Just start. Take that first – hard – step.
“I haven’t written since before Christmas,” I say to H. “If we stay at home, I’ll just keep working. I really want to write something – anything – today. Besides, we both need fresh air and some good coffee.”
So we stroll up the hill to the Village, past daffodil and crocus buds, to the little French pâtisserie where I spent so many Sundays over the summer and autumn, scribbling away while people-watching.
I open the A4 spiral notebook at a white page full of possibilities and take a deep breath. That’s not enough. I take a gulp of cappuccino. The coffee glides down my throat and injects some clarity into my fogged-up brain. Across the table from me, H. is engrossed in a large, hard-bound volume about Gabriele D’Annunzio. Without taking his eyes off the book, he reaches for his latte and takes a sip. I know I’ve dragged him away from his work, so we can’t go home until I have written something – anything.
One... Two... I pick up my Faber Castell and slowly unscrew the chrome cap. The pearwood barrel feels smooth in my fingers. I haven’t used my fountain pen for nearly two months. Well, I haven’t used it for anything important, that is – for anything creative.
I get a pang of anxiety as I hold the pen suspended above the page. I don’t know what to write. I suddenly think I can’t write. Was there ever a time when I could? I make a conscious effort to lower my hand, and the nib lands on the paper. An instant of thrill and anticipation. Like the moment when a sapphire needle lands on a spinning glossy black record and you wait for the music to begin. Two months of not writing. Weeks of trying to breathe whilst caught up in a whirlwind of work deadlines, teaching, translating, home-hunting, life changes, etc.
Swirls of shiny black ink start waving along the faint lines, slowly gaining momentum. I am suddenly a cauldron bubbling with emotions. Excitement, fear, longing, passion, joy and the overwhelming realisation of just how much I have missed writing.
My thoughts are shapeless forms floating, whizzing and sagging inside my head. They need a pen to sort them and give them a clear identity and purpose. My feelings are like a garden overgrown with weeds. They, too, need a pen to groom them into a sharper definition. I am an overworked bundle of uncontrolled emotions. I need to be written down, so that I can read myself and so see myself clearly. I can’t see because everything is inside me. So I slowly let it all pour out of me through the tip of the nib, and watch myself take shape in the glossy ink loops and curls that run across the white page where I begin to see myself.
I look up and meet H.’s eyes, full of gently amused kindness. He’s been watching me for a while. “Your face...” He looks for the right words, although I already know what he’s going to say.
“Is my face giving a theatrical performance?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says, smiling. “All those contrasting expressions.”