What Happens to Reluctant Writers

Plucked Tomatoes filling the image, long green vertical vines

Photo by Kateryna Moskalova on Unsplash

She didn’t want to be a writer and yet whole works of fiction were squashed tight in her brain, like a packed carton of ripe tomatoes. If not used, stuffed in, suffocated, they would pulverise.

She pushed the wheelbarrow, laden with boxes of ripe produce out of her fruit and vegetable plot, her whitewashed cottage behind her. It was early. Today was the farmers market.

Words pounded and persistent sentences tapped on, a veracious keyboard that hopped between the left and right hemispheres of her brain. Logic versus imagination, language and plot versus creativity.

She wasn’t enamoured by artists. Unpractical, slovenly, dramatic. A precocious vocation to make sense of things. Nonsense. As a horticulturist, the hands on, physical labour suited her. But its therapeutic nature allowed for her brain’s over activity.

"Morning Prudence," waved Mrs Bracken, her neighbour, "Looks like quite a picking," she said, watching Prudence load up the battered green Land Rover.

"Here," said Prudence, cupping three plump tomatoes, "On me." she said as she handed them to Mrs Bracken in a brown paper bag.

"You squashed one," groaned Mrs Bracken. "Lost in thought dear?"

"Sorry," Prudence said and salvaged the over ripe tomato.

The latest story of a cucumber turned courgette which fell in love with a radish was planted, embedded in her cerebrum, yet to harvest. Vying for attention was a historical fiction set in the 1600’s about a farm girl hung in the town square for stealing beetroot. Its modern twist created havoc in her mind as she imagined jeering onlookers stamping the gallows with flat yellow claps, blue thumbs or cold red hearts.

"Dear?" repeated Mrs Bracken.

Prudence squeezed the tomato, its vibrant red pulp trickled down her palm and onto her wrists, stark red against her white skin. Its juice traced the vertical line of her vein towards her elbow.

"Off with the fairies today." Prudence muttered, and dropped the mushed tomato on the gravel, and squished it with her welly. She carefully plucked a less juicy one for Mrs Bracken.

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed," Hemingway warned her.

How utterly awful. No. She didn’t want to be a writer.

The tales unfolded constantly, fighting for space, wriggling along, worming their way through, digging an out from her skull. Reluctant, she resisted their advances but as the worms burrowed deeper she had moments where she prayed for a solution.

If only she could drill a memory stick into her head, puncture the stories and download them. Be done with it. She had no interest in being part of it.

"Ignoring God given potential is a sacrilege," her mother used to say, her hefty hips bumped comically from side to side, blown up like a cartoon character, as she waddled over to the cooker.

God given. She scoffed. But artists talked of a muse. Ideas from the divine. If God had all these ideas, why didn’t he write them? She had better things to do. He’d only written one book. The Bible. He was reluctant.

"You’ll pay one day," her mother wriggled her fat finger, "if you don’t use it."

Her mother’s need for at least one of her five children to shine was not her problem. And yet, here she was. One sweet story she wrote, back in her teens, and her mother had labelled her a writer. It was a curse.

She put the gear stick in second, the Land Rover was going nowhere in first. It choked, coughing like a forty a day smoker, and they spluttered off. She grinded through the gears, hit fourth and sped up on the bumpy roads.

She tanked through a red traffic light, stuck in the cucumber courgette affair, horns and screeching tires broke around her. She missed the turning for the market and after a long while, sixty odd miles later, she was back at her cottage having almost plotted the entire novel.

"Jesus!" She opened the boot of the Land Rover crammed with boxes and stared at them.

"It’s getting worse." She checked her watch. They’d be packing up the market by now.

"Enough!" She stomped in through the back door, and threw her muddy wellies on the cold stone floor and riffled through the drawers for her Dad’s old electrical shaver.

It didn’t occur to her to write down the stories but she did try to stop them, clear space for them to magically disappear. To ease them out. She turned to superstition. She relished squeezing out the contents of condiments; ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. She cut her nails religiously, down to the quick. She threw out clothes, clutter, anything she didn’t use. Down to absolute basics. Cleaning, binning, throwing away, even photos or unnecessary furniture.

"Right," she faced the bathroom mirror, “Here we go.” She had cut her hair, intermittently over the last few months. It had gone from waist length to shoulder length to short.

She plugged in the razor and shaved it all off, every strand.

If the skin on her head could breathe a little, if the pores could get some ventilation maybe the stories would just fly away, air out, like a dusty rug.

Red sores bloomed on her head. She was back to the farm girl stealing the beetroot. She didn’t want to be a writer. She didn't stop planting seeds.

Two days on, she hadn’t slept. New ideas, plots, twists formulated. She couldn’t hold them off. Obstinate narratives typed. The pillow over her bald head didn’t stop the noise. Words jumped over one another, sentences were unfinished, stories collided.

Insomnia plagued her. Delirious, she nurtured her garden and her produce grew more magnificent than before. Beetroot and tomatoes as big as blown up balloons, vulnerable to burst.

Her thoughts fought for space. She threw out the rest of her furniture, left only with a mattress on the floor which did nothing to help her sleep. Her temples pounded and her head swelled. Potential unfulfilled.

Horrified by the red lumps growing, bulging from her head, she became frightened, deranged. She dared to prod them and wish she hadn’t. They burbled and moaned. Voices, reciting her words, her tap tapping tapped sentences.

In a lucid moment, she covered her head with a black scarf she hadn’t thrown away and vowed in the morning to get help.

She never got there.

The lumps swelled through the night. Ripe and ready. The pain was excruciating. She tried to lift her head but it was impossible. She wormed her way off the mattress, confused, her chin scraping the floor. She opened her mouth to scream but nothing more than a croak was voiced.

Her brain exploded. A repulsive massacre of curled, coiled meaty tissue, a bleeding wig, splattered, detonating like dull fireworks.

Currents of bloody lines charged across the floor. They were rapid, fearing clotting and drying up. They searched for porous material, something to spread, scrawl their words upon. The red streams branched off in all directions, novels desperate to be recorded, inked. Style and tone categorised the stories as they diverted, wriggling over one another like roads on a map.

The first blood line settled on the bedroom walls, scribbling, forming words and sentences in tiny font. The landing presented the second, and, one by one, each room displayed a story on its four walls until all the rooms in the house were covered. Titles at the top, The End at the bottom. Lines breaking chapters, even page numbers were marked.

A week later her decapitated body was discovered.

A homicide was ruled out. Nothing human could have caused such gore. Clumps of gooey clotted blood punctuated the skirting boards.

The writing was on the wall. God’s attempt at another book other than the Bible. A Palaeographer was summoned. It wasn't an ancient text. This was new. They say no story is original. They were wrong.

It took months for the novels to be computerised and published, to great acclaim.

The author’s name was Anonymous, a channel is merely a channel.

No credit for reluctant writers.


Jodie Eastwood

Writer & uncertainty protagonist. Usually away with the fairies and often considers living in the woods but oh the city! Working on a short story collection and a novel.