On writer's block – a little story

I am not finding winter the best of times to write: low light, low mood, low motivation. So after a rather prolonged Christmas break, here’s a little story on writer’s block I wrote last year, which both fits the season and the fact that I haven’t quite got my act back together on the blogging yet! 😀

Mojo and I

When I get up in the morning, Mojo has gone. I take the kids to school, do the laundry, then start looking for Mojo around the flat. But no luck.

I tell Geoff when he comes home at lunchtime.

‘When did you last have it?’ Geoff asks.

I don’t even know, I hadn’t been paying much attention to it lately. Maybe it was feeling neglected. And now I’ve got a course assignment to write, and it’s not here. And I can’t write without Mojo.

‘Maybe it’s in the sofa,’ Geoff says.

The sofa is the first port of call for lost things; it swallows things small and large and irrespective of their ownership. It’s worth a shot, but I don’t have much hope: it’s not the kind of place Mojo usually hides. I retrieve three plastic dinosaurs, a pebble, a manky feather, various sequins, and my gym card. (Not to mention the crumbs.) But no Mojo.

I scan the room: papers and lego on the coffee table, a year’s worth of unread London Reviews of Books perched on a drum Geoff brought back from a trip to Liberia. Bookshelves cluttered with random stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere else. Various questionable heaps that might harbour all kinds of life, but definitely no Mojo. I start to feel heavy.

‘I can’t find it in here,’ I say to Geoff.

‘How about going for a walk?’ he suggests.

It’s a good idea; I’ll go to the park, there are trees there. Trees are good. Maybe Mojo had the same need, to be around something green.

I go to the recreation ground round the corner from our flat and shuffle along the path. It’s not cold, but the sky is grey and it feels like autumn. The trees are beautiful with their colourful leaves, squirrels scuttling up and down their rough trunks in search of nuts and pinecones and kebabs. There are a lot of birds on the field, pecking at something in the grass. I identify a flock of starlings, a flock of seagulls, and several wood pigeons. When I pass them, I see what it is that’s lured them all there: the crazy cat lady who lives opposite the rec has thrown out a whole loaf of bread for them again, the pre-cut, spongy type. (‘Squidge bread’, my children call it.)

I scowl at her house and walk on. The bin at the corner is overflowing as usual, cans of Guinness and lager and San Pellegrino spilling out of its open mouth. As long as I’ve lived here this town has never been clean, but recently it’s become particularly bad. Geoff says they’ve probably started emptying the bins less frequently, to save money. Next to the bin, someone has deposited a watermelon and a scuffed wicker basket with what looks like a board with cables attached to it sticking out the top. Something about this arrangement makes me feel queasy, so I decide to walk on into town instead. Besides, I’m now sure that Mojo isn’t here either: litter puts it off.

There’s a slight drizzle in the air now. I start to walk faster. My coat will keep out the drizzle but it can’t keep out the greyness, which has started to seep into my muscles. I take refuge in Boots; perhaps I can buy a new mojo here.

I approach one of the shop assistants who is busy stacking shelves with bottles of vitamins and iron supplements.

‘Excuse me,’ I say. ‘Do you have mojos, by any chance?’

She frowns up at me, then puts the supplements down.

‘I’m sorry?’ she says.

I start feeling hot. It was a stupid idea to ask her, of course they don’t have mojos in here. But there’s nothing for it now, I have to repeat my pointless question.

‘I was wondering whether you sell mojos at all.’

‘Mojos?’ the shop assistant says. ‘No, I’m afraid I’ve never herd of them. —Maybe try The Entertainer,’ she adds.

‘Okay, nevermind, thanks very much anyway,’ I say with a bright, sane person’s smile on my face, and make my escape.

Now on top of missing Mojo, I’m annoyed with myself. Idiot, I think. What was I thinking? I know you can’t just go and buy them. I’ve tried this before, I even once tried to get a prescription for one. I envy the shop assistant, who doesn’t even know about mojos. Maybe she doesn’t have one. Or maybe hers never runs away, and so she’s never even noticed it’s there.

There’s nothing to do now but go back home. I’ve tried to be proactive but it hasn’t worked, and if I’m going to be without Mojo I might as well be at home where it’s warm and dry and I can hide away from people.

Back at the flat, I stand in the middle of the living room and try to think. Geoff has gone back to work, so it’s just me again now. Me and the mess. I know Mojo doesn’t like mess but the thought of tidying it up right now fills me with dread. I’ll do it later, I tell myself, with the kids. It’s good for them to clear up every now and again.

I won’t open my laptop; I know I can’t write without Mojo, and if I open it now I’ll just end up on Facebook and Mojo hates Facebook. If it should come back and catch me looking at it, I might not see it again for days. I won’t open my phone either, I’ll just end up reading the news, and Mojo hates that, too. I think the news scares it — I can see why, most of the time.

The thought occurs to me that I could use the time while I’m waiting for Mojo to do something useful, something that’s not quite as daunting as clearing up. There’s a whole pile of clothes that need mending stuffed on top of the radiator next to the shelf, maybe I could have a go at that. I approach it with determination, but that dwindles with each step and by the time I’m standing in front of the pile there’s nothing left but heaviness: even this is too much without Mojo.

Sleep, I think, and I drag myself back to the sofa. I cocoon myself in the blanket that’s there and close my eyes. I feel miserable without Mojo. Heavy and grey. But sleep won’t come either, so I open my eyes again and start scanning the room for a book; it’s the next best thing. Too heavy, too light, already read that, not what I want right now. Then my eyes get caught on a sea green cover sticking out from underneath some papers on the coffee table. What’s this? Ah yes, it’s Jules Verne’s Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I’ve just finished reading this, it’s quite fresh in my mind, and somehow I feel like I’m not quite done with it yet. I pull it out and look at it. There’s a picture of a creature with tentacles reaching for a silhouetted submarine on the front. Something about those tentacles gives me an idea, I can feel the beginnings of a story bubbling up inside me. What if..?

And suddenly Mojo is there, bouncing across the room and onto the sofa.

‘Mojo!’ I say, hugging it tight. ‘You’re back!’

Mojo looks up at me with its big, clear, trusting eyes. It’s unpredictable and a little wimpier than most, but it’s still my Mojo, and right now I’m just glad that it’s back.

‘Come on, we have to do some work,’ I say, as it bounds alongside me towards the table. I know we’ll get frustrated with each other again, and it’ll disappear again before long, but we just have to make the most of it. That’s just how we roll, my Mojo and I.