It’s Been A While
It’s been a long while since I’ve tried to do this. I wonder if writers today ever take pen in hand like I have just done, and began their story that way. I just can’t see starting a story on a computer. There seems to me to be a distance from the writer somehow. But then I don’t seem to be able to start the old way either. I know this particular sitting is going nowhere, so I will put the pen down, stand up, go outside, and do some gardening, probably going to feel like I have more in common with the weeds than the flowers.
As I go outside I bring to mine that stupid saying ‘Everyone has a book in them.’ Maybe I’ve written mine, and have no more left in the brain tank. Wasn’t it Christopher Hitchens or someone like that who said, “Everyone has a book in them, and that, in most cases, is where it should stay.” Maybe anything I write now would be better off staying inside, and never seeing paper.
My one book, written when I was in my late teens, was a hit. The Road From Nowhere, a piece of late adolescent angst, made it in the top 10 best seller list. There were interviews and even talk of a movie, although it ended up being nothing more than talk.
Now I am a ‘has been’, which right now feels only marginally better than being a never was’. I certainly felt that way last week. Someone approached me. He had probably seen my picture on the back cover of my book, probably in a used bookstore or garage sale, and had a good memory for faces. He asked me “Didn’t you used to be the famous writer…? There was a pause when he found himself unable to quite remember my name. Then I replied, “Yes, and I still am.” This was followed by silence and both of us walking away in opposite directions, heads down.
Being a has been is why I stopped going to high school reunions. At the last one I attended, someone I barely remember asked the dreaded question, “When are you going to write another novel?” This was followed not long afterwards by someone I never liked asking ‘How come you stopped writing?”
Maybe when or if I start writing again, I should write under a pen name: Bob Shakespeare, Dave Joyce, Hank Hemingway, Orville O’Neil, Pierre La Plume, something like that? Then I would not have to live up to what I had done before, no nasty comparisons, then being considered good, now being bad.
I do want to write again. Maybe I need a ‘writer’s location’, a cottage somewhere, a cabin the woods. I remember my old staying at a sleazy hotel in a small town vision of being a writer when I was a teenager, riding a bus to and from a summer’s workplace and home. Whenever we passed through one particular town called Elmvale, I would look to one sad old building, and promise myself I would stay there to write my first masterpiece. I never stayed there, and don’t plan to now.
Come to think of it, I was riding in such a bus passing through Elmvale when I got the first ideas for THE NOVEL. I hadn’t thought to bring paper with me, but I had brought a book to read, and wrote on the inside cover and on the empty back pages that separated the chapters of the book. I still have that book. Never read it, but keep it as a memento.
Last week, I settled myself down at a nice neat and tidy desk. Being a widower, I have no one in the house to disturb me. My phone was turned off. There were no work concerns to intrude on my thinking now that I am retired. So why was I unable to write? I can’t really say. The will was there, but there was no inspiration.
Maybe I should go visit my nephew who became a writer, he says, because of me. He is a successful journalist, and has published a couple of books on crime issues that he has covered for his paper. In radio and television interviews he used to be identified as ‘the nephew of…’ but that was years ago. Maybe I can talk to him, and that will spark something. Inspiration can flow two ways. The problem is that he now lives in the depths of downtown in the big city. That way he is ‘on the scene’ for anything that happens in a busy city of over a million people.
I hate the idea of driving into the city. I’ve been living small town years too long to want to drive a vehicle on busy city streets. The stress would do me in, and, of course, I might get lost. Well, there is a bus from town that goes to the big city. The nearest bus stop is just around the corner from my place, have walked past it many times, never stopping.
I called my nephew and he said that he would be happy to have me come visit with him. We haven’t seen each other in years. He promised me ‘no interviews’, because he knows how I feel about the phrases “used to be” and “once wrote.” It has been a long time since my last bus ride, so for some strange reason I am a little apprehensive, or maybe excited. I don’t know which.
I bring a book to read. The bus is a little crowded, but I find the conversations that people are having kind of interesting, as well as the way they look and how they act. It’s been a while since I was actually in a crowd. I open up the book, which I just received in the mail yesterday, and started to read it. But then something struck me, not physically, but mentally like a power surge of the brain. I always carry a pen with me, the great ‘just in case’ that hadn’t in years spilled out story. I start writing on the inside cover of the book
“It was a bus ride that no one on board would ever forget. Yet it started like any other such trip. No one suspected a thing. No one could even imagine that once ‘it’ happened they would be rescued by a most unlikely one of their number.”