Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sarah Crookall’s (Small Press) Writing Day

My writing desk is one of the first things I should see in the morning. It sits opposite to the bed, facing the north window of my Vanier bedroom. But I don't notice it. Either because I'm too tired, preoccupied by thinking about what needs to be done, or because the furniture likes to blend with the walls after being in a place for a while.

I make coffee. An embarrassing five to six cups that, each morning, I tell myself I will drink throughout the day. Instead, I usually drink 4.5 cups before I leave for class.  As someone with an anxiety-prone peripheral nervous system, it's probably not the best decision in my morning-non-routine. But the black brew is as comforting as it is nerve-racking.

I hop on board the 12 bus and if it's not packed, as it usually is, I sit and read. Lately, I’ve been reading from a collection of essays. When I'm forced to stand, there's always a lot to look at: the winding Rideau River, addicts on the street, or the folks crowded around me on the bus. Occasionally, I thumb in quirky observations on my outdated iPhone 5s.

Before class I mentally tell myself I'll write a couplet, or something, in my blue 108-paged Hilroy notebook. I don't. The fluorescent buzzing and shuffling bags are too distracting. Throughout the day, I mutter through classes, study, eat, and find excuses for coffee breaks. I write an essay on Rossellini's "Rome Open City" for an Italian cinema class. As I type, my fingers faintly shake from caffeine overload.

It's Friday so it's the day I visit my 95-year-old grandfather at The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. It's become my favourite day of the week. I’m able to see my super genuine, navy sailing minister of a papa. But being there is also a wonderful exercise in learning, empathy, and a great source for writing. 

I've been a bit self-conscious about not writing professionally very much in 2017. There’s a gnawing background guilt when I write anything else. But it seems to dissipate when cheesy polka music spills into my papa’s room from the nursing home's hallway. Encounters at The Perley are too interesting for a writer not to be motivated. Today the polka music fuses with The Eagles’ “Take It Easy.”

I thumb in what I don't want to forget into the iPhone 5s with its silly case covered in Eiffel Towers and hearts. I get home. I open the curtains behind my desk hoping to fan away the mental cobwebs I brought back from the long journey home.

With bright snow reflecting a strenuous light on my desk, I scrawl rough notes in the blue 108-paged Hilroy notebook. I translate the image of a lifelike-in-a-dead-way stuffed orange tabby on an elderly lady’s lap into thin lines of paper. In the evening, I add more precise sentences on my outdated MacBook Pro. Eventually, I’ll compile both the rough and precise thoughts on the MacBook.

I close the notebook, Macbook, and curtains. I turn in, thinking in bed. I’m not writing professionally right now, but I’m generally satisfied with being able to get a feeling down. It’s how it all started for me, and it’s how I hope to continue stockpiling ideas.

Sarah Crookall is a writer and poet originally from Toronto. While living there, she was involved with Bänoo Zan’s Shab-e She’r poetry nights and occasionally wrote freelance for minor publications. She is a journalism graduate from Durham College and currently studies psychology at UOttawa while monitoring her radar for writing opportunities.

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