When Forms Remain Airy Nothing


A Writing Exercise About Writing Exercises

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And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.  – William Shakespeare    

When Forms Remain Airy Nothing

Bonnie was finished raising kids, and her husband’s business had taken off enough so that he no longer needed her help. She felt lost and needed some new goals, a fresh purpose. She decided to become a writer. In a tiny nook, she had designated as her office in a spare bedroom, she sat down at the computer and prepared to start her new writing career. She sat down, and nothing happened.


Look for Inspiration Everywhere

Wall One

She gazed around her tiny space, looking for inspiration. It was a suggestion straight off the internet from a free writing course, so she decided to give it a try. A Paris Monuments map hung above her desk, which was cluttered by a half-eaten container of Red Hots Cinnamon Mints, a pile of bills, a collection of smart phone cords, and a variety of reading glasses, all with different magnifications that almost perfectly coincided with the declining of her vision over the years. Why hadn’t she thrown them out? She wondered. She told herself she’d deal with the clutter some other day and continued to look around the eighty square foot room for creative clues. No, she needed a better plan, a more thorough plan. She decided to go to the right, scan each wall, then move on if nothing screamed, “inspiration”.

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Wall Two

Bonnie assessed the east wall which had two wall-mounted jewelry cases. She drew a blank. Above them was a shelf with her pillow collection. They ranged in color from black to white to orange, purple, gold, yellow, and green, and were always on sale when she purchased them; a point she brought to anybody’s attention who commented on how many pillows she had. More than once she had endured “pillow therapy” comments from her family who said she might need to seek help for her “addiction”. She didn’t care. Her stylish pillows, organized by the colors of the rainbow, made her happy when she looked at them and somehow made her feel that she had at least dabbled at being an interior decorator. After her two-minute pillow diversion, and failing to write a single exhilarating word, she continued her search.

“Maybe this is just the warming up process,” she thought, then swiveled her chair around so quickly that her sleeping Springer Spaniel jumped up, assuming the gesture was meant for him, a trigger that meant, “let’s go play!” He stared into her eyes and wagged his tail. She stared back with a look that meant, “it’s not going to happen.” It took less than thirty seconds for each to realize their disappointment then go back to what they were doing; him sleeping, her hunting for inspiration, encouragement, even one whimsical thought that would tear down the walls that fortified her vast thought-library of fantasy, imagery, and adventure. Who was she kidding? Still nothing. The east wall was abandoned.


Wall Three

On the south wall was a tiny table that held the household electronics like a modem, a router, and a hard drive for a security system. Above the table was another monitor which was mounted on the wall. Balanced precariously on top the monitor was a very large portrait that Bonnie had professionally taken twenty years earlier. She looked young, confident, and wrinkle-free. Even then she knew she would one day grieve her youth and would regret it if she didn’t immortalize herself using the egotistical means of the day called Glamour Shots. She gazed upon it, remembered her pile of reading glasses, and tried to reconcile her “that was then, this is now” reality. She could feel herself losing momentum on her task so she persisted if only to tell herself that she had at least completed the writing exercise.

The tiny table with the electronics was at the foot of a small couch which doubled as a bed when her 87 year old mother-in-law, Helen, came to visit. Helen. She had been an ardent reader her entire life. Bonnie didn’t even know who Honore de Balzac and Paul Theroux were until she’d scrutinized Helen’s bookcase every time she went to her house. What would Helen think ofBonnie’s writing? She’d politely say it was great, offer words of encouragement, then she’d return to her book-of-the-month-club novel, knowing full well the difference between good writing and that of a hopeful beginner. She decided right then that she would never publish her work, or at the very least she’d lie about it being hers, should anyone ever discover it. She mulled over an assortment of pseudonyms, finished off the last two cinnamon mints, then pondered a variety of uses for the empty container. The south wall was a dead end.

Wall Four

Bonnie turned to the west wall, the last wall of hope, which displayed a series of da Vinci photos, a shelf with an unused color printer with dried out ink cartridges, and a window that faced the water. Still nothing. Her husband, Bart, had finished working for the day and had distractingly turned the music up in the other room at least twice in the last ten minutes. He was enjoying his own moment of inspiration which included Led Zeppelin loud enough for the neighbors to enjoy, a smoking grill out on the deck, some steaks he had prepared with the precision of an engineer, and a glass of red wine. Bart was also an impatient cook and never without his smart phone which gave him the ability to interrupt even the most feeble attempts at solitude and creativity. Two texts in under a minute, “Dinner is ready. Dinner is ready!”

Her Imaginary Forms Remained Airy Nothings

She gave up and got up from her chair. She was disappointed. Her mind hadn’t once wandered off into that dreamlike place where real writers lost track of time and their surroundings, and even their own need for food and water, driving them to subsist on smoking and drinking. She told herself that Red Hots Cinnamon Mints would have to do, although her teen daughter had suggested that she tip back a few and “lighten up.”  She’d buy more mints tomorrow, and wait for her “airy nothings” to take form. If nothing happened there was always tequila, and several more rooms in the house. That just might work…next time.


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