A Word of Advice
One more ring sounded and then her answering machine clicked on.
“Lori, pick up. I know you’re there. I can see your car parked out here on the street.”
Lori yanked the handset off the base, scowling at her cordless as she thumbed off her book reader. “I’m sorry, Madge.” She hoped false sincerity carried through the line. Didn’t she deserve this break? She’d earned a lot of people money over the years.
“I don’t want any more apologies.”
“I’ll get you the manuscript. I promise.”
“Don’t you remember, Lori? The publisher sued you for breach of contract six months ago. I only want you to let me in so I can see you and make sure you’re all right.”
“Six months?” Lori searched her memory. “I just took a week off before making the final push. You renegotiated for me to have an extra month. It’s Friday. That gives me over three more weeks.”
“Yes, honey. It’s Friday, but do you know the date? You’re scaring me. Your accountant is worried, too. Lawrence hasn’t had issues running your household finances, but…”
Lori turned her book reader back on. The date displayed seemed about right. The next thing she heard reached her ears in stereo. Madge waved at her, urgent expression distorted by the array of diamond shaped panes framing her home’s entrance.
“Oh, Lori, what’s happened to you?” A frantic knock shook the door, then, “Let me in.”
Not understanding Madge’s urgency, Lori plugged the charger into her device, accidentally closing her current story. The library bulged with titles she didn’t remember downloading. She stood and stepped back. The back of her thigh brushed something that gave way with a whisper.
Lori whipped around, not knowing what to expect. The stack of pizza boxes reached her waist. A Jenga-like tower of Chinese food delivery cartons wobbled next to that. A tumble of empty water bottles buried the couch. Only her lounge chair remained clear of debris.
Lori ignored Madge’s continued pleas. She put a hand to her forehead. No fever. All she remembered suffering was a case of writer’s block. It had happened before, long ago.
Lori, then a fledgling writer trying to turn a passionate hobby into a possible dream profession, entered a mentorship program. The disastrous experience shattered her confidence for months and months.
The author’s parting communiqué brought a sting of tears at the memory.
“Tell yourself that you’re not awful, because I don’t want you to give up, but I don’t know what else to do that will help you improve.”
What had she done at all? Lori remembered vague advice and instructions to rewrite entire scenes. Feedback dried up, alongside Lori’s receding will upon the parting suggestion.
“Try reading whatever it is you want to write. Just keep doing that and see what happens.”