Friday, June 08, 2007

The Dangers of Writer's Block

Yes, I know, I take forever to finish even the shortest of projects. I started this in the most opportune of writing conditions: it was a day when I had absolutely nothing to do; I was sitting in a place where no one would distract me, armed with my notebook and pencil... and still it took me a month to finish it. Aargh.
That said... enjoy.

I lean back against the walls of the booth and let out a tired sigh. I've been trying to write. I've been trying to write something, anything, for weeks now. My notebook falls aimlessly onto my lap as I stretch my legs out, and I slip my pencil behind my ear for safe-keeping. It's still too early in the morning to concentrate on writing, anyway. I let my eyes wander until I find myself watching the ways the morning light reflect through my plastic glass, and I occasionally turn the glass to see the reflected light on the table change, morphing like a kelidescope of Powerade-yellow light. The sounds of the Great Hall are buzzing around my out-of-the-way booth, but the breakfast crowd can't hold a candle to the dull roar usually caused by the dinner crowd; most of the sensible Covenant students are asleep at this hour of the morning, anyway, and I don't know why I'm not. It's the day after finals and I should be resting... but all I want to do right now is write, even though I have nothing to write about.
I stop playing with my drink, sit back again, and close my eyes. If I listen, I can hear people talking, dishes clattering, silverware clinking, the drink machines humming... and if I concentrate, I can make myself hear nothing at all.
But a sound penetrates the silence: two sets of footsteps, shuffling along on the tile floor. I listen harder. Both people are wearing flip-flops or sandals, but not the flimsy ones the girls on my hall so often wear; and whoever is walking, both of them have long legs, judging by the length of their strides...
I open my eyes. Two tall boys are standing beside my table. The one closest to me, Aaron, is smirking and looking expectantly at me, and the other, Kevin, looks a bit cross, but I'm not worried. Kevin always looks cross anytime before noon.
"Oh, hey, guys." I'm a little surprised, to say the least. I haven't exactly been expecting to see them... "What are you doing here?"
"Never mind us. Don't you have things you need to be doing?" Kevin crosses his arms. "You're going home in a few days and there's packing to do."
I grin at him. "It's not like I've forgotten about going home, Kevin. Give me a break -- I just finished finals yesterday, for goodness sake." I look up at them again. They haven't moved to sit down yet. "Um... you can have a seat if you want, you know."
"Don't mind if we do." Aaron slides into the booth beside me, and Kevin stretches himself out on the seat across from us. I try not to grin at him again; even with his back against the back wall of the booth, his feet are still sticking out over the side. Aaron takes a sip of my drink, and his expression makes me laugh. "What is this?"
"Sprite and Powerade. That'll teach you to take other peoples' drinks, won't it?"
"It's not my fault you can't drink one or the other like a normal person." He looks sideways at me, and the twinkle in his eye betrays his jest. I chuckle at him. If anyone else had said it, I probably would've been a little put out at such an accusation, but I've been familiar with his sense of humor for a long time.
Kevin kicks off his sandals onto the floor. "What do they have to eat around here?"
"If they had anything worthwhile, I wouldn't be drinking Sprite and Powerade. You're welcome to look for yourself, though." I slip my pencil from behind my ear and start to idly fidget with it. Call it a nervous habit, but I tend to fidget with things when I'm not completely at peace with the world. A part of me knows that it's been a little too long since the last time these two showed up. Aaron was good about popping in every now and then, but Kevin was mostly content to wait and come until he knew I wasn't going to be busy with school or around all my Covenant friends. But now, both of them coming at once... something must not be right.
There is a slightly uncomfortable silence, during which Aaron takes another sip of my drink. I wonder, why can't he just go get his own? But before I can ask, he breaks the silence. "Alright, I know that look."
"What look?"
He sighs a little. "I know it's been a while since you've seen us. We've kinda tried to let you live the life of a college student without having to keep up with us--"
"Oh, don't be silly," I begin to protest, but he won't let me finish.
"--but really, there's a reason why we're here."
"You mean you're not here to make sure I'm packing to go home?" I inwardly wince at how sarcastic my tone sounds. I'm not angry with them...
"It's a little more serious than that."
