“I was walking ponderously through the windy pines when I realised that lifelessness is so complex and meaningful that anything could happen in the universe, almost, to an infinite extent of possibilities.” - Henry David Thoreau
Hark, and hark again. Can you hear the clacking of a keyboard? The drag of a mouse over sanded timber? The drumming of fingers on a table? These are the sounds of a weary man irresolute in writing, whiling away the hours with a fading determination to put something down, anything, in the end a nothingness. He pauses now and then, looking around for inspiration: a half-empty glass of water, a copy of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, a twenty cent coin. The first makes him maudlin, the second nonsensical, the third pragmatic: how many words has he typed? If he is a book reviewer or a columnist, how many cents is a word worth? If it’s monosyllabic perhaps one or two, if it’s something long like “despondency” then maybe a few more. He takes comfort in keeping the company of greater, more prolific writers than himself; their books and anthologies gathering dust in the corners of his room, seldom touched though often the objects of envy. Solidity of accomplishment, publication histories, deals made, contracts signed, thoughts of cover art, a place in Dewey’s system all vying for attention in an idle mind.
The silly contends with the serious. What to write about? A tract on black coffee, a tongue in cheek piece on methods of water conservation? Or a sombre account of a walk in the woods, a close encounter with death, thoughts on the transcendental eye? Perhaps, if he’s wise enough, the writer will live on, a quote of his adorning a signpost in a forest, maybe embedded in concrete somewhere on a well trodden street, subject to the passing reflection of tourists, aliens abroad, the tinkle of a dog relieving himself. If he’s unlucky he will be granted none of these honours. If he writes spiritlessly he will be accused of being lazy; if he writes with too much vigour he will be accused of philandering his words, plucking them from his bag of tricks without discrimination or awareness of context.
The cheap journalist, the newspaper harlot, is payed to put words on a page, payed to cry out and blast with callous noise the sensitive ear. The poet is a daffodil who keeps no jocund company; he resigns himself to the vagaries of the wind: juniper bushes, forever and ever, sunsets on cityscapes, formulated phrases, great feats, decomposing leaves; but sometimes he must have a solid meter, clip clop to Camelot in search of prosody’s holy grail.
The novelist has something to say, a story to tell. He’s the least assuming of the lot because he doesn’t anticipate an audience, rather he creates one.
Shuffling feet, a slammed door, black coffee, scrabble tiles strewn across the floor. Someone was done away with here; there is a bloody cutlass under the bed. I’ll return it to you as a military gesture. The audience applauds, such decorum. Nonsense vindicates itself. I’m confused.