I hope you'll be well.

narrator said...

I liked this adventure and you describe the perfect prescription for writer's block - just start telling any story, any story...

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

No one reading your blog would guess that you have writer's block if you didn't say it. So maybe you don't really have it! Find a seat on that train, look out the windows and take notes, eavesdrop on the other passengers, get into conversations with them, and maybe adventures... Grab Cocomo away from Purple Hat... We'll be waiting for your reports.

butterstar said...

nappy40: I have journals, notebooks, etc, chock full o' stuff from well before I had any real experience. I don't even want to know what's in them now, hee.

I was pretty good at writing about things I had observed, since I hadn't accomplished all that much yet in my young life. I was also verrry protective of what I'd written, probably because partly, I knew I wouldn't be taken seriously because of my age, but likely moreso, because I was a hormone-riddled teen and everything was just so personal and IMPORTANT. I couldn't possibly let anyone into that (my) world! The only reason I decided to make a stab at becoming a writer publicly and professionally (and I'm still trying to get there) is because a teacher saw my potential and gave me the right push (and he still does, occasionally, god bless him, even after 15 years). Otherwise, I might have remained a secret anonymous dabbler forever, scribbling poems to myself in a spiral notebook. Heck, I'm still anonymous on my blog now. Guess some things don't change.

From the notebooks I've been brave enough to look at, some of my poems and short stories were fairly decent. But some of the sappy songs and poems I'd written about the boy I was "totally in love with" are just cringeworthy. The observations about life in general were much, much better. I think it was easier for me to write about some subjects then, with the distance of not having so many experiences. Sometimes, I feel like they cloud the picture I would like to to display.

Adriana, this is so wonderfully descriptive. I love the black velvet cat suit & purple fedora. And hell yeah, what does that book know about changing locations?? *g* Always worked for me for about, oh five minutes.

Sorry to hijack your comments! I tend to be long-winded (so why do I never make it past chapter three of anything I try to write?? hmmm). :)

nappy40 said...

I'm glad you added that perspective, Butterstar. I am pretty sure my young relative feels the same way you did.

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful, chord striking entry. I agree with newspell's assessment.

"oh, you have a way..."

Fromage de Merde said...

Writer’s block? I tired writing in another environment once, but the judge got all huffy and said I wasn’t paying attention to justice while I was a defendant in his courtroom and then he sentenced me to prison. Hmmmm, could the judge have been wearing a purple fedora as well?

Moral of the story, that is if all of us have any morals left – if it is truly the environment that is stopping you from writing then maybe you’ve gone and said enough!

Adriana Bliss said...

What interesting comments from all!

Narrator, I agree - often it IS the best cure. To just write.

Richard, it's funny how writer's block only really shows up when I want to finish something I started, i.e. my many novels. Blogging is easy, journal writing, easy. But ask me to tell a full story and I shut down fast.

Yes, Butterstar, thank you for that excellent perspective.

Thank you, Jennifer. :)

LOL Fromage...very good point indeed.

Charles said...

Excellent! I got lost in it frankly. I did have a problem with chewing the strawberry leaves. :)

Adriana Bliss said...

Thank you, Charles, and...LOL on the leaves. See, my idea was the writer was so into the strawberries, i.e. not writing, that she licked the plate and ate the leaves (it was all about the berries, baby).

Brenda said...

Have you read Brandeis' "Fruitflesh"? No, on second thought, you needn't have to read that beatiful book of inspiration for women who write, you *are that writerly inpiration incarnate! I loved this piece of writing, its sensuality, imaginativity (is that a word?) loved it, from start to finish. xo

Adriana Bliss said...

Brenda, made-up word or no, thank you for such a lovely note - it's wonderful to see you here. I'll definitely be checking out your suggestion. :)