Every day, seven hours a day, she engaged in vibrant tussles with language. Adjectives spilling out and splattering across the page, either too much or too little; sentences that refused to conform, that required wheedling and unerring concentration to subdue. A mind that kept wandering away from its topic, and a continually blossoming imagination that insisted on pursuing winding and wandering paths, into the gritty and vital denizens of subculture or the bustling, buzzing streets of a city whose towers spiral endlessly… She knew she should make a plan, she knew she should be one of those smug writers with the notebooks and the meticulously plotted narrative – the ones who asked themselves questions like ‘What does my protagonist have for breakfast?’ and instinctively knew the answer. She wanted to be like them; she wanted the pleasure of perusing notes, the contented ease of proceeding through a story. To look squarely at your characters and know, with a sort of vindictive delight, exactly what will happen to these people – these false people composed of black markings on a shiny computer screen – must be the most languorous, luxurious, opulent bliss. A life without relentless conjecture, a life without the debilitating frustration of staring glassily at a blank page and envisioning, with a futile resignation of its probability, a world in which she has won the Booker Prize for her dazzling linguistic experiments – such a life must indeed be bliss.
‘Couple. Glasgow. Affair? Think about it’.
Scribbles on a napkin. The pen smudged – it was unceremoniously crammed in her pocket for a few hours – and the last word has been erased. Spontaneous, vigorous thoughts that could not be contained, that could not resist. It would have been more dignified to type it into her phone, but it had run out of battery and she was waiting in the pub for her friend…
She sighed. Words. So imperative yet so hampering. She pressed the keyboard, tentatively typing; frowned, and erased the sentence. Her first book sold well, admittedly. Enough to justify her decision of devotion and dedication to a potential literary career; not enough to warrant the hasty quitting of her job as a receptionist, to facilitate her pursuit of lofty ideals and the hallowed sanctity of the written word. It was a work of many years – the novel that she has always dreamed of producing. The novel that had possessed her, that had inspired her to endless days of hectic frenzy, crafting and constructing the flawless narrative to which she had continuously aspired. A classic, timeless tale; an unconventional setting; dialogue that ‘flowed freely and charmingly from the pen of a very promising author’ (or so one generous critic said – she had aimed for urban and authentic but praise was praise). She had begun it, in her poky, freezing flat; swaddled in blankets as the boiler broke once again, too lazy to move from her bed and participate in the world that existed beyond the confines of her imagination. The intoxicating lure of a fresh page, snowy white in its purity, and a few words thoughtlessly written down. An idea that had been rotating in her mind for a while; something that she was keen to transfer to paper. Back then she used notebooks because she was dreamy and needlessly romantic and fancied imitating her favourite writers – now she preferred the repetitive, familiar sound of her laptop whirring. It had become a task, a bore; until it wasn’t and she was carried away, thrilled by her own ambition and eloquence, transported by the potentiality. Peaks and troughs, she told herself; a slave to the English language.