Back in the days when I did NaNoWriMo yearly I developed a strategy that helped me keep writing when my ideas dried up: two characters, the writer and the therapist. They got together whenever I needed to just do some stream of consciousness writing.
In honor of NaNo, which starts Friday, November 1, I present the best of “The Writer and the Therapist.”
The writer plopped down on the therapist’s squashy couch and expelled a shuddering sigh.
The therapist set his first edition Fromme on the table beside him and settled himself more solidly into his chair.
“So, long time no see. How is your writing coming along?”
“My story is starting to scare me, it has so many tentacles and branches and weird suction cup thingies that threaten to attach to my brain and pull it out of my skull.”
“Ah, so writing is threatening. Perhaps Freud would have something to say about that. Perhaps the suction cups represent the woman’s, ah, genitalia, very threatening – might suck one in and refuse to let go, no? And the tentacles, ah yes, very phallic. Perhaps your mother was too clinging, your father too demanding? Hmmmm?”
“Oh, geez. Don’t go all Viennese on me. Sometimes a suction cup is just a suction cup, a tentacle just a tentacle. Please try again.”
“Well, I notice a fear of chaos holds you back when you actually ARE writing, then I notice that you also fear chaos in a way that holds you back FROM writing. If you didn’t fear chaos you wouldn’t mind letting your story run a little wild. Really, what will happen if you let the story go where it wants to go?”
“Hmmm . . . now you’re talking.”
The ringing of the telephone roused the therapist’s wife from a fitful sleep in which she had imagined she was being chased by a group of women, all of whom were brandishing halved pomegranates.
By this time, the therapist had struggled up from his slumber. He had an unpleasant feeling he knew who was on the other end of the phone.
Yep, just as he thought. Like the fucking tide, this one.
“I – I – I can’t do this!”
Next year he was going to demand a November retainer from this particular patient. “I’m scared.” “I’m stuck.” “Help me.” Really – people are starving, Syria and Egypt are in chaos, but no, stop the world, the writer needs to talk.
“OK, what’s the matter?”
“I can’t think of any new ideas. Help me.”
“Just write. Stay off the phone and write.”
“But . . .”
“Sorry, it’s late. That’s all I got. Bye.”
“So, you are struggling with the writing, yes? How can we help you do better?”
The new therapist peered at her from behind an excellent pair of retro Henry Kissinger glasses. After the late-night debacle she realized she needed a better support system. This guy had come highly recommended.
But first she was going to have to overcome his office furniture. This wasn’t the new style of leather sofa, buttery soft and luxurious. No, this was old school leather, the kind that covers horsehair stuffing – glossy and firm and more slippery than a lubricated butter stick.
There would be no sinking gratefully in this leather – rather there would be a struggle to the near death as the sofa tried to shunt the crack between backrest and seat – a crack of biblical proportions. The writer had a fleeting nightmare image of being summarily jackknifed and levered through the slot like the daily post through a letter slot.
“ . . . how you were toilet trained?”
The writer looked up from her battle with the sofa, just in time to catch the word “toilet.”
“Sure, please, don’t let me stop you.”
The therapist leaned forward, fingertips steepled under his chin. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, didn’t you just say you need to go to the restroom? Go ahead, please don’t let me keep you.”
“Ah, no, interesting that you interpret my question of you to mean something about me and my toilet habits. I was asking you about your toilet training. How was it?”
“Um, really, I don’t know. I was too young to really remember. But, now that we’re on the topic, I need to use the restroom.”
“Ah, now we are getting somewhere . . .”