A bit of nostalgia here. When I was at school I could write on almost any topic with ease. The teacher put up a discussion topic or theme and away I’d go. The words simply flowed out. I’d write three or four pages on an essay, creative story, reflection, opinion piece, whatever, it didn’t matter. I didn’t think about how I did it or about what I’d write. I’d just put my pen on paper. I didn’t over think it.
I so clearly remember the aghast look of a buddy of mine as he stared wide eyed at a page of my writing in one particular Year 12 class. We were distributed in that familiar three-sided, horseshoe configuration sitting at our rickety single-serve laminate tables on plastic chairs just as askew from constant student rocking. The class was all heads down, writing a practice politics essay, something to do with Australian foreign policy during the Vietnam war period in all likelihood. I’d reached the end of an A4 page in my small round hand and my friend had managed a paragraph. He shook his head smiling and muttering, ‘How do you do that?’ half in disgust and half in admiration.
I’m doing the something now, well retyping it as it happens. I wrote this freehand originally, because I feared I’ve lost that ability. The magic of putting pen and paper and just going for it. I fear I over think everything now.
A little while ago I joined a Flash Fiction Facebook group with the intent of taking up their challenge to write a story a week under 500 words. From week one I failed, couldn’t find the time to finish what I started. By week five I’d just about given up and even now half way through the year whenever I try, I blank out – got nothing.
As a wizened-middle-aged-over-the-hill-god!-there’s-no-hope-for-you-to-have-a-writing-career-now writer I over think everything to do with my writing. Is it good enough? Who would publish it? What genre I should write? Let’s face it, middle aged women are in no short supply as writers or as readers but no one wants to read stories about middle aged women. As overlooked in literature as in real life, stories about middle aged women are a dime a dozen, an over supply that ensures they are easily kicked aside.
I thought the rules and limitations of Flash Fiction would make it easier but instead they’ve tied me in knots. Does it have to have a twist? It does doesn’t it? And you have to jump into the action? And it must have a limited palate of characters. And the imagery, it must be evocative but not too flowery; or too dominating; or slow the action; or digress from the story. Nothing becomes more tedious frankly, than a paragraph about lace.
Those tiny knots once crafted by a younger hand, a hand now splayed by arthritis, swollen nodules of tendon and gristle. Hands that took such pride in that thread, the hours of knotting, to show they too could craft as well as the ladies who so thoughtfully dropped by to see if she was alright, tutting with concern. The intricacies of the pattern are stiff now, curling on themselves, caked in dust. The yarn has yellowed, mottled with age and unknown substances, decades sitting on a glass display case. It was once the pride of the room, that glass-doored display, but it will be tossed aside one day soon, unvalued. The same fate awaits the vanity and mirror in the corner of this darkened room, so unfashionable now, too many of them clog the antique stores; not even the op shop will know what to do with it. It’ll probably be repurposed, turned into a fishtank, or quirky cake display in a retro café. It’s class and pedigree long forgotten, and dismissed, the effort and pride it took to purchase, an amusing footnote – the lace that has sat on it so long tossed in the bin. Yet the hands live on, absent mindedly rubbing together, painful, shaking when they raise a tea cup.
So no, you have to avoid stuff like that – and of course it has to have a conflict, even as it slices out a whisper of life. Then that little story must tie it all together so the ending is in some way ‘satisfying’.
There are so many rules, so many turns of phrase, setting, scenarios and well worn routes to avoid, it’s dizzying and leaves me feeling impotent.
So I don’t know where to begin and I sit here on my couch, my family asleep and I sigh as I am no further forward. I have no story to post. But, rallying slightly, I have put pen to paper, and fingers to keyboard! I have punted a few words out from my mind into the digital paddock to roam, and what began as nothing much to talk about has become a page– so that’s a start of sorts. Isn’t it? Perhaps if I just start something will follow. If I don’t over think it.