The white space between the black letters

Submitted for Contest #46 in response to: Write a story about someone experiencing a lightbulb moment of writing inspiration.... view prompt

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When Mrs. Wilson, our creative writing professor announces the topic for the new writing project, there is a collective snicker all around the class. Cloud? Is she serious? We are in University, not in kindergarten!


As if sensing our thoughts, she adds in a stern voice. “Now listen everyone! I am expecting a realistic portrayal of the concept. Be creative. Take risks. It’s entirely up to you. But when you bring the story tomorrow, I want to hear your words speaking. I want your words to tell me how they feel. And remember, there are no magic tricks in writing. It’s all about applying your mind. Show me how you do it.“


Pause.


“ A lifeless mediocre piece of work on my desk wouldn’t reflect well on your final grades. You have been warned.”


Mrs. Wilson’s words should have turned on the panic button in my brain, but instead, it brings a newfound enthusiasm in me. My mind keeps saying over and over again that this is the golden chance –– to revive my suffering grades and finally get my parents off my case. They aren't happy that I chose Creative Writing when I could have chosen medicine, engineering or law. According to them, writing should just be a hobby, not a real career unless you are J.K Rowling or Stephen King. 


***


After the classes, I say a hasty goodbye to my friends and walk to the small park near my college –– my favourite place to sit, reminisce and create –– instead of heading home straight away. There is something strangely melancholic about a deserted park in the middle of a moderately busy street. I find a quiet corner and sit down before opening the laptop and getting into work. This wouldn’t take more than an hour. 


Two hours later, still staring at the sky, I am not ashamed to admit that my confidence is faltering a bit. There are so many ideas juggling in my head at the moment, but I can’t seem to transform them into meaningful words. Am I having one of those? The nightmare of every writer –– writer’s block? I have always thought ‘writer’s block’ is nothing but an imaginative excuse that writers use to cover up their laziness and gain empathy from the readers. How come only writers get the ‘block’? What about other professions? Ever heard about teacher’s block? Or doctor’s block? No? So you know what I am talking about. My theories were right or at least I thought they were until I saw her in the flesh…


When I say ‘her’, I am talking about an evil creature in the form of an old woman, like the witches in the fairy tales and folklores –– bitter and malicious, born to create trouble. And right now she is sitting next to me, on the soft grass, acting all high and mighty.


As I watch her curiously, she waves at my laptop screen with her bony hands. 


“This is awful.” She says, a condescending smile on her lips.


“Excuse me?” I turn my head and give her a disbelieving look. How dare she sit there and belittle my hard work? The work I spent almost two hours on?


“What? You think what you have there is worthy of appreciation?” She asks, in a mocking tone. 


“What do you know about writing? You are nothing but negativity, a blockage.” I challenge her back.


She chuckles. 


“My dear girl, I might not know anything about writing. But I know things about you –– the things you never want others to know." She says, her voice full of sympathy. I am not sure what’s worse , her sympathy or disdain. “ I know about your fears and doubts. You fear you have nothing left to write about. You doubt you are not as good as you think. Shocked?”


“Go away! Stop bothering me!” I scream and she disappears. After releasing a whoosh of breath, I turn my focus back to the screen and stare hard at the only line I have managed to type so far. 


The white fluffy clouds floated in the sky like cotton candy.


Well, that looks too juvenile and wishy-washy. Thanks to the theatrical appearance and disappearance of a certain someone. My insecurities have just doubled up. But her observation is right. I grudgingly accept that now. 


So what next? How do I bring life to the clouds? How do I make the clouds incite emotions in me? I look up at the setting sun and the mysterious orange clouds blazing with fire one last time before the darkness swallows them. The only emotion that sight brings out is anger –– at myself for the mental freeze-out, at the project in hand for giving me false hopes and last, but not the least at God for taking my Grandpa away too soon.


