Begging Another Draft

By Lyn Zelen

Call yourself a writer? The thoughts spit back at me, mocking my fingers as they hover over the keyboard. No, I can’t. I’m not ready. Self-deprecating comments spin around my brain at Formula One speed. That chapter is not good enough for the memoir; it’s begging another draft.

 The cushion behind my lumbar is crooked. Where did I put the small one for my head? Ten minutes of shuffling old drafts on my overcrowded desk, and I kick aside scrunched up balls of paper on the floor. My laptop, named Mac, sits at attention. A white blank document courts a key strike and a hopeful flash of dialogue; or a new scene on the artificial page. Must do them justice. They’re not stories, they’re memories of my past.

Revisiting another chapter is too painful; like running your hand through your hair, only to remember the sting of a paper cut on your finger. I deliberate the complexity of the exhaustive process to write every sequence and find the running theme. How can I protect myself from being overwhelmed and too involved in my own story?

Ah procrastination, my unwelcome friend. You have raised my shoulders till they ache, or was it the residual effects of the jog yesterday? Escapism, a familiar vice to sidestep the inevitable. Mac has timed out into black screen mode, a technological coping activated for another bout of evasion.

You’d think staring at the random pattern on the carpet would motivate me.Distraction. Maybe if I finish that live theatre review for work? Mac scolds me and displays more unfinished work, and the recurring nightmare begins. Read it. Now scrutinise the voice. Insert phonetic dialogue. Backspace; no delete. Typing in tangents. Flip pages of the thesaurus. Remember the editor is not keen on purple prose—.

Stop! Editing isn’t an evil practice.

The stories are shadows of acquaintances concealing the real work. I recall the ad-hoc scratching of the memoir in 2014, written on the miniscule iPhone at a kitsch café in Windsor called 1827. Seems I’ve been editing this memoir since then! A tech upgrade to an iPad in 2015 saw me advance to tapping, and even some progress: I joined a Writers’ group.

Tall tales transpired amidst other potential authors at the appropriately named Giraffe café. Too much chatting, too much coffee, too much cheesecake. Not much writing.

Winter called and cajoled finger-tapping of words on the pad to keep the tips warm. Dark wet days were made for wearing opaque tights.

No cake, no coffee, only his words; a memory of a former love came back to life in words on the small screen. The last time he looked over his shoulder, his lost expression sculpted the sentences. His last sentence was made outside the International Departure doors. The doors yawned, and then closed behind him and our tired relationship.

The words are out now, and so are the taunting and menacing tears. Don’t look up from the iPad; your eyes will be red. The salty evidence will fall from their protective lower lids.

My hit from writing had worn off with the sobering truth. I’d stopped writing the memoir. My guilt was frozen in time, as were my rigor mortis fingers above the screen. They hung like locked claws, unable to push past the pain, ready to crack and crumble into fragmented memories, and shatter onto the glass pad.

Two years I waited. The MacBook Pro replaced the frigid glass pad. An institution forced my contemplation into completion. The University yielded patient authors, lecturers, tutors; all guiding me through a thorn proof path of chapters. The chapters awoke from their technological coma.

The perpetual fear of my history declines with each keystroke towards the deadline for publication. The arrowhead pointer rests on the submit button for the competition. Click.



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