I look up. Kevin is sitting with his arms crossed, and he's staring moodily at the wall on the other side of the room. Whatever's on his and Aaron's minds, it's not good news. "What's wrong?" I ask, and proceed to make a poor attempt at acting casual by reaching for my drink.
Kevin won't look at me. "Derek's gone."
"...what?" The plastic glass in my hand suddenly feels heavy and I fear I'll drop it, so I put it back down shakily. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Aaron shift uncomfortably. Kevin still won't look away from the wall, even though I'm speaking to him. "What do you mean, gone?"
"I mean, he disappeared! He vanished! He's completely gone, and he's never gonna come back!"
Aaron tries to warn him, "I think you should calm down," but he continues.
"I will not calm down!" Kevin fumes. "There's no reason to calm down! It's obvious that Derek disappeared because she" --he points at me-- "stopped writing, and you and I both know that the rest of us could be next!"
Now I'm the one who can't make eye contact. "I haven't completely stopped."
He scowls at me. "We wouldn't have come if you hadn't... because Derek wouldn't be gone if you hadn't. You don't even care that he's gone, do you?"
"That's enough." Only the tightness of Aaron's voice and his glare across the table give away how angry he is. "I think you should either calm down or leave. I didn't bring you so you could interrogate her." Kevin tries to say something more, but Aaron won't let him; he finally sits back, looking rather peevish about being reprimanded. I hear Aaron sigh through his nose. "I understand that Derek's disappearance isn't exactly sudden," he says, picking his words carefully. "He stopped coming around long before you stopped writing him into stories and such. But that doesn't change the fact that one of your characters is gone for good. You know the rest of us are at risk of disappearing like that too, right?"
I feel a pang of guilt. "Yes, I know."
"If you know," Kevin interjects, "then what's the problem?"
Aaron scowls at him. "Kev, if you won't stop your mouth from talking again, I will."
"No, it's okay," I say. "He's right. I can't seem to keep up with writing with y'all, and it really is my fault." I look back down at my notebook so I don't have to look up at Aaron and Kevin. "But I'm almost out of school for the summer. I'll have more time to write when I'm home, but there's still so much to do right now that I can't really sit down and concentrate on writing with a clear mind, you know?"
"We're not trying to pressure you or anything," Aaron says soothingly. "We just wanted to check and make sure everything was okay. ...well, I did," he adds with a pointed look across the table.
Kevin frowns. "Oh, come off it. I'm not heartless -- I was worried, too."
I smile to myself and start to say something, but I stop as I feel an odd shift in the room; the sounds of the Great Hall come flooding back to me and I jump, startled by the sudden noise. I look around for a moment, but Aaron and Kevin are gone. Perhaps they're content to leave me be for a while, now that they've gotten their point across to me.
I look down at my notebook again, and then at my watch. I've been in the Great Hall for almost an hour. With a small sigh, I close my notebook and pick up my drink as I leave the booth. It strangely didn't pain me to know that one of my characters had left me... he had always been reluctant with me, anyway, like he didn't want to be written after all. But maybe I could keep my other characters, the ones I've truly grown attached to, from disappearing forever. Now if I could only find some inspiration to write again, and such a thing was hard to come by these days.
As I think about my characters, the image of Aaron and Kevin sitting in the booth with me flashes before my mind's eye, and as I leave the Great Hall a smile creeps its way across my face. Perhaps I have something to write about after all...


The Sheep said...

Hey Elizabeth! Glad to see you're writing again! Very creative idea for something to write about. I haven't written much on my blog lately either... just been working on my story some. I still don't even have a title for it yet, but oh well, I'll think of something. Kind of strange that I haven't checked anyone's blog since my last post, and I suddenly get the urge to check it today, when you've just posted something new! Well, have fun writing, and have a great summer!

Jobber said...

The good news: you're writing again.
The bad news: drinking that stuff, your teeth are done for.
My characters, unlike yours, are quite attached to their native enviroments. It would take a long time for them to get over being in my world. Perhaps that is because I am the same way.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, well, what Mr. Stern doesn't know about my drink concoctions can't hurt him. :)
Derek is the first to get tired of living in my head... the others, though, are doing just fine. I think Der ran away to live in someone else's head. Go figure.

So, Matt, how's that story coming along?