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Thinking Outside The Block

Today’s guest post is by Emma Rasmussen. Her creative nonfiction piece,”Expensive Sex,” appears in the Danger issue of The Quotable. She lives in London.

It’s the chair’s fault I can’t write. It’s an absurd choice. The seat is so high my thighs cut into the little pine desk in front of it. Clearly the absolute idiots who paired this duo (my lovely parents) had no idea anyone would ever do anything important here – like start a novel. I drag in other chairs from around the house and thrust my bottom down for a test drive. Something in the cut of each on irritates me. Eventually, I compromise on a pink wing chair. It’s the right height, but has such a sloped back that I can’t reach my keypad. I charge off for a cushion to plug the ‘black hole’ between my back and the chair. Fourteen cushions later, I’m ready to start my novel.

Finally settled, I take a sip of my coffee. It’s cold. I trudge downstairs to give it a blast in the microwave, pushing it past it’s optimal temperature, as I sense there may be a few more delays before the Muse and I pull out of the station – hot coffee is an essential part of the story. The story of ‘Writing’, not the story I’m actually writing. That one doesn’t exist yet.

Back at my computer, Microsoft Word invites my first sentence…

Wait… Am I hot?

My boobs definitely feel sweaty, and that feeling of hot clammy skin resting on more hot clammy skin is really only acceptable as part of a holiday romance. I get up and go grab my bra, but as I do, I see my fags and remember I’m a smoker. My first cigarette of the day was supposed to be a reward for capturing at least two thousand words of truth about the human condition. I imagined myself pulling out slow drags, tired from keeping up with the energetic cast of characters all showing me, in perfect unison, where they needed ‘our’ story to go.

I have a fag anyway and it provides an unhelpful, five-minute window to again ask the question of whether I really am, ‘A Writer’. With the answer a resounding, ‘probably not,’ I go back upstairs and tap out my first word, ‘Madeline’. I press the space bar. It’s sticky (probably that second breakfast of toast and honey). Now, rather than enjoying the reward of crunching the space bar, in horrid parallel to the voice in my head, my computer also seems to be resisting my prose. I type out my next word, ‘Lane’. I sit back and look at my story so far, ‘Madeline Lane…’

I don’t like it.

I look again. It’s in Arial! No one has ever done anything creative in Arial.

I spend the next ten minutes searching for a more literary font, something with flair, but space, playful but economic – something to match the style of my prose. With ‘Century Schoolbook’ complimented with the task, I retype my first two words again. But just as I do the sun floods my room, turning my screen into a mirror and giving me yet another opportunity to take a long hard look at myself. I want to cry. I pull the blind down and face my first two words again. I wait for the next. It should probably be a punchy verb, but the only words coming are, ‘dull’, ‘simplistic’ and ‘obvious’ and none of these are meant for my story.

Then I do cry.

If I can’t write then I’m not ‘A Writer’, so what am I meant to do with the rest of my life? Forget my life, what about the rest of my day. It’s 9.02 am, the day after Boxing Day. I’m staying with my parents, and I know what these days can be like. After pacing about the tiny, little house, walking in and out of rooms for no reason, I’ll sit there flitting from channel to channel, watching working actors (another possible calling) delivering the lines of paid writers. Every half an hour, I’ll wander into the kitchen to break off another nib of black treacle cake, just to push the door on existential hell, without spending too many calories on it. Without an interest in crochet, Monopoly or helping out around the house, I’ll do the only two things left, a long walk and an even longer wank.

I am about to shut down and head for the cake, when I’m struck with a choice. As painful as it is to admit that I don’t have a lot to say about the life of a woman named Madeline Lane, I do have at least a thousand words on chairs.

I park the story I was going to write and I write this instead.

As it turns out, it’s not just a rant about chairs and so perhaps those books on being ‘A Writer’ are right. First you sit down (uncomfortable furniture can help) and then you write. What comes next, I may have little control over, but I should write it anyway. Write and write through it.

It may not be the inspiring tale of an unlikely heroine battling obstacles and inner demons to find out who she really is, but in its own little way, it just might be.

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc