Every writer has days when the words and ideas simply will not flow. Learn to value those days even if you do not enjoy them. Work through them. They are the best training ground for turning you into a real writer—a pro. Professionals write on good days and bad. They write when the ideas flow and when they do not. They write when the sentences seem effortlessly to form themselves. They write when words refuse to come. They keep on writing when they are suffering through days when their minds seem to be full of hot air.
On those bad days, turn to your own experiences and memories to get the wheels of your mind turning more freely. In other words, give your readers—quite literally—a piece of your mind. It’s quite a gift!
Read the short story here. It was written on a bad writing day when no ideas came easily. The writer called on real memories to turn a non productive day into a “good” one.
Christmas in October
A bathroom. A small, spare room of the early 1950s, far removed from the glamour of the voluptuous marble spas of today. Bath, sink, medicine chest, linoleum floor. A three-legged stool on which sat the small girl, earnestly watching her father.
A slow bead of condensate coursed its leisurely way down the heavily misted window. The pebbled glass, trembling in its blue metal frame, allowed a thin, grey light to soften the glare of the one fluorescent fixture.
So began a daily, valued ritual between father and daughter, a time of quiet before the panic of the family breakfast, and the rush to school and work. He stood at the sink, trousers slack around his waist, braces hanging in generous loops to his knees. His white cotton vest, woven in a lattice of diamond shapes, bright against the dark of his skin. She sat behind him on her stool, watching for his reflection in the cabinet mirror. He wiped the glass, the reflection of his face appeared, exchanged a smile with her, and then disassembled in the quickly clouding surface.
He smoothed the shaving cream from its tube into a small, stone bowl. He added a drop of water. He ran his thumb across the silver tipped bristles of the shaving brush and plunged the brush into the ointment of cream and water. As he beat the cream into foam, the delicious sound of the slurping of the foam against the bristles, and the muted knocking of the wooden brush handle against the stone sides of the bowl, combined into a heady music. In later years, she would only be able to recreate that sound by stirring thick chocolate milk in a china cup. That sound always returned her to the bathroom of her childhood, and its daily morning rite as the warm, moist air of the room became scented by the perfume of the shaving cream.
He opened the door of the medicine chest and from it took the plastic case, a jewel of a case, luminous, transparent, elegant. Its lid sprang open to reveal the shiny, silver razor, sitting proud on its clear foundation. She could fill that case with treasures if it were her’s. Marbles would glitter and gleam. The rusty aroma of acorn shells would complement the industrial tang of the plastic. Her collection of coloured wooden beads would glint in the reflection of light travelling through the clear, ice-like walls.
“I love that case, Dad,” she said, “I could keep so many important things in it. Could I have it when you’re finished with it?” She longed for that case as only a little girl with a highly colored imagination and an idea, set gem-like in her heart, could desire.
Her father turned to her, his dimples apparent in the unshaven bristles of his face. “You want this?” he asked in surprise. “Ooh, yes, please, Dad.” Gallantly the father bowed to his daughter, presented the box to her, and turned back to the sink. She caught his eye in the mirror, and he winked.
Her voice caught in her throat, “Oh dad,” she murmured, “Christmas in October.”
And it was.