Thursday, July 30, 2009

Writing Time

This was the time each day he'd set aside to write, so here he was sitting dutifully at his desk. Trying to write.

He thought he might look at some notes and vignettes he'd written over the years, see if they gave him any ideas. He was appalled by how terrible they were: heavy-handed, pretentious, desperately unimaginative. They tended towards the morbid – was that because the theme of death is so compelling, or did it indicate some dark fact in his soul? Perhaps a little bit of both: the theme was easy.

Distractions were unbearably tempting. E-mail. The news. He found himself scanning the New York Times home page, ostensibly for story ideas. Who was he kidding?

Time passed quickly, ruthlessly. 11:14. 11:27. 11:38. 12:04. 12:27. At one o'clock the time for writing would be over.

He wanted to write a short story. What makes a good short story? He tried to think of the great ones he'd read. Fitzgerald. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. Now that's a story. Who can ever write a goddamned story like that?

Still he strained for ideas. It's a good story when something unexpected happens in a normal setting, he thought. Something appears out of the blue and everyone reacts to it with puzzlement, excitement, fear, and finally acceptance as their lives are changed forever. But what is it that appears? A motorcycle, he thought. A motorcycle appears. Where? In someone's living room. No, no. In their garage. What happens next? Someone rides it, trepidatiously at first. But then more confidently. The rider is transformed by his shiny, yellow motorcycle. People around town see him riding it. When they hear its snarling whine, they know he's coming. Then what happens? He gets into an accident and dies.

Terrible, terrible.

He thought about all the things that had happened to him in his life and none of them seemed like stories. It was all just a contiguous stream of more or less interesting events, no rhyme or reason. Is that the story? Is the story that the story's not a story? But how to frame it?

He killed some writing time by tidying up previous writing, changing a word here and there, adding a sentence or two. 12:43.

He felt determined and not entirely hopeless, in spite of the circumstances. On the face of it, there was no reason he could not write. He thought of embarking on a whole new project. An autobiography. The Autobiography of Nobody. Stick to the facts, start at the beginning. There, easy. It was deceptively encouraging to contemplate this massive undertaking. It was the smaller ones that gave him fits.

He reread what little he had written and posted it to his blog. 1:00.