For this week’s story I decided to merge two theories: the first, regards creativity, the second, productivity. Friday arrived, and I had still to even think about a story topic. I knew if I didn’t start that day I wouldn’t get it written, but I wanted to go to Glasgow and pick up a few necessaries, and I knew, also, that I wouldn’t do it when I got back.
Then I remembered reading somewhere that some writers recommend writing on public transport. Ron Silliman even spent the whole of Labour Day 1976 riding the Bay Area busses and writing a huge, one sentence poem called BART. So I packed my laptop in my bag, and decided to write my story on the bus. Which I did.
Once we were moving I settled down with my bag on my lap and my computer on top of that. It worked brilliantly well, the bag creating a non slip surface of just the right height, and by the time the bus pulled into the station I’d written six-hundred and seventy-six words.
I didn’t get to look at the story again until Sunday evening, and didn’t hold out much hope of shaping it up for today, but had recently read that playing a single piece of music repeatedly aids concentration. According to Ben Hardy lots of writers recommend it because it creates a kind of distraction proof forcefield as you ‘dissolve’ into the music. How could I resist?!
I couldn’t, and decided on ‘Lost on You’ by my new hero, LP, for the track. There’s a great site called Listen on Repeat which will repeat any YouTube video you choose until you tell it to stop, I made very good use of it, though I’m not sure I ever quite dissolved. I did do a bit to the story while listening: removed repetitions; sorted out typos (hundreds, that’s one of the bad things about trying to type on a bumpy bus), and took out, or replaced the senseless bits. I also rather drastically changed the ending, and it’s a new sort of ending for me so I wonder if that’s a direct result of the music? Anyway, here the story is, in all it’s unfinished glory.
Amelia sat on the bus feeling a little too fat for her day’s task: to find an outfit to wear to her daughter’s wedding that her family would approve of, and that she would feel comfortable in. She isn’t the mother of the bride sort, she mused, her favourite clothes are a pair of old cords you might see on a gnarled farmer, a jumper she’s had for over twenty years, and her wellies. There was a time when she could switch between this look and that of the office she ran – tailored trousers, jacket, jaunty blouse, and heels, but these days, having given up that job some time ago, she found heels almost unbearable. The squeezing of her too wide toes, the pressure on the balls of her feet, the general precarity. Her thighs, she feels are now too wide for neat pants, she is no Sofia Coppola, and her bosom too uncontainable for thin material.
She had meant to lose a stone, two would have been wonderful, before having to make this trip, but managed only a few pounds. Her daughters, both, suggested she join a gym, get a personal trainer, take up running, anything, but she failed to do any of those things. Instead, she built a shed and got on with the garden.
Since Jim died she had had to learn to do such things. He had loved the garden, and had a gift for building and fixing; she had been the earner. Now her role was defunct, and he was gone, but she wasn’t defeatist so had taken classes, started a women’s day at the Men’s Shed, and set about becoming more Jim like. The cords she wore were his, and she felt powerful in them. She didn’t think she’d feel powerful in a purple frock and jacket combo with a hat and matching kitten heels.
On leaving the bus she headed for John’s, her mother-in-law had sworn by their clothes, and she was nearly her age now. She browed the racks of linen shirts and trousers, which she rather liked but suspected Greta would sniff at. Scanned the space for anything that called to her, but felt quite uncalled. In the underwear department a nice woman measured her for bras and brought a selection to try, but they all had padding. She didn’t think she needed any more bulk and asked for something unpadded. They didn’t, the woman told her, stock unpadded bras in such a small size. Amelia wondered at the trend for bulbous breasts, and left without making a purchase.
Her jeans, the least country things she owned, kept sliding down her hips as she walked, she cursed their stretchable nature. She felt herself wobble under her shirt as she walked down the steps of the centre out onto the street, where hoards of stylish couples mocked her with their almost matching sunglasses and loose looped scarves. She scrabbled in her bag for her ancient Ray Bans and wiped the dust off them as best she could.
In a small boutique on the edge of town Amelia burst into tears.
As this post goes live I will be in a new office, learning new things, and hopefully not feeling like I’ve taken on more than I’m capable of. Lots of things I’ve been reading lately, about how to reach your goals and make a living as a writer, say one of the key things is to take yourself out of your comfort zone, and that’s what this is. It’s a new project, and an experiment that isn’t directly related to my practice, but I should learn lots of interesting things. I do hope I don’t let my new contractors down.
Header image: Pinterest.