Your cursor blinks.
Your cursor blinks ceaselessly.
ceaselessly. Adverbs are not your friend. Adverbs are indicative of weak diction, but you cannot think of a better verb to express the action just the way you want.
Certainly you can use an adverb occasionally.
You can use an adverb on occasion.
You close your laptop. Your writing session is not going well. None of the five prompts are particularly inspiring.
You decide to take a break. Make a sandwich. Text a friend, who asks [wat r u doin] and you reply [writing].
You watch an episode of a new Netflix series. It’s a pile of meh, but you sit on your couch, slack jawed and mouth breathing. You start a second episode. It’s worse than the first! The characters are one-dimensional. The plot is implausible. The dialogue is clichéd.
You could write something better. You watch six more episodes to prove your point.
You could definitely write something better.
It’s the middle of the night now, and you’ve finished your pint of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. Having ingested 200% of your daily sugar allowance, your inner muses wake up, inspiring you to sit back down at your desk, to open up your laptop, and to create worlds of wonder.
In the blue-black hours of the night, you plan to conjure up the ghosts of authors from days of yore, bringing to bear (to bare?) their eternal insights about the human condition. You think of channeling Homer and Sophocles from Ancient Greece. Confucius, Lao Tzu from the Far East. And from the contemporary canon of literature? The esteemed E. L. James and Stephenie Meyer.
I write therefore I am.
You tappity tap on your keyboard, smacking the keys with your potato chip greasy fingers.
You manage to type in your password correctly on the first try (!) even though it contains characters like ~ and \ and /. No Eastern Bloc teenager from the dark web will hack into your bank account, which currently has a negative balance due to overdraft penalties.
You open up your word processing program. A blissfully blank page appears, framed by helpful toolbars. Lots of toolbars. You wonder if anyone actually uses all that firepower when writing the great American novel, or, in your case, a 1000-word short story. Maybe you should incorporate subscripts or superscripts into your edgy prose? Maybe then some jaded judge would put you on the shortlist, since you’ve long given up on winning anything.
You stare at the toolbars. You stare at the screen.
Your cursor blinks.
Your cursor blinks and blinks and blinks, patiently waiting for your first word, phrase, or clause.
Type something, dammit. Just type characters on the page.
The cursor still blinks, mesmerizing you on some level.
Your heartbeat syncs to it.
Diastole. Systole. Diastole. Systole.
As blood pushes from the right ventricle into your lungs to be oxygenated, oxygen-rich blood pours from the left ventricle into the heart, then out to all parts of your body.
Of course you don’t remember any of this from your high school biology class. You just googled “heartbeat” like everyone else, since why remember anything?
However, now that you are a writer, it may have been useful to learn grammar and composition in college. But the TA’s graded most of the work, and as long as you got it in on time, you usually got an A.
“Got” is one of those verbs that says nothing. You need to work on your verb choice.
Procured an A.
Earned an A.
Acquired an A.
English 101 wasn’t really a class; it was more of an exercise on how to submit lightly plagiarized work into turnitin.com without being caught.
Your cursor blinks.
You blink back.
The snowy white page makes you feel lonely. What if you have nothing relevant to say about the human condition?
You remember back, thinking how much you’ve suffered throughout your suburban life. How you suffered in silence, stifled from the singularity of soul. How no one really understood your wit and wisdom, all wasted on a weary world.
You remember how much alliteration matters in making magnificent manifestos.
Like your adult education writing teacher told you in his “Creative Writing Begins with U!” class: “You don’t write good. You write well.”
You warm up your fingers.
You pick up your cell phone.
What would happen if you “hey u up” your ex-girlfriend at 3:00 a.m.?
Perhaps she still is your girlfriend. You haven’t texted her in a few
days weeks, but you have been working on your novel short story.
[hey u up]
[go to hell]
Your cursor blinks, now cruel in its own accusing way.
I dare you, it blinks. Try to formulate a plot that hasn’t been plotted before. Even William Jefferson Shakespeare stole all of the plots to his plays from previous works. What makes you think you can fill the shoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald? Ernest Hemingway? Bill O’Reilly’s ghostwriter?
Who are you kidding?
You are a hack. Your writing is flat and uninspired. Your themes are treacly, plots predictable.
It’s time to quit pretending you have anything to say that’s worth writing down.
You have an idea.
You can spin one of these prompts on its head. You can figuratively, nay, tangentially bend the prompt to your flash of inspiration.
You scribble down your idea before it disappears.
Yes. YES. It will all work!
Your fingers take on a life of their own.
You are in THE FLOW.
The setting appears in a technicolor epiphany. Vivid characters spring to life, arriving wholly intact with backstories—they are well rounded, fully developed, and universally relatable. Your readers will laugh with their joys and weep with their sorrows. And the plot? The plot unfolds like a spring flower.
The cursor skips along with you, struggling to keep pace until you finally reach 1000 words.