The Writer’s Circle #17 – New Beginnings

It was towards the end of Elizabeth Walton’s first session at The Circle, having reached the decision that she was going to return, that she realised she would also actually have to start to write… 

…Having downsized from the large detached home she had shared with her husband, to the two-bed apartment in which she had rattled around since his death, she reviewed her options.  They were minimal.  The second bedroom – a little larger than a box room, but only if you used a smaller box – was the obvious choice for her ‘writing room’.  She bought a desk, actually a junk shop kitchen table, and a swivel chair from Argos, which she returned as soon as she realised that she was expected to put it together herself.  In any case, she had by then discovered that she was perfectly comfortable on the slightly more stable of the two dining chairs that had unexpectedly turned up with the table.  She bought cushions, she bought pads of lined paper, reams of printing paper, pens of many hues and a pencil sharpener shaped like a hedgehog (although, strangely, no pencils) which she carefully arranged around her laptop in what she imagined was a writerly manner, and she stared at the screen.  Many days later she was still staring at the screen.

It would seem that her claim to write Family Saga may have been particularly ill-judged.  It had popped into her mind in a moment of Deidre-induced stress and she had not anticipated the hurricane that was to blow in behind those two little words.  She had not, for instance, foreseen the possibility that she would be expected to provide some evidence of her toils at the wordy rock-face – especially not out aloud – nor that she would find the Family Saga novels which she had subsequently picked up as ‘research’ material from the charity shop so overwhelmingly boring.  And long.  No book should be so long.  Before she got half way through, she found that not only was she struggling to remember who, but also how, what, when and why.  Mostly why.  She had toyed with giving up and simply not returning to The Circle, but it represented a new page for her; an empty new page that she was determined to fill.  She considered confessing all to the other members and the idea was very attractive – until she thought of Deidre’s pinched face and she realised that, like a dog, she could never allow Deidre to sense weakness.

She began at first to jot down snatches of conversation both overheard and imagined.  She outlined half a dozen semi-plausible plots before, as she became increasingly familiar with her adopted genre, she found a way of crocheting them all together into the multi-hued bedspread she needed.  She began to see a path from beginning to end and characters began to draw themselves around her.  She filled pages with character descriptions; sat up into the early hours drawing up family trees that overlapped and bound themselves together like Velcro; wrote down a thousand forenames and prowled a dozen graveyards in the search for surnames.  She began to feel that she might be ready to write something that she could read to The Circle.  It did not need to be a beginning, it did not need to have a beginning; just a couple of thousand words that would demonstrate an ability to write at anything above chimpanzee/Olivetti level.  She felt perfectly confident that she could do that.  Well…

What she actually discovered was that a brain buzzing with ideas was simply not what was required for writing.  She had too many ideas: they bounced off the walls, they tripped over one another, wandered off into cul-de-sacs, seduced the vicar.  Each evening she sat down with a neatly assembled cast and watched on helplessly as it collapsed into anarchy before her like an amateur soufflé – full of all of the right ingredients, short of all the required air.  Panic, never deeply buried since the loss of her husband, rose up like porridge in a microwave, threatening to overwhelm the air of calm that she had so intently cultivated.  She returned to the circle, her seventh visit, determined to confess all before riding away, Shane-like, into the sunset.  Oh, if only she’d said that she wrote westerns…

…It was the evening of Phil’s big idea.  They had all drawn genres: Phil had drawn ‘Play’, Billy had drawn ‘Detective’, Penny had drawn ‘Family Saga’ and Elizabeth had drawn ‘Humour’.  Beyond that she could not recall.  In her brain, a number of little cogs had ceased to whirr.  Comedy!  What on earth did she know about comedy?  Well, if she was honest, probably pretty much as much as she knew about Family Saga.  She also knew that it had a much shorter word count.  But she was a widow, for goodness sake!  A relatively recent widow.  What did she have to laugh about?