He was my role model, my mentor and a great writer himself. I spent a large part of my childhood with him as my parents travelled a lot for their work. I adored him so much that I didn’t mind my parents not spending time with me. He started writing very late in his life, after Grandma’s passing to be precise. And to everyone, he jokingly said it was because he was always a late bloomer. He was the one who made me realise that I did have some passion in writing. I remember the day I took my first manuscript to him. He read the story in one sitting, from the hopeless start till the miserable end while I sat there on the floor, my limbs shaking nervously. I wasn’t worried about the quality of my work but I was concerned about his reaction. I hated to disappoint him. After he finished reading, he handed the manuscript back to me and said, “ This is a good start, Sara. I am so proud of you. Keep writing. Let your soul guide you.” My heart swelled with pride at his words. I followed his advice and let my soul guide me. Having a few published stories in the account had definitely upped my confidence, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. Grandpa and I were talking about writing a book together when destiny intervened in the form of a cardiac arrest and took him away last year. Everything changed after he died. Me, my grades, my relationship with my parents and their issues with each other. It was like when Grandpa left us, he took our happiness with him too. 


Coming back to the topic, I think I have the right emotions now. But they aren’t enough to tickle my creative nerves. A very vital part is still lacking, inspiration –– the white space between the black letters, the gentle push that takes the writer forward. Where do I get it from?


The darkening sky is telling me that it’s time to pack up and go home. A deserted park sounds perfect during the daytime, but after nightfall, I can’t say the same. I walk back home, my heart heavy with disappointment. Today was supposed to be a different day. 


I walk into the house and see my mom sitting at one end of the dining table with a sullen look on her face, furiously typing away on the phone. She barely glances my way, but what really bothers me is the lack of food on the table. Too focussed on the project, I had skipped my lunch and now my stomach is growling in protest. 


Mom is the master of moody cooking. If she is genuinely happy or excited, she would spend hours in the kitchen cooking up a storm. On any other day, it’s mostly boxed meals or frozen pizza. Lately, that has become the norm. But today, there is nothing on the table. What does that say about her mood?


I open the fridge, grab an apple and run upstairs, ready to call it a day. 


***


It’s nearly midnight and I am lying on the bed, wide awake, listening to my parents arguing in the bedroom next to mine. Kind of a nightly ritual these days. Dad comes home very late and mom throws a fit. I overheard her telling her cousin that they are considering counselling. Honestly, I think that would be like watering a dead plant. I usually despise divorce. But in my parents’ case, I sincerely wish they divorce and end the misery once and for all. 


I press my face on the pillow and try to block out the noise but I can still hear them, with embarrassing clarity. 


I have had enough of this. I need a divorce!


For God’s sake, I have been telling you the same. But you are the one begging me to try again.


Are you saying that I am forcing you to stay in this marriage?


Stop making assumptions. That habit of yours killed our relationship.


I get up from the bed and walk over to my desk. After pulling a chair, I switch on the desk lamp and sit down. Through the window, I see a storm slowly brewing up. A thick blanket of clouds –– shades of grey, white and black –– is moving towards the moon on a mission. There is nothing the moon can do now, except sit and wait for its glory to die. Soon the sky will succumb to blackness, as black as the laptop screen in front of me. My fingers hover over the keyboard. Too tempting. Too inviting. 


I start to type.





A dark cloud


Dark are my thoughts, wandering without a care


Dark is my world, not magical anymore...




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74 comments

Arya Preston
14:43 Jun 19, 2020

I definitely relate to the writer's block taking over the character's mind. The narration is written well and I thought the descriptions of emotions throughout the story really wrapped the plot together, especially at the end! Great story :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:47 Jun 19, 2020

Ah thank you Arya for reading and commenting. Really appreciated. I guess I had a ‘block’ of my own while writing this story! Ha ha.

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22:29 Jun 23, 2020

Hi Roshna, Beautiful story; I love your way with words. You really are a talented writer and the story flows smoothly and comes together in the end nicely. At first, her idea of the clouds are light and airy, and then spurred on by her melancholy feelings, the clouds turn dark, giving her the story idea she is searching for. I also like how you gradually introduce other characters, and they all fit together adding another layer to the story. Your use of language also connects the story which I thought was very clever: When she sits do...

