The man sat at his laptop. A blank page before him. Always a blank page. His head buzzed all night with ideas. But in the daytime, when he tried to write, nothing.
The country had been in lockdown for almost a month now. People were busying themselves, trying to stay occupied to avoid going crazy. Some painted their houses, many spruced up their gardens. Too many took trips for 'essential shopping' two or three times a day. There was nothing to stop them except government advice, and when had that ever been any good?
Most people were trying to use this time to better themselves. To read that book they'd been putting off, to learn a language, to start painting. In this man's case, start his novel. He always knew he wanted to write a novel. Well, not always, but for a very long time anyway. So far, he'd written zero finished novels, three unfinished novels and a pile of ideas. He'd never been very good at finishing things. I don’t need to tell you this, you're the same. You've read a thousand other stories about a poor, struggling writer who can't get his words on the page. They're all written by authors like me, who daren't start their novels, so they write sad little narratives about troubled artists who show great potential and struggle to fulfil it. It's tired. I'm not going to make you read another one. Instead we'll make this story exciting, shall we? What shall we do? Throw me a plot device. Yep, okay, you're right. I'm the author, I should do it myself. Here goes:
A man sat in his garden. Not trying to write a novel or anything. Just sat, admiring the blue skies above him, thinking pleasant thoughts and such. It was a perfect day. When all of a sudden, a mass of screeching metal came plummeting through the sky. People pulled out their camera-phones, children jumped about in panic and/or excitement, old women covered their ears, (if they had more hands, they'd have covered their eyes too). But they didn’t, they just kept watching, staring at the tumbling ball of iron and fire as it rocketed down towards the estate.
Hm. I'm not sure. I think maybe that's too extreme. Too unrealistic. (And I can’t believe I used ‘all of a sudden’ – what am I, an amateur?) Try again.
Okay, I've got it. An explosion. They happen way more often than plane crashes, right? Equally exciting (in a narrative sense), equally horrific (in a real-life sense), equally easy to write about. Here goes:
A man sat in his garden. Relaxing. A peaceful, warm day. A perfect breeze came over the fence and brushed his neck. Birds sang pretty songs about their pretty lives. The man was happy. Content in his own little paradise. He'd worked hard on his garden when he first moved in, laying new turf, planting bushes and flowers. Assembling furniture that would allow him to best experience the sanctuary he'd created at the back of his council house, here on the Herbert Estate.
Mounds of brick and soil crashed all over his garden before he realised there'd been an explosion. You don't hear things like that when they happen at close-range, you just experience the effects of it. (I'm not entirely sure about the truth in that statement. I'm kind of making it up actually, but never mind, that's fiction, right?). Anyway. The estate came to life. Loud, panicked, jumbled life. The man's ears were ringing and his head felt like it was going to implode. He stumbled out of his chair and looked around. His back gate had been ripped from its hinges and lay in pieces across his beautiful lawn. People filled the square behind his house. Women cried and men cried and everyone held each other. The house directly behind the man's garden was missing a large chunk of its walls. One of the upstairs bedrooms had been ripped out and fire roared from the hole. Debris was scattered everywhere. The man's neighbour had escaped the blast somehow. (Got it). She was in her garden, pulling weeds from the flowerbed. She was shaken up and covered in dirt but had pretty much escaped any physical harm. She was starting to come to her senses and climbed to her feet. A man held her back as she cried and tried to claw her way toward the devastation.
"My babies" she screamed, "my babies are in there".
Ah fuck, this is too dark. I'm not taking us down that road. I'm sorry. Could have been a good story that, too. Never mind. Maybe if the day wasn't so pleasant and I was feeling a bit more susceptible to tragedy, I'd continue, but I'm not sure I can. It's such a lovely day and I'd hate to ruin it. Guess we're back to square one. Back to the drawing board. I've got to give you a story somehow, haven't I? You've read this far, it'd be unfair to leave you without a good story. Okay, one more try. Third time lucky and all that. Here goes:
A man sat in his garden. A beautiful garden. His house sat in the middle of Herbert Estate. A shit-hole by all accounts, but this is where the council had put him and he'd done his best with what he got. He'd worked hard at it and carved out a little haven for himself, apart from the outside world. His own personal Eden. He could relax in his garden, safe and sound. His wife came out and placed a glass of water by his side as she coughed into a clenched fist.
"Stay hydrated honey, call me if you need anything".
The man was a writer. Not a struggling one though or anything like that, he was a natural. He sat with his laptop open. He was about to write his first novel. A fantastic book, it would receive rave reviews from all the important critics. He began to write:
A man sat in his garden.
Illustration by Saffron Bell - Instagram: