Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer) (05/20/10)
TITLE: Charlie's Angel
By Joan Campbell
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It doesn’t help that the deadline is tomorrow and that I suspect the answering machine’s flashing light is the Editor asking for the outline, which should have reached his inbox yesterday.
I reluctantly press the button.
“Message…one…of…two,” a mechanised voice informs me.
“Hey Buddy.” It’s Paul’s gravely voice. “Didn’t see your outline yet. Hope you’re on track. I really want this to be the clincher. The one to get all those uninspired writers scrambling for their computers again.”
That’s just what I needed. As if the pressure wasn’t enough. Now I have to inspire all the blocked writers out there.
“Charlie, Paul again. Should have had that outline by now.” A worried laugh. “Just a thought - if you’re struggling to come up with the goods, maybe you could read your past articles and use some of those brilliant techniques. Call me.”
Having him breathing down my neck is the last thing I need, but he does have a point. Maybe I could try following some of my own sage advice.
I take a gulp of my morning’s fourth cup of coffee. I’m already breaking all the rules I expounded in Part 1: “Care for your body: eat and sleep well.” Too late for that.
I’ll have to move on to Part 2: “Free Association.” I set the timer on my wristwatch for fifteen minutes and grab a pencil and paper. The idea is to write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s complete nonsense - anything to get the creative juices flowing again.
When the alarm sounds, I’ve filled two angst-ridden pages. Far from feeling more creative, I feel even more anxious. All I’ve done is remind myself how much I stand to lose if I fail. What’s more, I’ve wasted fifteen precious minutes in the process.
I waste a few more staring at the screen, before I decide to try Part 3: “Exercise.” “Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which helps release nervous tension,” I had glibly written. Let’s see if I was right.
As I head out the door, my wife calls from the kitchen: “Charlie, if you’re going for a run, take Tasha. She hasn’t had a single walk this week.”
The implication is clear. I’ve failed miserably as a husband, father and dog-owner in the last few wasted days. Two blocks down the road, I’m cursing myself for giving in to her. Being dragged along busy roads by an Alsatian, high on pent-up energy, does nothing to “release nervous tension.”
The machine is flashing again at home.
“Charles. Paul here.” Charles? He has reached the end of his tether. “Phone me asap!”
All that’s left now is Part 4: “Write, even if it’s bad.” I start hacking away at the article, willing the magic to flow. I’m experienced enough to know that there aren’t even small sparks of it. The words are dry, dusty and dead.
“Dada?” A freckled face stares uncertainly at me from the doorway, blanket in hand.
“Come here sweetheart.” She breaks into a smile and waddles over to me. I pull her onto my lap.
“Have you been missing Daddy?”
She nods seriously: “Dada wu-king.”
How often has she heard those words this week? Something shifts inside me. My daughter is far more important than a deadline.
“Let’s go play outside.”
Her eyes sparkle: “Play ‘copta?”
I spin her around like a helicopter, until we both collapse on the grass, dizzy and breathless. I point out the shapes of clouds to her. Later I tickle her and am swept up in her sweet joy, forgetting everything except the pleasure of this sun-filled moment.
The red light is flashing.
“Buddy? Paul. I got Part 5: Love and Live in the moment - your best yet. Made me go home and swing my grandkids around. You won’t believe it. I even dug out my own incomplete manuscript. Should have known better than to doubt you, Charlie-boy.”
I smile down at the freckled form, curled in sleep, on my lap. Thanks Angel.
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