I’m a writer, or at least I used to be. My first novel was short-listed for three prizes. My second won one and my third ended up on the ‘3 for 2’ table in a chain of bookstores I’m sure you’ve heard of. And then … nothing. No fourth novel, no stories, no novellas or reviews. Nothing.
What happened? Well, I met someone and I fell in love. It was crazy and whirlwind. I lived the cliché. We met in a bar in a French hotel and were married within four weeks. I was so happy, so content, that the angst, the fear and the anger which had driven my writing just evaporated.
Two months after we were married she told me she was pregnant. Six years and two more children later and I still haven’t written a word.
It’s not that I didn’t want to, you understand. Nor is it that I haven’t even tried. I have, but nothing happens. In the past year, as the money I earned from my early success started drying up and we had to move to a smaller house and sell furniture to make ends meet, I’ve tried more and more. I’ve even taken a ‘proper’ job teaching Creative Writing in a university, but it hasn’t solved the basic problem that I could no longer really call myself a ‘writer’.
Then, last night, as I sat on the bus on the way home, the woman in front of me finished telling her friend some rambling anecdote with an aphorism that I had never heard before. ‘Ah well,’ she said, ‘at least bad decisions make for good stories.’
I hadn’t heard what her decisions were, so I couldn’t judge the worth of her story, but the phrase wouldn’t leave me. I laid awake next to Mathilde all night, the idea of bad decisions and good stories turning over and over in my mind.
At some point, I slept, and when I woke a conclusion had been reached without me even being aware of it.
This morning I went into my class, told them they were all crap and should become farmers or pharmacists but not writers, and I walked out. I went into my Head of Department’s office and pissed in her waste-bin as she watched me, open-mouthed. I said nothing to her splutters of protest, merely zipped up and left. On my way back to the bus-stop I punched an old lady, stole her handbag, and ran. Once on the bus, I wrote a text to a putative mistress and sent it to my wife, leaving her in no doubt that I had been having an affair for a number of months. I know there was no doubt because of the empty wardrobes that I found when I returned home, and the note that she had left on the kitchen table.
Then, before coming in here to my office, I set fire to the curtains in the lounge. I can smell the smoke. I’m sure it’s taken a good hold by now.
So, the first part of the plan has been taken care of, my computer is humming in front of me, and I’m ready. All I need to do now is wait for the good stories to come.
I hope they’re quick.
Calum Kerr is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill and Winchester Universities, and has had a number of stories published in both traditional and online journals, including stories in the recent Bugged and Bad Language anthologies, The Delinquent, and Flash: the international short-short story magazine.