This story is by Jennifer Kelly and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
The blank page stared back at her. No matter what she did, the words refused to appear. For the umpteenth day in a row, Alice sat in front of her computer with nothing to show for it.
She glanced out the window above her writing desk. The weak winter sun fell to Earth, leaving ghostly shadows on the ground. Patches of melting ice dotted the vacant neighborhood street.
Alice felt as abandoned as the roadway. She was alone. Her muse was gone, leaving her stranded with no ideas, as empty as the scene out her window.
“Damn writer’s workshop. I never should have spent the money.”
Alice remembered her excitement about the fall event. The website promised her tools to make the first draft the final draft. And she was assured she would learn about the many lucrative writing outlets available.
All she left with was a credit card bill and an empty screen.
Before the workshop, her words bubbled out of her and covered the pages, like the autumn leaves blanketed the yard. She recalled the joy she felt as she communicated abstract concepts to others through a story. Her ideas just fell into place.
The harsh conditions of her writing winter left her empty. Sure, stacks of short stories and a partially finished novel from the fall filled her bottom desk drawer, neatly sorted, collated and bound for her eyes only. But she hadn’t been able to write since she got back from her trip.
No, the writer’s workshop was a mistake that took not only her money, but her desire as well. She would never amount to anything. Who would want to read her books or stories? She really should use the writing time she carved out of her busy schedule for something that was a sure thing.
Alice stood and pulled the curtain over the window. It was pointless to waste any more time at her desk today. The laundry and housecleaning were waiting, and she needed groceries before the night’s big snowfall.
At least, she could do something.
Alice slid the curtain open, and bright sunlight illuminated her writing desk. The previous evening’s winter storm wasn’t as bad as the weatherman predicted, but it left piles of stark white snow covering the bushes and shrubs in her front yard. The sun reflected off the mounds, sending rays of hope into the sky.
Glancing at her work area, Alice noticed her writing rituals tacked on the wall. She remembered putting them there over the summer to keep focused. It worked for a while. The rituals kept her motivated and full of ideas.
Taking a minute to reread the list, she frowned as she remembered why she stopped using her rituals. She assumed the workshop would give her better results.
“It worked before. Why wouldn’t it work again?”
Shaking out her hands, Alice tentatively placed her fingers on the keyboard and started typing whatever came to mind. According to her list, it didn’t matter what she wrote. She just needed to write.
A word, then a phrase appeared on her screen. She resisted the urge to edit herself as she went. For now, the words just needed to flow.
Slowly, the words dripped out of Alice’s mind onto the page. One paragraph led to another. The words came faster as she relaxed.
The ice on the neighbor’s roof began to melt, but Alice didn’t notice. Focused on the words, she barely registered the sun as it warmed the back of her neck. The dam opened, and Alice could barely keep up with the sentences and paragraphs that poured out of her.
An hour later, she saved her document. Alice pushed away from her desk and stretched. She accomplished her mission – to write. She broke free from her writer’s block by going back to what worked. She glanced out the window at the sunshine she had been ignoring and smiled.
“I guess you might have helped too,” she said to the sun.
Realizing she had a few minutes before her family demanded her undivided attention, Alice scrolled through her email. She deleted the advertisements, scams and junk emails that found their way into her mailbox. She read a joke about cute kittens and sexy fireman from her mom. An electric bill, a notice for her next dentist appointment and her son’s field trip reminder rounded out her mailbox. As she prepared to close out her email program, she noticed one unread email.
“How did I miss that one?”
She glanced at the subject line: “Your submission”. She recognized the sender. It was the magazine publisher she submitted several stories to the previous summer. She never heard back – until now.
Nervously clicking on the email, it opened and filled her screen.
“Congratulations! Your submission has been accepted for publication in our spring edition!”
Tears blurred Alice’s eyes as she fought to read the rest of the email. It was a small, niche publication, but it was one that had been on her “A” list. Stretching back in her chair, Alice took a deep breath and looked out the window. Not only had the sun melted the ice outside, it thawed out her writer’s block.
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