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This short story begins in a little tearoom in the midst of Paris. Incidentally, it also begins by one of the most cliches phrases to start a story, second only to “once upon a time”. And same could be said for the location. Though it should not deter the flow of the writing to go on.
So it went, schizophrenically split between narration and self-reflection, not unlike any human going mundanely through their life. But putting its identity crisis on the back burner, the story casually progressed through a description of the surroundings, as if the soothing atmosphere-building would somehow anchor the reader in a believable universe.
The large windows opened up on a calm street in Paris, where people would be leisurely walking. Inside, the walls were covered by colourful balls of wool, that some of the customers were using to knit. The various aromas of the teas were mixing invisibly in the comfy atmosphere.
The paragraph went on to list so many small details, as if they were fuel for a fire that kept the setting alive. It is however arguable that such a fire would be needed, since the location was a real one. Shouldn’t its existence be worldbuilding enough?
The main character was thusly pondering about his surroundings. He was sitting next to the door, and letting his eyes wander through the room, he was enjoying one of his favorite activities: letting his mind drift away. His gaze would meet another person, and he would imagine their story, what was going on through their head… Sometimes he’d be realistic, sometimes totally absurd.
He considered that to be a good exercise for a writer, and any artist in particular. Sometimes he would try to think about life around him as the events of a novel and imagine what the text would say. Probably something like this…
But life was not a novel, it was lacking a structure, a plot, which coincidentally cruelly lack from this story so far too. Initial situation had been described, and the main character more or less smoothly introduced, but in the midst of the weird commentary and self-referential ramblings, one may wonder where it was going. Unless it was messy on purpose, a sort of allegory of life? That would be pretty pretentious though…
Since nobody wanted that, and since this was getting a little long, the story needed some sort of focus or goal. An immediate natural response would be to focus on the main character since he was already there: Why was he there? What were his motivations?
Ironically enough, these were the exact same questions that went through his mind, as he distractly tapped the tip of his pen against the table. As any artist in lack of inspiration, he was looking for his drive. People watching in cafes were a well known source of inspiration for writers, so he would occasionally try that. But the paper in front of him would unmistakeably remain blank.
He didn’t want to be yet another wannabe writer, hanging out in cafes, always talking about potential projects and never truly making anything. He wanted to be… different. Explore new territories, push back some boundaries. Obviously many artists aspired to the exact same goal. But maybe, just maybe…
This peek into his inner monologue surely helped build the character, but the story was suffering from the same syndrome that plagued our hero: excessive self-reflection was paralysing more than anything else. With every passing second, with every written line, it was becoming harder to move forward. There was such a thing as too much thinking.
In fact he distinctly recalled reading somewhere that the best advice to overcome writer’s block was to stop thinking and just write, write and write. Keep writing whatever came to mind. Evidently, the first topic that crossed his mind was writer’s block itself, and he pondered how many lines had been written on that very topic under the same circumstances. He felt he could do something more.
He wanted to do an experimental piece. So many books had the same descriptive flavorless writing style. Very few exceptions had blown him away with a peculiar form. That’s what he was shooting for, striving for. Standing out as much as the authors he admired. The only way to get there, as he was given to understand, would be practice. Practice and experimentation. So he tried to come up with innovative concepts he could undertake.
The climax this story builds up to mirrors the epiphany he had when an idea crossed his mind. He wondered what would happen if the story became self-aware. He only had a few glimpses of where he was headed. He did not know where this could lead at all, but he had heard somewhere that it was ok for a writer to be driven by the flow, discovering the story alongside their own characters.
So he started to draft a few sentences in his mind. A particular opening, a vague setting, a faceless character, as if he wanted his work to turn into some vague general allegory. But that’s not what it was about. It was about taking a journey, a first step in the unknown, a few lines on a blank page.
And this is where our story ends, exactly where it began. His hands started to move and build a self-referential autotelic text. It may have been poorly constructed, it may have been tacky and the conclusion may not come across so well, but he was able to look back at his work and smile. This wasn’t like anything he’d seen before. That was an adventure he was glad to have tried.

One thought on “Blank page

  1. Pingback: Short stories index | AMadManWithABlog

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