I recently entered my first short story writing contest! This was a pretty big leap for me, and considering I wanted to put my short stories on this blog soon anyway, I figured this was a good start.
It had to be under 1000 words, and the theme is ‘hitting rock bottom’. It was hard topic, but thanks to support and advice from my friends, I ended up with a story that I’m happy with. It will also be published in a Wordhaus Magazine soon.
*No coping please! Don’t repost without permission – it’s appreciated very much. This is a big leap for me.
Advice and feedback is appreciated. I hope you enjoy!
In the mountains of Colorado, there was a forest. The forest was big, and green and smelled of pine wood and-
I pounded the backspace key over and over again, my frustration growing by the moment.
I glanced at the clock in the corner of the screen. Four hours. I’d been sitting in front of my computer for four hours.
So why couldn’t I commit to one stupid line? Last month I was on a roll. What had changed in the past thirty days?
I searched my head, trying to come up with something — a paragraph, a line, a word – but I couldn’t find anything.
My phone buzzed, interrupting my brooding. The pink-and-yellow smiley face case rattled against the wooden desk. The desk that I used to be positive would bring me pages of inspiration and now wasn’t. It was a reminder I’d set; my shift at the café started in an hour.
I slammed my computer closed, wanting more than anything to call and say I felt sick. I couldn’t do that, however, because I’d already taken three days off in a row. A fourth and my job was history.
“I’ll have a tall hazelnut coffee and a blueberry bagel, toasted, with cream cheese.” The girl over the counter said. She looked about high school age, and spoke quietly, like she was embarrassed to order. Her attitude contrasted with her lime green pixie cut and double ear piercings.
“Coming right up,” I said blandly. I put her bagel in the toaster and got set with the coffee, remembering the good old days of high school before real responsibility. I suppose the feeling of inadequacy was the same, though.
I glanced at the clock. Only a minute since the last time I checked. How much slower could time pass?
Pulling out a cup, I glared enviously over my shoulder at the tables in the corner of the café. Writers sat with their computers, typing as though they’ve had their stories planned out forever.
“Careful Rose!” I jumped slightly, and stopped pouring the coffee before it overflowed the cup. Tanya, who had stopped me just in time, helped me empty it slightly. I got the bagel out of the toaster – perhaps a little more than ‘toasted’ – and handed it to the girl who was still waiting.
“Here,” I said, “That’s four ninety-four.”
“Don’t forget this!” Tanya handed the girl her cream cheese packet before she could walk away.
Great. Now I was failing at counter girl as well.
I ended up walking home with eight fifty in my pocket and a warning from my boss. By far my worst night this month, and not nearly enough to pay rent. I’d already had to ask my family for money last month, and I wouldn’t ask again – it wasn’t fair to them. Just picturing their disappointed faces made me cringe.
I could practically hear my cousin saying, “I told her she wasn’t meant to be a writer.” And shaking her head like she had tried to save me.
Back in my apartment, I found myself sitting in front of my computer again, staring at the screen and willing an idea to come.
Hours and hours from the past month spent looking at writing prompts, character inspiration, fan fiction, inspiring music – anything to help.
I needed to write this book. Getting published wasn’t only my dream. Maybe I could actually support myself like a real adult. I’d even settle on a short story!
Then again, who said anybody would even like it? What if everybody hates it? That would crush me.
My phone rang and I glanced at it. I saw Harper’s number – my best friend since high school. Talking with her always helped.
“Hey,” I said, answering.
“Hi Rose!” She responded cheerily. I could practically hear her smile, and imagined her curly blond hair bouncing up and down as she paced while she talked, a habit that drove her family crazy. “How goes the writing life?”
“Er, well…” I debated how to explain without sounding totally depressing. “I’m kind of in a…writer’s block at the moment.”
“Can’t say I know much about that,” she said honestly. “You don’t have anything going?”
“No,” I sighed.
She was quiet, debating.
“Why don’t you just write what you know? Just like that one author – what’s her name? The one that reminds me of the sea.”
“Ursula K. Le Guin.” I supplied.
“Right! That worked out pretty well for her.”
“Thanks Harper,” I said, trying to sound like I was getting inspired, though I didn’t know how her advice would help.
I think she recognized I wasn’t in a talking mood, because she responded with “Well, I should probably let you get to writing, then. Talk later?”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
I leaned back in my chair after I hung up, staring at the boring white ceiling. What did I know? I hadn’t had any life changing experiences yet. I knew moving out. Sort of. I knew writer’s block. I knew how to be a crappy barista. I was always told I was good at describing people. I knew-
I sat straight up. A stuck writer. That’s something I knew. A writer who couldn’t come up with ideas for anything. A writer who couldn’t find inspiration and so she moves to a little town in…in…I twisted to view my globe. I chose the first place I saw. Nebraska. A small town in Nebraska, where she meets someone who helps her along the way. But who? And who else? A dog, maybe?
My hands were on the keyboard before I knew it, the wonderfully familiar click-clack of the keys filling my apartment for what seemed to be the first time in years. I was so euphoric at the noise I wanted dance – but I wanted to write even more. Blissfully, I drifted into my new world…