The Provocation

What made people try their hand at story writing? Why would anybody write? When? How did they do it? Also, what had she to win – and worse – mightn’t she lose face? These were questions with no answers. It was too hard. She dropped her pen and folded her hands. But, why would she even try to answer? Chewing her lips, she picked up the pen. She stared at the page. It was white and slightly shiny. If it were a letter, she could always think of a beginning, but this was different. Dear so-and-so, nothing was easier. There would be a reason for writing – a question to ask or something to tell. But what would be the reason for putting down a single word if one didn’t know what about? Just do it. Write one word and see what comes of it. She put her pen to the paper and made a downward stroke. Which word? The pen scratched, but the result was just a vertical line. Think of a word. Just one little word. Nothing? It was infuriating.

Why had she listened to that discussion between her brother and their aunt? Why did she say that stupid thing about being able to write about anything? Where did that come from? Then the wager. Her brother smirked when they shook hands on it. She crumpled the paper and threw it across the room.

Maybe the paper was wrong. It would’ve been better to get a notebook. Then she could’ve made a start. Couldn’t she? It wouldn’t be so daunting because one could always turn a page and start again. Instead, she’d bought this ridiculously expensive paper. Only five sheets, and now she’d wasted one. She wouldn’t give up. No way. Patrick shouldn’t have that satisfaction, at least.

She got up from the desk and turned to the bookcase. So many books and so many authors. Where did they find inspiration? She loved reading, but that was different. Wasn’t it? There, on the shelf in front of her, was the last book she’d read. She picked it up and flicked through the pages. The beautifully turned sentences made her blush. This didn’t help. She replaced the book with a sigh. Better give up straight away.

At the end of the shelf one of her old notebooks from school lay, crumbled, and dog-eared.

The notebook called to her. What was this? It was as if her hand took on a will of its own. It reached out and grabbed the dog-eared notebook. It smelled of old socks. Even so, she took it to her desk. The cover was full of scribbles. She could hardly make them out, the writing was in pencil and faded. Wait! These were quotes. She recognized one. Half of the text was gone, but this had always stirred her imagination.

“In the entire zoology and botany, you can’t find two creatures, which are more capable of playing mischief with each other, than a man trifling with a woman.”

A reason for writing. A human trifling with another human. That was a theme. Trifling could mean anything. The last pages in the notebook were empty. Using that space, she could try out this idea.

The room was quiet as her pencil flew across the pages. Her breath came in short gasps, but she didn’t stop writing until she’d used all the pages. Then she leaned back in her chair and turned to where she’d started writing. Would this be any good? Aye, that was the question. As she read, her face fell.

It was no good.

What a waste of time. No, wait, maybe she could improve this. She started erasing words and sentences. No, this wouldn’t work. What was she to do? She got out her scissors and cut out a few paragraphs. These weren’t too bad. If she reordered them like this, there was a segment of a plot. She could make a start with that. Maybe she couldn’t do it now, but with time, she could learn.

Patrick painted. Was he any good? The family thought so, but he’d not made the grades at the art school. Never mind about him. Never mind about the stupid wager. She wouldn’t stop writing.

Tomorrow, she’d buy a new notebook.

© HMH, 2020

2 comments

    1. No, except the notebook with quotes on the cover. I don’t even have a brother. Still, I hope that the story shows the angst every new writer goes through until they find their voice. Believe me, I had many misgivings when I started that journey for real.

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