Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This story’s based on the #sunscribbles Twitter prompt, New, and the struggles of being a writer. I also binge watched Carole and Tuesday on Netflix, which was an added inspiration. The story is set in a world where stories are told via public speaking, my worst nightmare!
Less than Perfect
Under stage lights as bright as the midday sun a young girl stood in a dress of pure white, looking like a deer caught in headlights. Brown eyes darted nervously around the crowd. She wrung sweaty palms together and began to speak.
‘I thought a lot about the story I wanted to tell today, and, well-‘
She tailed off and fanned herself with her hand as her heart began to race. What was she saying? A story? But although she’d had weeks, months, to come up with something new, still she faltered under the gazes of the expectant audience. Throb. Throb. Throb. Her heart pounded behind her right eye, and suddenly the bright lights, the silent crowd, eyes screaming their expectations, was too much. What was she even doing here?
‘I… I’m sorry, I have to go.’
She stumbled off stage, past a sign, Fantasy with Nancy, what a joke, and down the labyrinth of corridors towards the fire escape. The heavy door slammed behind her, cutting her off from her audience, and she ran out into the busy streets. Vendors called their wares, and she lowered her head as tears filled her eyes. She couldn’t go back, she had nothing new to say.
Her agent, left gawping by her exit, didn’t understand. He’d never created a thing in his life, and his only answer to her cries of ‘I can’t think of anything new to write’ were useless platitudes.
‘Just write from the heart, Nanc. How hard can it be?’ and ‘Look, it don’t hafta be perfect, it’s just gotta be written. The audience loves you. They’re not gonna care what story you tell, so long as you tell one.’
Of course it had to be perfect! He didn’t know anything. Her lower lip trembled. After her first three hits, her audience expected certain standards, certain content too. She had to deliver on those expectations, but despite many a day staring into space, out the window, at the spider spinning an intricate web, the words hadn’t come.
She stopped, gasping for breath, hands on her knees and doubled over. She only had herself to blame. She’d been so focused on writing the perfect story, she’d barely written a word in months, and now she’d pay the price for all that time watching Netflix, puttering around the house procrastinating, and doing anything but sitting in front of her notebook and writing.
She looked up. The sea sparkled in front of her, and metal steps led down to the sprawling golden beach. Had she run all this way? A gull swooped overhead, and waves crashed against the shore in a familiar melody. How long had it been since she’d visited the beach?
In a trance, she took one step forward, then another, down the metal steps and onto soft sand. Worn trainers sank into it, and her eyes slipped closed with a fond smile. Once upon a time she’d visited the beach every day, notepad in hand and pen tucked behind her ear. She’d drop to the soft sand by the shore, watching, listening, and scribbling stories.
She wandered that familiar path now, and sank to the sand just before the waves broke. Hands sifted through warm grains, and a vision of her past self appeared beside her, scribbling in a notepad. Nancy blinked and shook her head. The vision vanished. Whatever happened to that carefree girl who wrote for fun and didn’t care what others thought of her stories?
She fisted her hands in the sand. When she’d told her agent she had no idea what to write, it was a lie. Story ideas swam in her head, competing for attention, but her characters meant the world to her. What if people hated them, and the stories she really wanted to tell? What if they judged them because of their own prejudices? How could she write when the pressure to please others overshadowed every word?
The wind picked up, and she wrapped her arms around herself as the waves drew closer. Her younger self never cared about praise, or worried if her stories were perfect or not-
Perfect. That was the crux of the matter. Her audience expected her best, nothing less than perfect. She expected it from herself too. If she made mistakes in her writing, was she strong enough to face them? Could she face the fact that not everyone would love her stories?
She had to. Writing was a part of her. It reflected her love of diversity, her adoration of characters who triumphed against adversity, her love of happy endings, and most of all her belief that, no matter what happened, everything would be okay.
If only she could apply that positivity to her own life…
She sucked in a deep breath of salty ocean air. She could. She’d tell herself everything would be okay, every day until she believed it. She knew what stories she wanted to tell. She always had. Time to face the audience and write anyway. And if her stories weren’t well received, or less than perfect? It was okay, so long as she remained true to herself.
Sand in her dress, damp at the bottom where the tide had come in, hair a tangled mess, she left the beach and headed back to the conference halls, where she faced her fears and told a story from the depths of her heart: A story that had been there all along, waiting for the day she was brave enough to tell it.
Thanks for reading!
I was watching the Dr Who episode with Agatha Christie the other day and one thing that struck me was how most writers seem to think they’re not good enough. I wish it were a feeling I could shake completely, but here’s a reminder to anyone reading: We’re all good enough and we all matter. Never stop writing, never stop learning 🙂
Share lines with #sunscribbles every week on Twitter, or write a short story based around the prompt and share a blog link.
Next week? Either the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, or I take a break and post tons of pictures 🙂