Sunday 11 June 2017

What do you write when you've nothing to say?

“Howya Charlie!”

“Well hello Seamus!”

“You recognised my voice! Fair play to you!”

“Well, you have a very, erm, how can I say, individual voice mate. What can I do for you? How the hell are you? Haven’t spoken to you for ages!”

“I’m good, my friend. Good, yeh. All is good. Just wanted a bit of advice about the writing, Charlie. That’s all. Want to get back into the scribbling again, and not sure how to go about it.”

“Well that’s good mate. You know the story. Just get stuck in. You’re a heck of a poet and wordsmith, but as you know poetry isn’t my area of expertise.”

“I do, but you helped me before and I see you every week, month in month out, year in year out, turning out the work, and I want of bit of that self-discipline, to work every day like, y’know?”

“I do mate, but I’m sorry. Can’t help you with that. Self-discipline is a bit beyond my remit. Maybe you need a life coach or a personal trainer or something.”

Hysterical laughter at both ends of the phone.

“Sure, aren’t there thousands of personal trainers here in Tuam? Doesn’t every sham have his own personal feckin’ trainer up here!”

“What I mean is, I can’t help you do it. All you need is enough desire and you’ll find yourself working, and desire is something you’ve got in spades, Seamus. You’re a driven writer.”

“Well thanks for that, Charlie. Makes me feel better to hear that, just on its own like, but seriously like, for a moment now, how do you do it?”

“To be honest mate, you’re asking the wrong person. You should be calling someone like Dave O’Connell, the chief editor of the paper. He has to write a rake of news stories, edit a whole lot more, pass the final edition of the paper and write his own column every week. All I have to do is come up with 1,000 words a week. As far as gigs go, mine’s a gift. Open brief, write anything I want, ‘cept maybe make sure to mention Galway as often as possible. Also I suppose I have to take into account who’s reading it, but that’s not difficult, because the people who are buying this paper are probably around my own age, so I have some idea how they feel.”

“So how do you do it? Do you plan ahead, or just come up with something on the spot?”

“Both, neither, whatever works at the time. Sometimes I haven’t a single idea in my not-so pretty little head, and then a first sentence wanders in while I brush my teeth. Also it depends on where I’m at in my madness. After a long dark bluey, I can get such a buzz off’ve the manic upswing, my head will be jumping and pumping with ideas. That’s when I’ll be sitting at my computer for hours, writing up notes on maybe six or seven pieces at once, or a short story, or whatever I feel like writing.”

“Wow, that sounds fantastic.”

“Yeh, it’s pretty brilliant when that happens alright, which is why I won’t go for the anti-depressants. I’d hate to lose that wave of creative energy I feel after a heavy bout. Anyway, I haven’t had a really bad visit from my black dog for a long time, thank fuck. But I’m wondering, maybe that’s what you should do, Seamus. Just sit and write anything and everything you feel like. Just sit there and don’t think and let it come and know you can’t go wrong.”

“Hmm. That sounds good. Thing is, not sure at the moment what I want to write about.”

“Well don’t then. Sitting and scribbling is only part of the process. Go sit on a rock and watch the tide turn. Walk your legs off into Nowheresville, County Galway, talking out loud to yourself. Also, don’t listen to me, ‘cos right now I’m absolutely out of ideas. Gets like this sometimes. I’ve a few trips coming up, so I have to get ahead of the game by writing 8 colyooms in 4 weeks, and, well, I’ve been pretty reclusive recently, so apart from wittering about the swallows and dandelions, I’m up the Swanee.”

“Get yourself into town with a sandwich board and stand on Cross Street.”

“What d’ya mean? Like a board with ‘Inspire Me!’ painted on it?”

Much laughter.

“Yeh! ‘Inspire Me!’ That’s a good one. Or ‘Ideas Wanted! Offers Welcome! Best Prices paid!’ I bet you’d get loads stopping and talking to you.”

“Oh yeh, can you imagine. Or I could get a dog on a string and sit on Wolfe Tone Bridge under a blanket, with a sign saying: ‘Colyoomless. Please Help!’ I’d have every nutter in town preaching at me. It’d be like Joe Duffy but on my legs and face to face. Come moan at me, with your sad Irish voice in a minor key!”

“Jeeze, Charlie, that’s like poetry.”

“Yeh, ‘like’ being the operative word, mate. Don’t know if I can write something I don’t understand, and as I said, right now I’m not sure what the hell to write about anyway.”

“Couldn’t you take a break? Like, all these columnists, you see ‘So and So is away’, in the papers and mags.”

“Yeh, like yer man Jeffrey Bernard? No mate. Not my style. Even when my Dad died I filed a colyoom. Was cathartic to write about him, at the time. I’ll come up with something, as will you, because life is strange and terrible and wonderful. Sorry I couldn’t help, Seamus. Just pretty vacant, brain-wise.”

“Oh you did help me, Charlie. Just talking to you helps.”

“Same as that mate. So good to hear your wry smile down the phone line.”

“So what’ll it be this week, Charlie? Why not write about having nothing to write about?”

“Ah now, not sure about that. Wouldn’t that be seen as extracting the Michael?”

©Charlie Adley

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