Hatching Phase by Ella Road

Ella Road, one of our Emerging Writers’ ruminates on having writer’s block.

There’s a tree outside my bedroom window

That didn’t give any apples last year.
I’d watched it carefully from my desk.
Was worried it was dying.
But my housemate said that things sometimes need a fallow phase.

It didn’t drop any apples this year either
I’m scared it’s dead.
Maybe it’s the pollution, bloody London air.
I can’t even really remember if they tasted that nice anyway, the apples. I think they were a bit weird.

I’ve arbitrarily decided it’s indulgent to have eggs for breakfast on a workday.
Takes a bit long.
I need to get on.
So I don’t. I always save them.
But then they go rotten and I have to throw them out.
‘I’m sure I only bought these last…
Oh is it January already?! Christ’
London moves so fast.
But I don’t.
I write incredibly slowly.
It’s like teasing out a splinter I’m not entirely sure is there.
Could just be freckle.
Or a sun-spot.

‘How’s the writing going?’
‘Yeah, OK thanks. Don’t know where the time goes. Wish I had a camera in my room to see what I got up to all day…’
Trite repetitions of the same catch phrase.
‘…maybe I’m in a thinking phase’.
I’m being honest though.
If it wasn’t so confusing I’d praise myself for possessing the world’s only domestic black-hole.
I’d charge entry to see it:
The invisible vortex in the chair by my desk.

The only thing I have that shows the time passing,
Empirical evidence I mean,
Is that the scab
On my head
Where I scratch
When I think
Gets a little bigger.

‘You’ll get a bald patch’, says my step-mum.

I wonder whether I’m doing it subconsciously to try to release something.
To open up a hole in my skull so my ideas can get out.
I imagine them all swirling around in there
How powerful they might be. Ghosts. Giants. Titans.
If they escaped.
Ran riot,
Building great structures never seen before,
Stone highways out of words,
Throwing thunderbolts made of… I don’t know.
Maybe they don’t exist.
Probably don’t.
I don’t believe in ghosts.
Probably it’s just blood and cells and water in there.

Scratch scratch scratch.
Working through the skin and bone like a miner chipping away at rock.
Deeper, deeper, nearly there.

I wonder if I lost all my hair
Whether my strength would go
Like Sampson.
Or was it Delilah?
I wonder whether I’d be a better writer if I’d actually read the Bible, or the Torah, or Quran. Or Socrates. The News. Any of those texts that form the pillars of society (apparently).
I wonder if I’m actually a fraud.
Wiki-Knowledge, pseudo experience, and ‘Siri, what is love?’
I wonder… I’m wondering again.
And the yellow morning light has gone.
I mourn the morning.
Tea time.

‘Time is just a human construct’.
I busy myself Googling astrophysics to make myself feel better.
String theory. B-theory. Block theory.
Theories that theorise me and my own block out of existence.
The earth’s history is so long that it literally means F* all
If I spend eighty years
Drinking tea
And talking about ideas
That I’d like to write, but never do.
‘How’s the writing going?’
‘Oh yeah fine, don’t know where the time goes’
Imposter fears.
Frustrated tears.
5.8billion years
That’s how old the earth is.
And it’s all going to implode when the universe shrinks again
So why does anything I write matter anyway?
Erm… no one ever said it did…
Oh yeah.
Maybe I should get job that feels a bit more worthwhile.

Meanwhile a conker appears on the pavement.
I thought it was Spring, didn’t we only just…?

I’m 27, so I might die this year, right,
I might die in some hedonistic scandalous way,
And then they’ll look at my oeuvre and realise
That I’ve only actually written one play
One play and a load of angsty teenage poems
That should never see the light of day.
And then I remember that it’s only geniuses & rock-stars in the 27club anyway.
So I’ll be fine.
I’ll dedicate my documents and diaries and poems to my sister in my will
Just to piss her off.
I imagine her begrudgingly sifting through the self-indulgent ramblings.
I wonder if she’d hate the real me. I wonder if she hates the fake me anyway.
I wonder, and I wonder out to buy some dishwasher tablets.

It’s Christmas again and I’m still hatching.
Soft and warm and vulnerable
Like a sleeping child
But wide awake
For no other reason than the three coffees I’ve downed to keep my seat in the cafe and placate the beady-eyed bar staff.
I know it’s their job.
I know they’re working hard.
‘Yes, me again. Just another black ameri-
Oh you’re closing? Oh’.
I thought there’d be a prize chicken to roast by now.
Full and fat and dripping, ready to feed the five thousand.
Thick thighs. Honey glaze.
But I’m stuck in this hatching phase
Not as robust as I look.
Always been good at seeming a lot sturdier than I actually am.
That’s drama school for you.
And genetics:
We’ve got strong legs, us girls.

Tap tap tap on the shell
Scratch scratch scratch on my skull
Is anybody home?

Are you joking, why are they selling Lindt bunnies in the supermarket in January?
It’s March.
Already marching onwards to
Foolish April
Ready to Spring
Into May
Without warning
Sorry but did you ask me if that was OK? Did I consent for the year to just carry on? June will have a word, she doesn’t like surprises.

They’re waiting for the hen to lay the golden egg.
Or just any kind of egg really
At this stage
Chick chick chick chick chicken… lay a little /

God I love summer.
I suck up the sunshine like syrup through a straw – slow and sticky,
Feel life trickling back into my veins
Fall in love all over again
With London
And life
And myself.
And I feel like I could write a thesis, an epic, just on sound of the breeze through the trees, and the brightness in people’s eyes when the sky is that blue, that wide, that –

The doorstep’s red.
Blood shed
Leaf litter and dread
Rising thick
Autumn has murdered Summer again.

And I know my laptop must be full, must be brimming with stuff
But I can’t see it.
It’s just as square
And light
And smug
A little dirtier perhaps
Tea stains and sticky bits and green flecks from the wasabi peas I always buy from Picturehouse when I work there.
Because they’re delicious
But also because they’re cheap
And maybe a little because I hope their heat
Will light a fire under my

I wonder if I should buy some stationary…
I’ve always liked to think of myself as the kind of person who has a pencil case.
Been using a tiny blue Barclays biro for the past two weeks.
They were built on the Atlantic slave trade weren’t they…? Barclays.
Oh GOD, I’m writing in blood.
Colonial ink.
I chuck it in the bin. Pack up. Go to the shops.
Suddenly on an incredibly urgent mission.
Work can wait.
And I wander through the perfect piles of paper
Rows of empty notebooks
Pens lined up in height order
Pages and pages of untouched white.
I wander, and I wonder what they’ll all be filled with?
The man behind the counter smiles.
How many people like me does he see everyday?
Lost between the ruler-lines.
He has soft eyes. Laugh lines. Asks if I’m a student in an accent I can’t place.
‘I wish’.
I said.
It’s quiet.
London bustles outside.
He shuffles the envelopes around.
I’ll bet he has a fascinating life.

I wonder if I should write a play set in a shop.
Perhaps big things don’t have to happen in big places.
The old man glances up at me.
‘Looking for anything particular?’
I look down.
Perhaps the real battlegrounds
Are smaller, tighter, leaner
Perhaps I’m taking this all a bit too…
Or perhaps I shouldn’t even bother at all,
Perhaps I’m barking up the wrong –

‘No, look!’, says my housemate. ‘Look! Just there.’
I squint through the green leaves.
Oh yeah.
A tiny apple, nestled at the top.
‘Yeah. So there is’.

Read more from our emerging writers Zia Ahmed and Sophia Leuner.