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Aspiring Artist

The Fevered Imaginations of a Writer

By Rachel RobbinsPublished 28 days ago Updated 27 days ago 4 min read
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Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960)

Have I grabbed your attention with a picture of one of the most famous murders committed to celluloid?

Good, then I’ll begin.

I am currently sitting in a puddle of my own sweat, aching and coughing, as after nearly four years I have finally succumbed to Covid. You might think that writing about my aspirations as a writer whilst shivering with fever is a foolhardy endeavour. But there is a deadline I have to meet. Plus, some of my best writing comes from dizzying dreams.

Poster for Vertigo (1963)

I know there is no perfect writing.

My favourite writing has the delicate brush-strokes of a dream, the boldness and vibrancy of a summer’s day and the emotion and drama of a 1940’s cinematic psychological thriller.

Last year, I used Vocal to publish 46 stories, totalling 43,109 words and earning 8 Top Stories. But most importantly, I discovered my inner, imaginary 1940s screen writer. She was often my way into story-telling. My inner “Dalton Trumbo” helped me write with intent about the stories I wish the movie industry could have told.

1940s Hollywood was an extraordinary era of creativity, invention and re-invention. The form of the movie was pushed to its limits with narrators, flashbacks, montages, amnesiacs and multiple viewpoints. But it was also a time of restriction. The Hayes Code had a very narrow sense of what stories could be told and by whom. The House Un-American Activities Committee investigations carried a paranoia of shadowy presences, half-lit secrets and untrusting protagonists.

And my writing became interested in the Hollywood ghosts of that era. It became a space between gossip and critique, real and imaginary stories, trying to find the tales that could only be glimpsed. The aim became to look at the marginalised and castigated and to write about them with compassion and celebration.

The haunting fragility and strength of Sinead O'Connor

I also learned to put emotion on the paper. Top Stories included a rant against a comedy industry sex-pest and a tribute to the fragility and passion of Sinead O’Connor.

Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) looking close to perfection

And most importantly, I learned there is no perfect writing.

There is preparation: reading, research, day-dreaming, putting phrases together, making notes, forming an argument.

There is precision: the search for the verbs that express, the nouns that label, the adjectives that deliver the senses and textures.

But there is no perfect writing.

There is writing that I publish and writing that I don’t.

There is writing for an audience and there is writing to work things out.

Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953) - I have this poster in my bathroom

And audiences – what have I learned there?

Alfred Hitchcock stated:

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”

But I have a sunnier disposition. More a smiling Doris Day than a deranged Anthony Perkins.

If I want my work to be read (which I do, I’m a sucker for those likes and comments), I need to go and find my audience.

I have been lucky enough to find a readership within Vocal, using Facebook groups as a community. But I have also looked outside, because let’s face it, writing about forgotten 1940’s film stars is kind of niche. My most read piece was about the Indian-born, English Rose, Merle Oberon. It didn’t really register when I first published it. But I posted it into a couple of forums for classic movie-lovers and it took off from there. Merle’s story is as intriguing as any Film Noir of the era. It deserved to be told.

I write every day. But only publish when I think a piece is ready. I average around one post a week.

But I read much more. I try to read two Vocal stories a day. I read a chapter of a novel every night. I read a short story when I’m stuck with my own company. Reading is the greatest way to escape from myself, to indulge in another’s feelings, to be awestruck by language.

Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960) - My Dad often got compared to him - just looks-wise, I think

And now there is a New Year. Time for this aspiring artist to plot some aspirations. I baulk at SMART objectives and performance indicators. Probably because I used to make a living from them. And I am nervous about putting this out there and being accountable.

But I am writing from a sick bed. And I am enjoying the fogginess of thought. And the way my brain keeps returning to phrases I dreamt. And the belief that next week, I will be back to normal is almost disappointing.

Often my short fiction is a write up of a dream. And I regularly imagine myself in a fitted jacket and a pill box hat typing snappy dialogue with a Hayes censor on one shoulder and a studio executive on another.

Rope (1948) - haunted me for ages after first viewing

Maybe everything I write should come from a fever dream?

So aspirations:

• Eat more cheese before bedtime

• More anxiety, so that my dreams repeat and re-loop in a maze of imagery

• More glimpsed realities from the shadows of paranoia

• More humour to dampen the sense of impending doom

• More desperate attempts to get people to see my ‘truth’

Or to put it in a way that I might understand when I recover. Keep doing Rachel. Challenge yourself to write regularly. Keep seeking out ways to gain precision in your writing. And keep yourself hydrated and rest up.

Alfred Hitchcock - "Don't have nightmares"

If you've enjoyed what you have read, please consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by leaving a one-time tip or a regular pledge. Thank you.

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About the Creator

Rachel Robbins

Writer-Performer based in the North of England. A joyous, flawed mess.

Please read my stories and enjoy. And if you can, please leave a tip. Money raised will be used towards funding a one-woman story-telling, comedy show.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (3)

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  • Cathy holmes25 days ago

    Nicely done. Good luck in 2024, and I hope you feel better soon.

  • Babs Iverson27 days ago

    Hope you are well soon!!! Fabulous entry into the challenge!!! Love it!!!💕❤️❤️

  • When you got a heart and like from me, lots of interesting thoughts to mull over here and hope you are feeling better soon

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