Short Story: “The Writer”

He carried a blank book and a soft-tipped pen with him wherever he went.  When he needed to write, he wrote.  Each feeling, each idea, each moderately interesting thought would force him to stop what he was doing, pull out his tools, and write about it.

When he wrote in public, sometimes people looked at him.  Most of those stared, but he didn’t care.  Nothing was going to stop him from completing his work.  He had thought about recording it all in a way other than writing, and while he liked visual media, he felt that they weren’t as personal; they didn’t mean as much in the long run. And he wouldn’t be caught dead with a computer.  No, handwritten text just felt right, spectators be damned.

Sometimes he was afraid that he would miss something. His heart would rise into his throat, and he feared that his entire endeavor would be pointless and incomplete.  He feared that his life’s work would be ruined.  He was afraid that any omission would render his life meaningless. Suicide would cross his mind when he thought he missed something, but the paradox of his not being there to record even that event would keep him alive and writing.

Occasionally he would think that his book was full, that he had never missed a thing and could finally rest. But then he would pull out his book and write down that thought.  Which would then lead to another.  And another.  So he kept writing.

People would often speak to him. Someone would, on occasion, ask him what he was writing about.  How he hated when people asked him that!  He considered himself the recorder of absolute truth, but when he told people that, he frightened them.  So he found an answer that was always the same and always true.

“You,” he would say, because at that very moment, he would be recording their interaction into his ever-blank book. Generally, this response would warrant a strange look, perhaps a curse for his sarcastic remark, but it nearly always kept the person from speaking to him again.  Which was what he wanted.  He just wanted to write, not talk.

However, on rare occasions his response would inspire even more curiosity. It didn’t happen often, but it had come up enough over the years that he had prepared an explanation for his intentionally ambiguous remark. Rather than go into the detailed truth about himself and his mission–which would take entirely too long–he simply told them: “I’m a journalist.” It was the truth; he constantly wrote in his journal. If that was not enough to satisfy their curiosity, he would tell them that he was extremely busy and that he could not be bothered, and he would excuse himself from their company.

He could not remember when he came to be a writer, nor could he remember what had made him begin the task of recording the truth in life, but it didn’t matter now. It was what he did, and it gave his life meaning.  In his mind nothing mattered but the perfect record.  Sometimes he wanted to look back at the beginning of his book and see how it all started, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  He was afraid he would remember something that should have been included but wasn’t.  He wasn’t strong enough for that.  So he lived in self-imposed ignorance of such a possibility, but it was an ignorance that provided him a bliss and a purpose.

He designated some days as watching days. He would stop writing, actually leave his tools behind, and just watch people as they lived their lives. Watching days were very rare due to the mental anguish they put him through, but they were necessary, as they gave him a chance to reflect on his writing and clear his mind. It helped to take a step back from the work if he were to stay on task. Of course when these days of respite ended, he would have to write furiously for hours to be sure that no truth from that day had been missed. He took a day of rest to be sure he missed nothing, but was then forced to make up for it by becoming so absorbed in writing that he would inadvertently miss everything that happened while he wrote. Watching days were becoming rarer and rarer.

He once considered finding someone to take over for him.  Someone who could carry on his work when he was no longer able. He realized how hard it would be to find someone so organized, so loyal, so dedicated that they could give up the luxury of their previous life and be trained–by him, of course–to record everything of even minor importance in an ever-filling, ever-blank volume. He thought about all this and came to the only logical conclusion.

He was going to have to live forever.

Comments

  1. The writer had to write about his own writing, and then had to write about that as well. Not only did he need to live forever, he also needed a time machine.

  2. Right off the bat, I have to get this off my chest: I’ve been proofreading a lot of essays on Beckett from my foreign flatmates recently, and I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between “The Writer” and “Krapp’s Last Tape.” But, where Krapp uses his recordings for introspection, The Writer seems to be content with merely busying himself with the process of writing. I feel for him, truth be told. Of course, there is only so much that can be done with, what, 1200 words?

    I’ve been reading “A Confederacy of Dunces,” and The Writer definitely shares Ignatius Reilly’s myopic solipsism. You should definitely check the book out, if only to see how The Writer might develop given 50k words!

    As always, keep it up!

  3. jfs

    I liked this scope on the condition of writing–a world of emotion runs downstream and the condition, of having no choice in the matter, offers contrast in the flat affect/just have to fascination for any reader who ever wondered, what feeds the fire, what thought process drives the pen pusher to enter his thoughts naked for the world to consider, even if it comes to nothing. Thanks.