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:25 Jun 24, 2020

Ah! Thank you Elizabeth for your kind words. I am glad you liked the story. Take care❤️

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Amy Paquin
19:54 Jun 22, 2020

I love the idea of writer’s block being a physical person! Appropriately a hideous one. Very creative.

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:55 Jun 23, 2020

Thank you!

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Laura Clark
18:51 Jun 21, 2020

This is very imaginative, as all your writing is! I think the last few lines are my favourite and though I know it fits your story better to leave it like that, I would’ve loved to have seen what she ended up writing!

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:00 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you Laura for your feedback. Highly appreciated! ❤️ I was a bit confused about how to end the story and finally decided on just two lines to match the mood.

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Rhonda Allen
13:45 Jun 20, 2020

Very thought provoking, beautiful tie into the cloud metaphor. Well done.

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:03 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you Rhonda for reading and commenting. I am glad you got the cloud metaphor concept I was trying to portray here. Thanks again!❤️

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Kathleen March
22:27 Jun 19, 2020

First, I want to say that I enjoyed this story. Please allow me to make a couple of comments. You begin the story in the past, then switch to the present. Maybe it should start in the present. Also, I missed the commas when the mother is speaking to her husband, George. It confused me for a moment. Finally, the narrator clearly is close to her family, but those relationships plus the lady who appears don't seem to jibe. If the story is centered on the loss of the grandfather, that could be played up more. Can you draw a tighter narrative arc...

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:54 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you Kathleen for your honest feedback. I always appreciate your technical comments. I changed the beginning to 'present' from 'past'. I agree it looks better. Also, I corrected the part where the parents were arguing. My focus wasn't on the main character's relationships. It was more on her struggles with her creativity, losing her grandfather and issues with her parents. The lady that appeared in the park was just a fragment of her imagination. I tried to personify the writer's block in the form of a witch to show how malicious se...

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Kathleen March
13:52 Jun 20, 2020

Thanks for explaining. I do think all those things fit, but maybe could be tied in to the writer's block dilemma more. Maybe the witch should come home with the writer? (Just kidding.) Dark cloud - good image for how we feel when no words come!

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:01 Jun 20, 2020

Honestly, I thought of bringing the witch home and let her continue to converse with the main character. The story was already 1600 words long. And I didn’t want to drag it further. So I discarded the idea. I got the main concept from a 500 word story of mine named ‘ Cloud moods’ which got a Reader’s choice prize.

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Kathleen March
14:35 Jun 20, 2020

Nice to know the back story. I find the prompts plus the limit of words do a lot to shape what I write. They both encourage and limit, so I have to think fast about where I want to take the story. That means I write several stories with the same characters in order to develop them, or I write several with the same idea (like a nosa biblioteca - whose library and where is it?)

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Roshna Rusiniya
15:20 Jun 20, 2020

That’s a very interesting way to plan the stories. There are some weeks where I see the prompts and I immediately know which one I am going to go for. But there are times I plan stories with at least 2-3 of the prompts before I make up my mind. I have got two small kids and they drive me crazy sometimes! So I do most of the planning and writing at night when they sleep. Ha ha.

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Annora Chen
04:39 Aug 02, 2020

Oh my, this is so relatable! Especially for writers. Not just having not enough creative ideas, its also about how writers cant put it into the words they want, (sry for not commenting for a few days, was abit busy) its an incredible writing!!💝

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:06 Aug 02, 2020

Thank you Annora! And you don’t worry about being late for commenting or anything. I am so touched that you are taking time out of your schedule to read and comment on my stories.

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Annora Chen
08:17 Aug 02, 2020

Thank uu so much for being so kind!!

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D.n Pendragon
05:32 Jul 31, 2020

Love the juxtaposition between the darkening of the moon against its will and the realization of the protagonist to find inspiration outside of surface level, light and airy cliche depictions of life and all it's complexities. Very real and relatable, awesome work!

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:44 Jul 31, 2020

Thank you for your kind words! :)

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D. Holmes
02:32 Jun 26, 2020

Love the title!

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Roshna Rusiniya
06:02 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you!

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Elsa jude Gazzea
20:39 Jun 25, 2020

Nice!! The relatable and well thought out story, Well done!! XElsa

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:22 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you for reading and commenting Elsa. I really appreciate it!

