Andrew Wilson had been staring at the blank sheet of paper for the last five minutes. He tapped out a handful of words on his 1955 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter that he had bought from a pawn shop in Phoenix for $10 bucks more than twenty years ago. Since then, the typewriter traveled the country with him and helped write hundreds of short stories, twenty-seven novels including a few best sellers, and a motion picture script or two.
Andrew Wilson had been staring at the blank sheet of paper for the last five minutes. He tapped out a handful of words on his 1955 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter that he had bought from a pawn shop in Phoenix for $10 bucks more than twenty years ago. Since then, the typewriter traveled the country with him and helped write hundreds of short stories, twenty-seven novels including a few best sellers, and a motion picture script or two. Somehow it had always allowed the images and words that bounced around in his head to be translated onto paper in a mostly accurate manner. And, yet today, it betrayed him. He yanked the sheet of paper from its rollers, crumpled it, and tossed the wad over his shoulder with the rest of its discarded friends. Nothing was coming out as it should and it was frustrating him.
Andy slumped in his chair and sighed heavily. He had been at it all day and the spot beside his typewriter that held finished pages face down was troublingly empty except for the single sheet he used as his cover page with the tentative title The Marches of Ide and his name and agent’s contact information. Meanwhile, the stack of blank pages he fed the Royal steadily dwindled with each aborted attempt to put word to page. One by one, he put his thoughts to paper, and one by one, he rejected and tossed them over his shoulder for one reason or another. The pile of discarded opening lines accumulated quickly and grew to one of the largest piles he had ever produced in his career.
Andrew had struggled with writer’s block before, but he always managed to find his way through it. Sometimes it was resolved by a change to his music playlist, or going for a walk, or going over his outline once again, looking for something he missed. Somehow, someway, he always found a way through even the most difficult bouts of writer’s block.
This felt different. It was worse than simple writer’s block. There seemed to be a lack of emotion, of soul to the words the Royal hammered onto the paper with every key strike. It seemed … permanent.
Did he have any more stories in him? Was it even possible that he could run out of stories? Was he born with only a limited number of tales to tell and over the years he had withdrawn on his creativity so many times that he was now bankrupt? If so, how could he replenish his account?
Shaking the thoughts from his head, he picked up another sheet paper and fed it through the Royal. With his trusty companion at the ready, Andrew placed his fingers upon the typewriter’s keys and typed the first thing that came to his mind. He tried not to judge it, and just allowed the words to flow out of him. At this point he didn’t care if the words made any sense. The familiar tap-tap-tap-tap of the Royal was comforting and he let it go for as long as he could. He filled half a page with his brain dump before the tapping slowed and eventually stopped. With an uncomfortable silence filling the room, he took a look at what he had written. The first sentence wasn’t bad. Neither was the next. However, the further down the page he went, the worse it got. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He snatched the page from the machine, making it howl an anguished plea as its platen struggled to hold onto the fruit of its labors. Andy focused all of his frustrations into the crumpled wad of paper and chucked it over his shoulder with a growl.
The sound of laughing children mixed with fire, glass, and metal work caught his attention. Looking out the window, Judy was welding a piece of twisted metal to the frame of her fabricated sculpture, while their four children played in the yard with Leopold, their Irish Wolfhound. Jenny, his youngest daughter, giggled as she rode Leopold like a horse, holding onto his collar and harness, with her big sister, Tabby, Jogging beside them. His only son, Brian was in the sand box making a fortress for his action figures to stomp around, while Jessie lay on the grass tapping away at her phone in hand. Andy couldn’t help but smile.
Andrew had met Judy at a book reading for The Six Lives of Jacob at a seedy bookstore. He had noticed her during the reading and couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. Afterward, she had come to him with several questions about his book. He invited her out for coffee and they spent the evening discussing the finer points of the story. He fell in love with her that night, but he wasn’t brave enough to tell her until he released In The Name of the Father several years later. He proposed to her through the dedication page of Twist of Fates. He was editing the manuscript for Sunshine at the time of their wedding and even snuck out of the reception for half an hour to rewrite a paragraph that had been bothering him for the last couple of days. Tabby’s birth coincided with the publication of first Best Seller Microcossa. Jessie came along when he was between Tower of Imperico and The Madio Judgment. Brian was born an hour after turning in his outline for The Flowers of Eden, which he finished in the hospital. He was halfway through By the Light of Polaris when Jenny decided to enter the world ahead of schedule. They adopted Leopald a few months later, just as he was starting up The Chimes At Midnight.
His smile fell as realization struck. He recorded the passage of time and the important events in his life by the books he wrote. He had sacrificed a lot to give his family the life they deserved. In the early days, that meant he was at the Royal nearly nineteen hours a day jumping from writing assignment to writing assignment just to make rent, put food on the table, and daycare while Judy was working. Eventually, Judy would quit her job to focus on her sculpting after Creatures hit it big, shooting up the Bestseller lists for an average of a hundred and six consecutive weeks, inspiring a successful summer blockbuster with a couple of sequels and a television show that aired for a few of years and yielded a line of toys, comics and dozens of other licensing deals. He could have fallen into a more relaxed routine after the success of Creatures, but he didn’t – he couldn’t – his mind didn’t work that way. He always had a story to tell, and somehow always found an audience willing to throw money at him for it.
His family sacrificed the most for his choices. How many birthdays did he miss? How many holidays did he cut short to meet some deadline? How many working vacations did he subject his family to? How many school pageants and sporting events did he blow off for some new project?
Andrew Wilson saw his family every day at breakfast and again at dinner, but never truly saw them. Breakfast was usually spent outlining the day’s story progress, while over dinner he would review what he had written and try to identify areas that required additional attention. He always chose to work rather than listen to his family discuss their recent adventures at school, problems at work, or lessons learned at day care. Even when he wasn’t tapping away at the Royal and was able to join them in the living room, a stack of paper with a red felt pen, or a tablet with a stylus wasn’t too far out of reach. If he wasn’t writing, he was outlining or editing and as a result was never truly available to his family.
He was a workaholic writer. It was his life and his stories consumed him. Everything else was superfluous and that included his family.