The Novelist

man without qualities/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul

I have been trying to find a large chunk of undisturbed time with little success. Last week, I hit upon an idea for a novel. I need at least a few weeks of uninterrupted time to work on this idea. But this was not to be. Just this morning, when I finally had some free time to work on my story, my sister Ruth called. She calls me three or four times a week to discuss her everyday life.

Until last year, she called our mother. After her passing, I have been cast in that role. Since she is my kid sister, I could not bring myself to refuse these intrusions. Most days there is nothing in particular to discuss, at least from my point of view; but my dear sister sees the world more theatrically than I do, and so there is always this or that to be said about someone or something. Even when there is nothing of note, she shares with me her observations and insights. She called me this morning to share some mundane thing that happened at her workplace and then she talked about her daughter’s school project, all of which held little interest for me.

Another hurdle came in the form of my husband’s car. It needed some urgent repairs and had to stay at the mechanic’s for a couple of weeks. With just one car, I have been his chauffeur for a week. I have to plan my daily routine around his schedule. Then there is the volunteer work at the library a few hours every week spread over three days. Also, every Saturday evening I get together with some of my friends. Even though this is a routine I generally enjoy, they feel like time gobblers, now that I have decided to become a novelist.

Right now, I am sitting at the computer with my fingers poised at the keyboard, ready to go, as soon as ideas begin to flow. But nothing is happening. My head is still buzzing from the phone call with my sister.

If only I can find a couple of weeks where I can cloister myself in the den, without having to pick up the phone or leave the house. Maybe, I can make it happen next week, by when, Jim’s car would have returned from the mechanic.

When Ruth called today, I was a little less attentive than usual. She sensed the distraction and asked me about it. I managed an excuse about being tired lately. I also added that I might be coming down with the flu. She told me to get some rest.

After switching off the phone, I was excited and a little ashamed at myself for lying to my sister. But I was not ready to tell anyone about my little project. For now, I want it to be my little secret.


I continued the pursuit of finding a large chunk of unbroken time. With Jim’s car back from the mechanic’s, I had more time. I called the library and informed them that I will not be able to volunteer for the next two weeks. I cancelled the weekend plans with my friends.

Finally I was able to carve out a large chunk of undisturbed time.

I sat down at the computer and read the lines I had written with great relish. It read,
The last leaf of the season yellowed, dried, curled brown, blew on the driveway. It lay there rolling back and forth, cradled by a gentle breeze. Robert stared at it, unseeing, ignorant of its significance.

The next couple of lines came to me in a rush as my fingers flew on the keyboard.
The trees around him stood bare, with skinny arms raised to the skies in lament. The skies not seeming to care, was at its most brilliant blue.

I read and re-read the few lines with great sense of accomplishment. The opening passage looked very promising. I sat there with fingers poised over the keyboard ready for the ideas to flow. My mind drew a blank. I sat there a little longer. When inspiration refused to strike, I pulled out some notes about the novel I had managed to keep from time to time. I went through the scribbles hoping for an inspiration. When nothing happened, I told myself that I was too excited.

I walked to the garden, dug around a little bit in an effort to calm down. It was one of those beautiful summer afternoons with the high sun in a clear sky, while plump bees sat lazily on bright marigolds. It was so relaxing that I sat down on the porch swing, and began to contemplate the novel.

I woke up with a start. I must have dozed off. My God! Look at the time. I have to get to the grocery right away otherwise dinner will be too late. I decided to postpone the novel-writing to the next day.

The next two days brought little luck. The third day brought a small break. I was able to add one more line. A fruitless week had gone by.


I hear the phone ringing. I pick it up and ‘am glad to hear Ruth’s voice at the other end.

‘Hey sis, how are you feeling now?’ she asks.

‘I am fine Ruth. I am so glad you called.’ I say sheepishly.

‘I just wanted to check on you. You didn’t sound too well the last time I called.’

‘Oh, that. It was nothing, just the flu. I am fine now. I am glad to be back on routine. I will be going back to the library tomorrow. So fill me in on last week.”


2 thoughts on “The Novelist

  1. Nice story,I see same behavior with a person I talk daily, love to hear that voice even though nothing important to say..I like your writings. Keep writing..


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