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Arvi Krish
04:59 Jun 25, 2020

I really enjoyed reading this! Well written.

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:34 Jun 25, 2020

Thank you for reading Arvi. Really appreciated!

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Evelyn Cloonan
20:45 Jun 23, 2020

Haha writer's block!! This story was so cool and interesting!! Your stories are honestly always good! I just always look forward to reading more! Keep writing and stay safe! -Evelyn

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:26 Jun 24, 2020

That’s so sweet of you. Thank you Evelyn. You take care and stay safe too❤️

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Himanshi Y
09:35 Jun 23, 2020

Hey Roshna ji ! I enjoyed this one very much. your stories always have a smooth flow and balance. Also, I find the concept of writing about clouds really fascinating. I would love to read more of your interpretation of clouds.

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Roshna Rusiniya
09:54 Jun 23, 2020

Hi Himanshi! Thank you for reading and commenting! Really appreciated❤️ Btw you don’t have to use ‘ji’ for me. 😜

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Vineet Bhave
14:55 Jun 22, 2020

Great story Roshna, I'm a new writer at reedsy and I find your stories quite creative. I will definitely read more of them. Do read my stories if you get a chance

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:56 Jun 23, 2020

Thank you Vineet. Will surely read your story.

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Shirley Medhurst
13:31 Jun 22, 2020

I absolutely loved the first part and the last part of your story - I thought the apparition of the old woman/writer's block was brilliant & would have liked to hear more of their interaction. (I liked the backstory about Grandpa a little less though, as I personally thought it somehow detracted from the tale) Good ending too

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:41 Jun 22, 2020

Thanks Shirley for reading and commenting. I added the writer’s block and losing the grandfather in the middle to show the connection between both. The main character says how so many things in her life has changed after her grandfather’s death.

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Shirley Medhurst
13:54 Jun 22, 2020

yeah I realised that. I just meant to say that I really enjoyed the conversation with the 'block' SO MUCH & I thought you could have gone off on a different tangent with her.... (just my personal opinion though of course)

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:16 Jun 22, 2020

No problem at all. And I really appreciate your honesty🙂

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Emily Nghiem
02:56 Jun 25, 2020

^ This comment came the closest to what I was thinking as well. I loved the personified old woman, and would have liked to see more interaction with her, showing a conflict that develops. Such as the Writer first being confident she has triumphed over the curse, and writing out the positive memories of her grandfather. But then "Regret" steps in and lets the "Writer's Block" back in to start ruining those memories. Having one more interactive sequence might help break up the long section about the grandfather that I just skimmed over. Very i...

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Cathy Deal
00:12 Jun 22, 2020

Great story. I like how your show what is going on in a writer's life greatly impacts their stories. Great tie in on how she is feeling at first and how dark she feels at the end. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

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Roshna Rusiniya
01:37 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you Cathy for reading and commenting. Really appreciated!

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Millie Spence
23:50 Jun 21, 2020

This is such an interesting, it's so imaginative and unique. I really enjoyed reading this.

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Roshna Rusiniya
01:51 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you Millie! Appreciate you reading and commenting!

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23:25 Jun 21, 2020

An interesting use of personification near the middle, with the old woman. What a sad ending! Sometimes the best stories are born from pain

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Roshna Rusiniya
01:47 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you Emilie for reading and commenting. Really appreciated!

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01:48 Jun 22, 2020

You're very welcome!

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Emma Chatterton
20:13 Jun 21, 2020

I love this story. Particularly, as others have already said, I love your use of the cloud metaphor throughout to show her mood and feelings!

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Roshna Rusiniya
01:47 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you Emma. Really appreciated!

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Batool Hussain
11:51 Jun 21, 2020

A beautiful story with an equally beautiful ending! Mind checking my recent story out? Thanks.

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:18 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you! I read your story too.

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Batool Hussain
13:22 Jun 21, 2020

Thanks. Will you please check out the most recent one too? I'm really sorry for bothering you but I'm only asking it because I'm very new to Reedsy.

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