It was later, much later that evening, in the sleepless darkness that preceded the dawn, that she found herself staring at the wall of her bedroom, taut and confused as the Cinemascopic clarity of her past few months played out on the screen at the back of her mind.  She expected gloom, probably she wanted gloom, but what she got was world-class ineptitude: a woman so ill-equipped for the solitary life that she had fabricated a life as an author in order to find company.  She felt tears begin to well in her eyes, but when, eventually they fell, they did so not in pain but in joy: the joy of seeing herself for what she was – as she was sure others must see her – and not hating herself for it.  The joy of seeing each faltering step she had taken, of witnessing each calamitous event and realising that, in the very midst of it all she had remained standing: like a floral patterned lighthouse in a broiling storm of inconsequential travails, shining the very same light that would illuminate her way – like the Lady of the Lamp, only with a smartphone – and she couldn’t help but smile at the fool she had allowed herself to become.  She saw the world – the world of now – in a new light: like the blinding moment of stepping out into the real world from a cinema matinee, and she realised that she did have something to tell the group about.  It might not be ‘Family Saga’ and it almost certainly would not be ‘Comedy’, but she thought that it might just make them smile and, for now, that was all that she wanted…

‘The Writer’s Circle’ began here with ‘Penny’s Poem’.
The most recent tale from the Circle, ‘The Lure of Summer’ is here.
Episode 18 ‘As It Is’ is here.

An Apology from the Man in the Red Plastic Nose

There is no means... (2)

‘Sometimes,’ said the man in the red plastic nose, ‘I forget what it means to be funny’ was a sentence I wrote ‘in my sleep’ and used as part of a blog in June (There is no means of testing this hypothesis, but the fact remains that the dog has three ears) which tackled the fact that I did not really understand where this line, along with others, had ‘come from’ nor what it referred to. This blog has come about because now I do.

When I set off along this path a little over eighty posts ago now, my aim was simple: to carry on writing in the way that I always had, just on a different platform. Early blogs were very much in the style I would have used in magazines. A few such pieces continue to worm their way into the blog from time to time and the overriding theme of observing my own erratic descent through middle into old age has remained the same – the whole thing is actually my attempt to swim against the flow in this respect, although, unfortunately, I am a crap swimmer, my water-wings have sprung a leak and the tide is very, very strong – but the style has now become very much more conversational, I think (don’t you?) I have started to read and enjoy the blogs of others, I have learned from them the proper way of doing things, and have even been able to respond to them now and again, in my own fashion. The blog remains the same shape, I think, but the colour may have changed a little.

Generally, the small cob-webby under-stairs cupboard in my head where such things are co-ordinated, comes up with a plan, a way to use all of the bits of raggedy paper that I carry around with me all the time, and when the time is right, the blog just spills out of my head, like nonsense from a politician. There are, however, some pieces that I write and would like to use but, somehow, they don’t quite ‘feel right’ as they are. When this happens, I have to print them up and set about them with variously coloured pens; adding, moving, scrubbing out until I think it might be ready. I don’t seem capable of doing this on-screen. The whole painstaking process of correction, excision and embroidery, which I call tantivy (an archaic word that I have just discovered has no relevance whatsoever, but there it is, I’m stuck with it now) often takes some considerable time before I either end up with something that I am happy to post or something for which I would happily buy a cat, in order to line its litter tray.

So, I have such a piece in front of me now. I printed it yesterday and I returned to it this evening with my rainbow of ball-points and my myriad hi-lighters with the intention of ‘sorting it out’, in much the same way as Donald trump vowed to sort out North Korea. I have read it through a few times now. I have scrawled lines out and I have scribbled additions between the lines and in the margins, but the main thing that I have done is to scrawl a single word across it in thick black felt pen. That word is ‘Jokes’. In short, I appear from time to time to have forgotten what I thought I was here to do. I am the man in the red plastic nose. And for that, I apologise.

Addenda: the piece I have before me is about my antipathy for ‘experts’. It’s ok, but somehow it annoys me. I have decided that I will leave it a few days until I look at it afresh – it may even take longer. It will appear in time, I think – as soon as I’ve found some fun in it. Anyway, for no particular reason, other than I just wrote it today and it is about a nose, I hope you enjoy the little limerick below:

A man with a plasticine nose
Tried to model it into a rose.
He practised until he
Produced a red lily,
Which is almost the same I suppose.