The writer

She had hoped that it would offer her some respite, a temporary release from the life that she struggled to survive. There had been misgivings about the creative writing course before it began. Helen had so many ideas in her head already; she could not suppress her concern that the advice and suggestions would shackle rather than expand her natural abilities. ‘What natural abilities?’ her demons asked.

The idea of succeeding as a writer was preposterous yet still it remained, hunkered down, ignored but unwilling to leave. Her husband smiled indulgently when she talked of her minor successes on line. ‘How many readers do you have?’ he would ask. It was enough to silence her, to quash those indulgent, positive thoughts.

She had yet to admit to him that she had signed up for the course, knowing that he would consider it yet another waste of her time. Now, after just a week of study, she questioned if she should continue. She did not understand what was being asked of her in the tasks, what feedback she was supposed to leave. She felt cowed and foolish, unsure of why she was there. The camaraderie she had hoped to find remained as elusive as ever.

Only one of the contributors had really spoken to her, the author who mentioned anger as a factor in her journey. Helen had more anger bottled up inside than she knew how to cope with. Her writing gave her a release, even if the euphoria was short lived.

Helen looked around her ordered home, the silence berating her for not getting on with the many chores that she was expected to complete. Opening up her laptop she closed her mind to this everyday life and allowed the expanse of her imagination to take over. In her own, private world she could be anything and everything. In this world she could plot her revenge on the many, including herself, who had caused her to become this shadow she despised.

As a fox stalks its prey, her characters crept slowly forward into her reader’s conciousness. Silently and cautiously the plot advanced, before pouncing suddenly and unexpectedly with its vicious denouement. Helen reread her words, happy with the plot she had created yet concerned that she had written this way so many times before. It was her wish to stretch her abilities that had led her to enrol. Sighing, she saved her work and prepared to try gain.

A new idea came to her, sleek and powerful. She followed it through in her mind before sitting back, heart racing, unsure if this tale should be fact or fiction. ‘Could I do this?’ she wondered.

When Mark returned home he was surprised to find the house cleaned and aired, his shirts ironed and dinner prepared. His wife had changed out of her usual stretch pants and released her long hair. He wondered if he had forgotten an occasion but was quickly reassured. Tentatively, he wondered how good this evening might get.

Helen had researched and planned before carefully setting the scene. In the event the words did not flow as she had wished. With control over only one of her characters the plot soon unravelled becoming muddled and unclear. Her great idea soared into the air above their heads where it fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still. Mark, opening his mail on the counter and barely listening as his wife rambled on, had not been drawn in.

She could have edited that opening paragraph, reworded to create impact, increase the allure. Instead she swallowed down yet another failed idea with the dinner that she barely tasted, continued their conversation by rote as she went through the motions of a typical evening at home. The magic had been conjured and then lost. A book, no matter how good, will not fulfil it’s potential if it sits on the shelf unread.

The colourful characters that made Helen feel alive remained, as always just beyond her grasp. Moments of their lives would be captured in her stories as pale impressions of the ideas that swirled around inside her head. Tonight she would inhabit the body she abhorred as she lay by her husband’s side, alone. She dreamed of expanding her character, creating new adventures in which she blossomed and thrived. For now her inner fox rested, but for how long?



12 thoughts on “The writer

  1. I like the way you depicted her desire to expand her abilities. You summed it up nicely when you said that she was concerned she had written this way before.

  2. For a bit there, I thought she was setting things up with try a scene from her book idea- with her husband’s death! I could relate to Helen in that my husband isn’t into my writing at all (we don’t discuss.)

  3. This is so heart-wrenchingly good. I think many of us can relate to Helen. You did an excellent job capturing her insecurity and self-doubt – and showing how much her husband’s disinterest (and lack of insight) hurt her. I hope she finds the courage to embrace herself.

  4. The depiction of her husband’s indulgent dismissal of what she feels to be her true self makes it easy to understand where her anger comes from. I also thought that maybe she was setting up the ‘perfect murder’ scene, and actually what happened felt a little more soul crushing.

  5. I can remember being unhappy in my marriage and escaping instead into the fantasies of my mind, only to have my (ex)husband berate and belittle my writing and myself. You’ve portrayed this so well. It’s too bad Helen wasn’t brave enough to follow through with the scene she had set with Mark, it might have broken new ground, if she hadn’t retreated into her own sense of mediocrity and failure. Well done.

  6. I love how you combined the struggle of the writer with the struggle of the self. So many times, they are one in the same. To portray what our minds imagine can never be so accurately put in words or any other medium. I just hope Helen finds the expressive release she needs to be herself! Such a striking piece this is!

  7. Ah…know the tale well and you’ve done a great job bringing it to life…the belittlement of one’s art is a belittlement of one’s own self. She will have to leave the world of fantasy and let herself flower, no matter what that faithless mirror has to say.

  8. I like how you blurred the line between fantasy and reality, the writer and her character. Neat approach.

  9. I like the premise that it is bottled emotion that fuels the writing urge. The writing is great! I love how you glided from all the mixed feelings of the character and explored the angles. I like the reflective aspect in that that is the soul and spirit of all we write.

    My beef with the character is – Isn’t she expecting too much or self-centric. Who doesn’t improve in their writing with study and practice. Her husband may be disinterested or have too much baggage to be interested. Is writing for a great public the only goal or a realistic goal?
    You did an excellent job in making her so very real for me to have these questions.

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