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The Barren Writer's Theme Park

The writer's wonderland in the middle of a dry spell.

By Nagisa K.Published 3 years ago 8 min read
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The Barren Writer's Theme Park
Photo by Vitor Fontes on Unsplash

I am a writer that regularly falls into months-long dry seasons. Inspiration vaporizes like California’s reservoirs, the colorful strokes depicting the images in my head all dull and dusted. And while I’m sweeping up these dunes of dead thoughts, the gates to the Barren Writer’s Theme Park creak open, their rusted hinges screaming in agonized refusal.

No use cleaning this up. The dust keeps coming back anyway. Come with me for a stroll.

Brainstorm Mile (Understaffed)

A town-like thoroughfare, bricks accenting a clean sidewalk and new pavement. Rustic streetlights at regular intervals, blossoms streaming from hanging baskets. Squared arches create a staggered spiral in the center of the main plaza, strings of water cascading like beaded veils. Little ideas—glass flowers, music boxes, seashells, old books, lanterns, candles, marbles, animal figurines—line the windowpanes of cottage shops along the sidewalk.

No staff operate these shops. Not even the boutique or hair salon. It’s just me. I haven’t welcomed in a huge influx of visitors since my last big project two or three years ago. I tried a few smaller projects in between, but my following dissipated like smoke, vaporized into a distant dream.

Ideally? Well-rounded, complex characters would staff these shops. For now, I walk back and forth between them, rearranging ideas and moving inventory from one shop to another. The pieces must be in their proper composition before I can even consider staffing. Either that, or as you can see from this stack of character blueprints and applications, staffing becomes a parallel process with inventory management.

Don’t worry about those papers flying away. I obviously didn’t care enough about those traits, flaws, quirks, hobbies, appearances, or arcs to pin them into someone’s file.

Yes, all this is—feels—necessary. I grew up with that cancer called perfectionism.

That’s the first thing you unlearn as a writer. You won’t get everything right the first time—so just write.

Can’t argue with that. Follow me to the next zone, then. You’ll see the result of that idea.

Blockhenge

The pavement from Brainstorm Mile becomes a pale, bricked sandstone road. While the main road continues on deeper into the park, thinner paths branch from the sides. These small roads, following the directions of the words burned into the brick, gain terrain. Winding, rising, falling, zigging and zagging, looping about with the beat and flow of the words until some distance away, they settle into calm straightaways, and then—

By Linda Yuan on Unsplash

BAM.

I’m sorry, I forgot to warn you about that one. How’s your face? There’s more of those around, especially at the ends of these paths, so mind your nose.

With its thick, towering blocks for miles into the skyline, this zone, this concrete jungle called Blockhenge, is my perennial curse. Every time I hit one: “Ah, again.” A sigh. “Ah, yet again.”

New blocks sprout around here like weeds; you can’t turn in place without almost hitting your face again. More experienced writers instruct me to write around the blocks, to pick up the story from the next place I can start laying down the bricks again.

Two problems with that.

1: I am so straightforward of a person that skipping parts or “writing around” these blocks encourages more to spring up further down the line, leaving me ricocheting between them like a super bouncy ball thrown by a softball fast pitcher.

2: You’ll see if you come around this way, to the other side of this block…

Let’s see, this sign says... “Boring character. Needs more action.”

And there’s another block just past these weeds. I noted on this one—mind the weeds; they stick like Velcro—“Shallow worldbuilding. Incorporate more interaction.” Worldbuilding. So that’s what made the weeds so thick here.

I know what to improve to dismantle these blocks. So I go back to the paths' blueprints and start brainstorming again. I’ll find the one, true, electrifying answer eventually, but then weeds trip me up and clog the fuel lines for branding the bricks. How much of this answer do I save for revisions? Do I delay continuing the project to take notes, clear the weeds, and refine the blueprints yet a-freaking-gain?

Do I have the strength to pick up a pen like a concrete pylon and grind it across paper as blistering in its blankness as a sunbeaten stone slab?

I’m creeping closer and closer to answering “no.” Daily life—working, paying bills, organizing the house, cooking tonight’s dinner, shopping for toothbrushes and sanitary napkins, showering, eating, even going to the bathroom—shaves my minutes and strength away.

Speaking of draining, how about some refreshments and a cozy place to relax?

Aesthetic Square

Constant rain, controlled between pleasant drizzle and steady thunderstorm.

Here. Your headphones. For the music. 24/7 lo-fi and chillhop mix. Or whatever I have on loop whose melody creates the diorama of the scene I’m writing. Sometimes, I turn off the music for seaside ambience, in gentle rolls and ebbs of the tide against an imagined beach. Intermittent chirping calls of umiduya- over a bated crash of the sea.

