I visit my writing several times throughout the day. Sessions vary from five minute bursts to extended periods of a few hours. This way, I can put in a minimum of a couple of hours a day, and often more like four to five. This is a framework. I have a home workspace – a place for my computer, books and tools – but can work anywhere.
Writing isn’t just a physical process of working with words on a page. It’s the creative and percolative activity that goes on in the spaces. In other words, the work also happens while reading, daydreaming, riding the bike, poking around, or what-have-you.
I’m never without a paper notebook. I keep the old ones stored in a filing cabinet. Captured moments. Conversations, song lyrics, glances, peripheral observations. The unorthodox, discordant, and mundane. Here, an obsessive mind might be a fortunate trait.
On Friday 1st and Sunday 3rd September, Vision Australia Radio presented a special Fathers Day edition of its Cover To Cover literary program, featuring the work of Elwood Writers. If you missed the program, there’s now an opportunity to hear the podcast at your leisure here.
We hope you enjoy the stories. We welcome feedback, so if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please voice them in the comments field below.
The night of the power outage, Bernie called to check that I was okay. This was two weeks ago. I told her I was fine, and then asked if she was okay. And that was the call. But it was over too quick, and I had a jittery guilt from not having talked more with her, so I called her back and asked if she was really okay, that she hadn’t sounded herself just now, which was a lie—she’d sounded perfectly alright. She said really she was fine, with a smile in her voice. I told her I’d spoken earlier with someone from the power company, and they’d said it was important to wrap the food from the fridge and freezer in paper to stop it from perishing. Oh haven’t you already done that? said Bernie. I said I hadn’t been sure about the advice, but if she thought it right then I’d do it now, I’d wrap the food just as soon as I got off the phone. She asked if I had any candles. I didn’t have any candles, but I didn’t want her bringing any over. So I told her yes. And then I imagined the living room dark in its corners and shot through with the smoky sepia tones of lit church candles. I imagined it so I could make it real while I was talking to her, and then I described that strange candlelight and its disarming shadows. Well, she said after a pause, as long as you’re alright. She said she was going to bed soon. That way, when she woke the power would probably be back on. After I’ve wrapped the food, I said, I’ll go to bed too. Goodnight, she said. Goodnight, I said. But when I’d hung up, I was restless. The food wasn’t going to wrap itself, but I couldn’t be bothered with it because I was thinking about the conversation with Bernie, and that guilt from earlier, or something like it, was still bouncing me around.
He stopped swimming, and floated in the middle of the pool. I watched him closely, the long thin line of body broken by the blue of his swimming trunks. Then I imagined the trunks gone. It was easy, really, but almost unbearable. He started to swim again, towards me, then tumbled over at the end, and started up the other way. And he kept on, lap after lap. It was good to watch. Mesmerising. But that’s all it was. Over and over. I became a little bored. Maybe not bored, but it wasn’t going anywhere, so I went inside to break it up, and I bought a coffee and a sandwich from the vending machines. I took them back out to the pool, to where I’d been sitting. But it had all changed. The water was flat and still. The pool, empty. He was gone, the swimmer. He would have climbed out of the water, and pulled his goggles to the top of his head. Stood there dripping, looking around. He’d have grabbed his towel from the lounger, and gone back to his room, to sleep or to masturbate, or to listen to music, or read. And if I hadn’t been inside getting the coffee and the sandwich, I could have started talking to him, telling him what a good swimmer he was. It’s a valid reason to start a conversation. You’re a terrific swimmer. Who wouldn’t want to hear something like that? I watched him all that time, then I go to get something to eat, and … nothing. The end. Well, that’s the way it goes. It was meant to be, I suppose. That’s the consolation.
He feels the pressure of opposition, and he has to go somewhere, get off the street. Anywhere will do, as long as it’s quiet. A quiet interior. He walks around, looking for the right kind of place, all the while feeling as if there’s something in his chest about to fly out screaming. He finds a hall. It’s unlocked, no people inside, just him. It’s like a community hall. That sort of thing. It doesn’t really matter. It smells like a primary school. That smell, of children, thirty or so of them breathing in and out at the same time and filling the air with their sticky breaths. Primary school. That’s a good memory.
It’s subdued in the hall, mellow and airy. Not silent though, but that’s alright. The traffic outside, you can hear its hum and its throb. In a way it’s reassuring to know that everything is going on beyond and that none of it is touching him in here. He grabs a chair from a stack and sits in a corner. If someone comes and says something, he’ll say he was feeling unwell and came in to recover. He wouldn’t really be lying.
Dust motes in a shaft of sun. He starts to breathe in the peace with a slow simple rhythm. His chest loosens. His body feels steady. Is this calmness? he wonders. But how long will it last? Things like this, they usually end too soon. Silence, for example, is always about to be shattered. A piece of music fades, or shuts off. Stories break off. Things end, in their way. The thought makes him feel rushed, as if he has to grab at the moment.
He shuts his eyes. Maybe sleep, then. Try to doze. Perhaps that’s the answer. Often he does this, comes to places like this. It works, mostly. And when it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But that’s okay. It’s okay, because mostly it works.