Tag Archives: relationships

Writing awkwardness

Over the last few days I’ve been writing about a burgeoning teenage relationship. The first, for my protagonist. I’d been wondering why there was so much to-ing and fro-ing on my keyboard, so much doubt about the right way to express things, so much angst as I painfully tapped out the scenes word by awkward word.

And then I realised this morning, just as I was about to give up, that maybe, actually my writing was just mirroring what was going on with my characters. That my inability to find the right thing to say, the painstaking cautiousness with which I was placing the words on the page, was just a living metaphor for the relationship that was unfolding.

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It made a lot of sense. Because when I stopped to think about it, it wasn’t all awkward. Those excruciating moments where I just wanted to hide under a rock were sandwiched more often than not by others where the words flowed freely, where I just let myself be carried along by the excitement of it all.

It’s been surprisingly tricky transporting myself back to the mind of a teenager. I say surprising, because if I’m honest with myself I was stuck in the realms of teenage angst for way longer than I should have been. But it has been the innocence that has been hard to capture: an internal monologue unsullied by experience. In the scenes I’ve been writing this week, my protagonist has been twelve and thirteen. She’s clever, and she knows things, but she hasn’t lived them yet.

I’ve had to really hold onto that, because my main conceptualisation of this character has been as an older girl and woman. Thoughts and phrases have come into my head that seem to fit the situation she’s in, but actually she’s not quite there yet: I’ve stored them away for the scenes yet to come where they will be far more relevant.

And it’s in these coming scenes that my tolerance for awkwardness will really be tested. This first relationship, over before it had really begun, was just the warm-up to the main event, where adolescent awkwardness is just a sideline to the many layers of crazy we are about to find ourselves embroiled in.

I think it’s going to be rather fun.

 

Writing Bubble

The gift

Pencils

She sat on the sofa, knees drawn up to her chest and arms stretched out in front of them holding her masterpiece proudly. It looked so much like him. It wasn’t just the physical features, although her graphite lines perfectly moulded the contours of his stately nose, those deep, dancing eyes, the lips turned tantalisingly upwards at their ends in a constant almost-smile.

More than that, she’d captured something of his very essence. It would be easy to sympathise with those who were afraid that a photograph might steal something of their soul if you saw just how uncanny the resemblance of this drawing was to her love.

She sighed and placed it carefully down on the coffee table. He would be home soon, and she couldn’t wait to give him his present.

She padded through to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine, hearing the insistent buzz of her phone as she returned.

Birthday drinks with Rob. Back by eight I promise. Love you. 

A cloud of irritation enveloped her, and she immediately chastised herself for being so unreasonable. It was his birthday, right? If he wanted to go for drinks she could hardly stop him. Besides, it would be eight in just over an hour.

She settled back down on the sofa and flicked on the TV.

An hour passed, and then another. The wine had definitely begun to go to her head, dulling her senses though it did nothing to dampen her annoyance. She’d texted him twice now, but of course she’d had no reply.

He stared up at her from the heavy sheet of cartridge paper that held his likeness. It had been the most expensive she could find, a dream to work with. As she stared back at him she realised that something was not quite right. It was hard to put her finger on exactly what: a shadow on his cheekbone, or maybe the angle of the underlying structure itself.

She stood and retrieved her tin of pencils from the bookcase by the window, pausing for a moment to check that he was not about to surprise her. The street below was busy as it always was on a Thursday night, but of him there was no sign.

Even as she made the very first line on the paper she knew it was a mistake. She was way too drunk for this. Yet once she’d started she had no choice but to continue.

She began gently, evening out the opposite side of his face to conceal her error, then adding weight to the lines around his mouth and eyes. Her anger seeped through her fingers, into the lead of the pencil and onto the page. She was angry with him, both the real him and this edifice that would not stop looking at her. But more than that she was angry at herself – for being an idiot once again, for having too much trust in him and none at all in her own judgement.

The solidity of the paper was satisfying as she scrawled deeper and deeper into it. He became monstrous, a parody of himself on his darkest days. His almost-smile became a leer, his nose a beak, the inviting pools of his eyes turning into terrifying caverns of infinite darkness.

She stopped before she had obliterated his features completely, investing the last of her rage into a tightly cross-hatched canvas to amplify the horror of what she had done.

The lead of her pencil snapped, finally giving in, and it brought her back to herself, to their flat and his imminent arrival home. Her hands were shaking as she stood, and as a final gesture she toppled her half-empty wine glass, spilling its blood-red contents across the remains of his gift.