Sound defines this space, but we also set up some specialty shops. Colored ink pens—ballpoint gel, 0.3., 0.5, and 0.7 size. Moleskine notebooks—only the thick ones with 400 pages, some lined, some plain for sketches, or a combination of both. Comfy kimono tops, haori, jinbei, and lounge pants in kariyushi designs. Mugs with witty lines or pastel color designs, and specialty teas. My favorite is hibiscus.

By Manki Kim on Unsplash

Got a couple snack shops too. They match our teas. Dark chocolate biscuits and almonds. Inca corn. Financier cakes: butter, almond, honey, or chocolate.

Lounge areas: wicker disk chairs and hanging egg chairs. Egg chairs recommended for the thrill of possibly rolling away in one. Thick cushions around floor-level desks and tables. Bookcases stuffed to bursting with books, writing references, and notebooks. So many notebooks. College-ruled, spiral-bound or hand-stitched, hard or soft-covered. All filled.

No plants or pets around here—the presence of other lives steals the breath from the beat of the typed or written word.

Relax without distraction. That’s the rule here.

When you feel like walking, though, let me know. There’s one more place we can visit.

Shrine of the First Pantheon

Past Aesthetic Square, the pavement turns and dips then fades into a forest trail. A whisper rises as a breeze shakes the trees. Leaves of all shapes—broad, narrow, fan-like, serrated—burgeon upon ashen branches. Fragments of my thoughts, in words, phrases, sounds, and rhythm, glitter in between the veins. A breath seizes the forest. Thoughts surround us, the branches churn alive into coiling vines, the entire forest writhes as we squeeze through one opening after another. Between roots and underbrush, over hollow trunks and circles of fallen leaves, we follow a guiding hum until the verdancy parts.

Here we are.

By Samuel Berner on Unsplash

The Shrine of the First Pantheon.

Moss creeps along crumbling stone lanterns. Paper talismans and streamers flutter, the brushwork of spells and prayers stark against the open sky. A purification well sits to the side, the paint of its awnings peeling, the sign faded. Old leaves from autumns past blanket the path to the shrine.

Yeah, maintenance of this place regularly falls off.

Why is the disrepair so regular?

I wonder too.

The characters enshrined here come and go just like the seasons. With their irregular visits, however, I can never keep up with their specific tastes in accommodations: offerings of their favorite foods, displaying their representative artifacts, pulling their folios and scrolls from the back—

Yeah, the shrine also functions as a storehouse for character files. Past the partition, in that shadowed back of the shrine, beyond the dusty drawers and among the cobwebbed scrolls—that’s where I store my characters’ files. And my past glories. Projects I finished and somehow still loved after the first fifteen minutes of completion. Projects that still earn positive reviews and affirmations. Projects that I personally love but will never see the lights of readers’ eyes.

Notes, or pieces, of projects that might one day become part of the pantheon.

I call myself a writer but can’t seem to stitch those pieces into a proper story, let alone a coherent thought.

Is that why you started writing on Vocal?

There’s another reason. A reason why I hide this shrine in the depths of a shifting, overgrown forest.

Oh?

Oh.

She’s here today. Lucky you. This is the shrine’s patron goddess representing “The End.” Shepherd, Harvester, the “All-End” who brings conclusion to all beginnings.

And she was my very first well-developed character.

Took all of thirty seconds to create her, and not even for my own project. She debuted in someone’s mega fanfiction, and from there, danced from one fanfic to the next before I finally put her in prominent roles in my projects.

Then finally, after a few years of tumbling through myriad scenarios and changing forms (though the black hair and red eyes forever stuck), she urgently suggested her own story.

A story of the end…

You’re beginning at “The End?” No wonder your inspiration dried up. This park reflects this character, doesn’t it?

No. While I do see ends before middles or beginnings, characters don’t make a writer neglectful. Color fades and flakes because I don’t repaint. Music and ambience frazzles into grainy static because I don’t update the sound system. The blocks come up like blood clots and the unstaffed stores display only baubles of ideas because I don’t feed, water, or nurture those thoughts into stories.

This shrine is my proof. While the rest of the park fades away, this shrine, this forest, this pantheon, these etchings, these offerings, those documents, those artifacts still shine and bloom and live like the breaths you and I take.

In this moment, this end where the park disintegrates and our time together ends, you’ve given me a revelation.

So let this revelation become the new beginning:

“I was the one who forgot.”

Short Story
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About the Creator

Nagisa K.

Afro-Okinawan, a fledgling writer on the path to publication!

Fiction and fantasy are my forte but I dabble in personal essays as well.

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