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.“
“ 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.
“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...