On Writing #1, 2017: A Retrospective. A Few Problems, Fewer Solutions, Several Entertaining Anecdotes. A First-Person Account

FALL 2017 RUNNING INTO A TINY PROBLEM

A Sort of a Journal of What You Do After You Finish Doing What You Thought You Could Never Do.

SEPT 26 2017
Two novels completed. Not one viable idea for a next book. I find I can’t simply take a break. I am now no longer capable of not writing.  And so, the question arises. What in-between writing can I find this time to keep my hand in, to keep my brain fresh, to operate like playing scales back in the days of piano lessons?

I cheat unashamedly. I go online and I find the hundreds of sites that offer lists–of twenty-five, fifty, a hundred, five hundred sentences to use as the first sentence in a short story or novel.  I don’t know if any of them will ever turn into my next novel, but I chose five today and have written on one.  It was wonderful fun, almost like automatic writing or a ouija board.

  1. By the time I reached the train station, she was gone.
  2. There was a time when my family was extremely happy.
  3. Flowers came to my house every other Monday around 1 o’clock.
  4. Bouquets of flowers filled my living and dining rooms but how did they get in here.
  5.  They say Old Weezie’s been reading palms out of her run-down shack for a hundred years or more.

 First attempt (10-15 minutes)

Bouquets of flowers filled my living and dining rooms, but how did they get in here?

First things first, as my grandmother always said. Before I address the question of how they got in here, I would like to establish exactly what it was that “got in.” When I say “filled,” that is precisely what I mean.

I do not mean that there were a great many of these bouquets, say twenty or thirty or possibly even forty, that seemed to (but actually did not) cover every available surface of the two main rooms of the first floor of my house. Those rooms were not, in any literal sense, filled.

I do not intend you to imagine a number of bouquets, however large, that it might be possible, with any amount of effort and concentration, to count. Granted, most of what I am calling “bouquets” were in containers, vases of every size, shape, and color, crafted out of glass or metal or wood, some even looking like children’s creations made from cardboard. These, I suppose, one could count, although I would not like to tackle it.

But in addition to these flower arrangements, for want of a better word, there were what I would estimate to be thousands, possibly tens of thousands of bouquets, that is flowers tied together in bundles, tossed around the room so as to cover entirely the spaces in between the vases. On tabletops and on the floor, was an uninterrupted carpet of flowers. These uncontained bouquets were of varying sizes, ranging I would guess from bunches of three or four stems to the largest I was able to see that must have contained at least a hundred white roses.

And that, obviously, is the next question to be addressed. What kinds of flowers were they that had taken over my home? Did there appear to be anything consistent? Any color or type of flower? Any association as, for example, the lily that is often associated with funerals? And that is one question to which I can give a definitive answer. All the flowers were roses, roses of every shade I had ever encountered and many, many bouquets made up of roses in colors that hardly seemed natural or, in any event, not any that I have ever encountered in nature. And yet, they didn’t look artificial or dyed.

So, having satisfied my grandmother’s dictum, I shall proceed cautiously to the second question at hand. You now have a full knowledge of just what I saw when I opened the door of my spacious, renovated 1920’s bungalow in the very center of a busy neighborhood in a medium-sized city in the South. How did they get in here?

I will save you the trouble and wasted time of thinking about his as a locked-room mystery or, indeed, as any kind of standard mystery, or whodunit, at all. There will be no puzzles to assemble in what is to follow.

I am a retired teacher of literature and tend rather toward the personal and the narrative than the mathematical or strategic. The first question that occurred to me when I opened that door wasn’t “how” at all. It was a burning desire to know who would have done this, and why. And, as I prepared my solitary meal to be eaten with one of Margaret Drabble’s early novels propped up in front of me, I began to go over the list of the people with whom I have had significant relationships over many decades. There seem to be quite a few.

Is there the beginning of a novel here? I have no idea.
I write four blogs about writing, one consisting entirely of experiments with opening sentences.
I write a blog about gun violence.
I write a long introduction to a guest blog by a friend.

I WAS RIGHT, OF COURSE.  THOSE NOVELS WERE SOME KIND OF FLUKE.  I AM NOT A PERSON WHO CAN WRITE FICTION. I AM TEMPERAMENTALLY UNSUITED.

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