It was then that she heard his key in the lock. He staggered slightly as he opened the door, taking three deliberate steps into the room before closing it behind him.

“Sorry I’m late.”

She didn’t know what she could possibly say, so instead she said nothing.

He didn’t seem to notice, pausing to kiss her clumsily as he stumbled to the sofa. He picked up the ruined drawing that lay in front of him, squinted at it slightly, and broke into a smile.

“This is really good!”

“Are you taking the piss?”

She couldn’t be doing with this now. A row she could handle, but she didn’t have the patience for his insidious sarcasm.

“Seriously, I mean it. Can I take it to the gallery tomorrow?”

Her mouth twisted in on itself, the only outward sign of the scream that was threatening to explode her chest.

“Goodnight. Oh, and happy birthday.”

He was gone by the time she woke up the next day. She figured he must’ve slept on the sofa. The portrait was gone too, and in its place was a note.

Really sorry about last night. I’ll make it up to you I promise. Love you.

She was too hungover to be angry, and just felt really stupid. All that hard work, those hours and hours of meticulous draughtmanship, and for what?

She fired up the computer before heading into the kitchen to make a coffee. There were too many deadlines to be met today for her to be able to afford another minute mired in regret.

It was just after three when the email came in.

It was from the gallery where he worked, but not from him. She recognised the email address as one which had borne news of many a rejection when she’d submitted her drawings in the past. This time though the mood was rather different.

Original, they said. So fresh and exciting. A total departure from her previous work. They were sorry not to have identified it before but she clearly had a real talent, a gift. They would be honoured if she would consider selling this piece for inclusion in their collection.

She had to read it four or five times before the words began to make sense.

Maybe she could forgive him after all.

 

mumturnedmom
Nikki Young Writes

 

Solitude

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For a long time my greatest fear was being alone.

I’m not sure when it started. Possibly around the time that I stopped believing in the fairies at the bottom of my garden and realised how mean people could be.

Often I would feel lonely even in a crowd. Especially then.

It took me forever to shake that gnawing teenage angst that no-one really understood me – or even wanted to. I had friends. Some really great friends, I can see that now. But at the time my paranoia wouldn’t let me appreciate them as much as I should have.

As you can probably imagine this didn’t bode terribly well for functional relationships. In my twenties I pinballed between variously inappropriate men: some lovely, some not so lovely, but none the right person to fill that chasm in my soul, however much I tried to convince myself that they were.

I began to think I should maybe look elsewhere, and decided to give internet dating a shot. It wasn’t really my thing, but I convinced myself I was being old-fashioned. I knew an increasing number of people who had found their soul-mate online after all.

One evening, after a couple of glasses of wine, I settled down to fill in the (rather lengthy) questionnaire which would give me access to one of these internet dating sites. As I made my way through the questions, responding as honestly as I could, I couldn’t help but begin to feel excited. This site was building such a detailed profile of me that it promised to only show up ‘deeply compatible’ potential partners. Whatever idiosyncrasies I feared I may have, well, they would have them too! No more trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, so to speak. This was it: my chance to find the perfect partner.

And then the results came back.

They started by saying they were very sorry, that this didn’t happen often. Well, ever actually.

But in their database of over three million people they did not, in fact, have a match for me.

This really makes me giggle when I think about it now. And it did then too, once I’d got over the initial shock. No wonder I’d had trouble finding love, had never been able to shake that niggling feeling of being alone – there simply wasn’t anyone out there who I was compatible with!

I decided it was time to make peace with myself, to accept my wonderful uniqueness for what it was, to begin to revel in being solitary rather than being afraid of it.

It didn’t last long. A couple of months later I found my future husband (sort of online as it happens) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Whilst I think I had finally got to a place where I was happy on my own, it’s hard to put into words how wonderful it was – and still is – to have found the person I’d been looking for. We have only been together for five years, but in that time we’ve shared so many adventures.

Now that we’ve embarked on this great adventure of parenthood together I’ve pretty much forgotten what it feels like to be alone. And the little person who has shared almost every minute with me since his conception almost three years ago does not care that I’m a bit peculiar. In fact he probably loves me even more because of it.

I admit that nowadays there are even times when I crave a bit of solitude.

But then I look back at how far I’ve come, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am finally happy in my skin. And whilst it might now be a moot point, I am no longer afraid of being alone.

 

mumturnedmom