I’ve referred every so often in these posts to writing prompts, or words and phrases that might make good ones. I then ask myself whether I’ll ever use them, but I don’t. If I’m honest, every time I mention one, I know full well it won’t see the light of day again. I don’t know whether that’s because of laziness, a lack of confidence, or the absence of a good idea, but whatever the case I don’t push it. It’s in those situations that I wonder what I’d write if I was put under pressure to come up with something, as I have been on occasion. Two weeks ago, I was tested in exactly that way when I attended a writers’ group at a coffee shop in Winchester.
It’s a place I’ve been a loyal customer of for a number of years now, but until that day I’d had no idea that they met in there. I approached them tentatively, notebook and pen on my lap. Unlike some of the others – including an ex-diver working on a memoir about his time exploring underwater caves in Mexico – I had nothing to share, because this was my first week and I needed to establish the lay of the land. Don’t get me wrong, I was still an active participant, but I kept relatively quiet, only dropping in the odd nugget of feedback here and there. This back-seat approach paid dividends, because it quickly allowed me to feel comfortable around the others and in what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t long before I was scribbling away without a care in the world, which is where the aforementioned prompt comes in.
“What I want you to do,” said the lady leading the session, “is to find the last message you sent on your phone, take it out of its original context, and use it as a starting point for a piece.” All I’m going to do now is present you with the line I found on WhatsApp, and the two-person dialogue that evolved from it. It’s amazing what you can manage when you’re given a little nudge in the right direction. In fact, I think it was enough of a nudge to convince me to go back again soon. Make of this what you will…
“Luckily, I won’t need it today, because I’m busy over lunch.”
“What are you so scared of anyway?”
“What am I scared of? What am I NOT scared of? This is huge!”
“It’s a coffee and a chat, and then you never have to see her again. My mother always said difficult conversations are best had quickly.”
“Or not at all?”
“Oh, come on!”
“It definitely will be difficult as well. She’s hardly the kind of person you can make small talk with. Everything’s either world politics or high culture, and there’s a time and a place for that.”
(a beat, then the same character speaks again)
“So why did you agree to marry her then?”