Average Writer

Posted on by Dave Woodruff

The world of writing is a muddled world at best. Perhaps muddled isn’t even the best description. The best description eludes every writer. The best illustration or illumination is always past the next corner. The most absorbing portrayals are always just out of reach or the victim of aphasia. Aphasia in case you are curious is the loss of ability to express or understand speech. It’s also the oddball work for having something on the tip of your tongue. The writer’s lament is the recurring aphasia and the wispy, ghostlike apparitions flitting to and fro between conscious and subconscious. The best ideas are always lost just as the twilight after the sunset. The writer waits just a moment too long, and then the thing which never really was, is no more again. The slippery visualizations are the core of every story, the abstraction of something from nothing, moving thoughts into written words, and from there, into the real world is the eternal wrestle of the writer. Lucas knew this all to well.

Lucas was an average writer. To be more precise, Lucas was an average person. In a crowd he did not stand out. His height was normal, his hair standard, clothing typical. He made a joke he was gifted with the four “U’s”...unexceptional, unremarkable, undistinguished, underwhelming, unfortunately, he was not uncommon. Try as he may, his persistent writing never amounted to much more than the amalgam of his four “U’s.”

To be adequate requires a fair amount of work. Not a lot of work, if one tries too hard, success could be the outcome. The better approach is to be pedestrian in your efforts. Imagine yourself as another person in the lemming sea flowing smoothly and gracefully down the sidewalk with no destination or ambition in mind. There were likely as many reason why Lucas was average as ways to describe his mediocrity.

A curse which had befallen Lucas was his understanding and love for great literature. Although he was normal as 98.6, his love and devotion to becoming an esteemed, admired writer were exceptional. He dreamt of shaping himself into the writer he wanted to be. To be more accurate, he dreamt he was the writer he wanted to be. Instead of making himself something extraordinary, he decided to settle for something more attainable. For many years Lucas’ most beloved writer was William Saffron. In all the ways Lucas was typical, William Saffron was the antithesis. Success and talent clung to William like mothers sending their sons off to war. The air surrounding him was so thick with confidence you could taste it like honey on your tongue. Lucas made it his ambition to become everything William was. He would entwine his roots into the soil of William’s psyche.

His plan was simple. Not exactly elegant, more accurately, another “U” word, uncomplicated. Lucas devised a plan to travel to William’s hometown and persistently observe him until he could divine the key to William’s artistry. What the plan lacked in imagination, it balanced out in simplicity. Lucas sold his Honda Civic, took the cash and for nearly five months shadowed William around the streets, restaurants and bars of San Francisco. Watching him eat, sleep, shop, work, and all the time, never interacting with him. Interfacing on a personal level was never part of the plan, and would not work in any form. The term “Stalking” could have been used by an outside observer. It’s a bit more complicated to pin down. Lucas wasn’t interested in the personal goings on of William. It was far deeper and even more convoluted. The average stalker relies on the happenstance of seemingly casual meeting. Lucas’ motivation was to understand what makes a great writer tick, through careful and constant observation. 

This went on for over three months. Lucas learned what Mark Twain meant about San Francisco summers. But, in truth, he learned little more about William. He watched him go to the same coffee shops where he would scribble notes and musings in a small Moleskine notebook. The book itself became a holy grail of sorts. Lucas imagined the depth of postulation and vision held in its pages.

One Wednesday morning, the SF precipitation was having a difficult time deciding between mist and rain. William was attempting to hail a cab, he stood on a corner with a newspaper above his head to keep the soak at bay. The sports section hung down far enough to obscure his vision of an errant driver passing a bus in a no passing zone. William was struck down. Lucas saw the Moleskine notebook fly as a result of the impact. His first instinct was to run and retrieve it, his motivation was two-fold. Firstly, it contained more wealth than any bank, at least in the way he measured wealth, secondly, he could not envision the contents of the book washing away in a gutter of the city.

William suffers a skull fracture and concussion, a broken pelvis, a broken right collar bone, and a fractured right wrist. Lucas accompanies William to the hospital in the ambulance telling the drivers they are friends. This isn’t what he had in mind for a meeting. It’s likely not what William had in mind for anything.

The concussion renders William in a state of confusion and lacking in certain aspects of memory. He hasn’t lost his memory, some things are just foggy like the drive back to his apartment with Lucas.

In the next week William assumes Lucas is either a casual acquaintance, or a helper sent by the hospital to assist with the many burdens he has from the accident. Lucas gives very little information and is as uncomfortable with the unfortunate circumstances, which brought him this strange fortune. William, does make an important note of thanking Lucas for retrieving his notebook.

A tragic byproduct of the accident is William’s inability to write or type with his various injuries and casts. Lucas agrees to become the transcriptioner for William's writing. It is a dream come true for Lucas. This will be the true window into the heart, and soul and psyche of a true literary genius.

Days turn to weeks, weeks to months. William’s new book is taking on glorious shape. Lucas absorbs the gifts to see beyond the obvious. He learns to illuminate in a way he had never imagined. He learns to brighten the muted murk pulled over his eyes and the eyes of the world. Writing isn’t simply describing something, it is making something which otherwise couldn’t be described. Throughout their entire time together Lucas conceals his true yearning to be a writer.  While riding the train back from the hospital to have William’s last cast removed, Lucas tells William how his mentorship and insight have inspired him to become a writer. William, in turn tells Lucas of how he could never have written his current novel without his assistance and devotion.

William’s novel is published to brilliant reviews. It begins a steady climb of the various best seller lists. Lucas is credited on the sleeve as an inspiration. William is healed, and in a more significant way, so is Lucas. Over the next months Lucas sequesters himself away as he begins work on a new story. The story takes shape and blossoms into a tale of obsession wrought from incertitude and void of aplomb. The story becomes a novel as it sweeps the valleys of self deprecation and service, it is only completed with the transformation and birth from a chrysalis. New life from another form, allure from tragedy, grace under pressure.

Lucas has his novel published to reviews unimagined for a first-time writer. The reprint offers are astounding. His climb of the best seller lists is more accurately described as a jump. The book he knocks from the throne is William's. Lucas’ book is simply a retelling of the past year of his life. His self doubt, his awkward plans to reconcile, the tragedy, redemption and absolution, and eventual rebirth. The story of Lucas and William Saffron. The character names are changed, but two people are quite familiar with the story. Lucas’ novel is titled in a eulogistic tribute to his past demons, a “U” word... Unexpected.