The Virtual Writer by Dan Brotzel (Lucent Dreaming Issue 5)

Once, in about 2001, Mack and me were in the pub, discussing the issue of getting down to the writing again. Mack had a plan.

His ageing auntie ran a pub in the country, and Mack suggested we take the place over. We’d get up early every day to sign off deliveries, do a morning’s work on our novs, then run the pub in the evening. Each of us would spur the other on, the fictional equivalent of gym buddies. What could go wrong?

Mack was very, very serious. We had both worshipped since forever at the altar of literature – Mack, indeed, was famous for claiming that T.S. Eliot understood him better than any person alive. And we had both been on the verge of penning something important since at least 1985, when we’d met in college.

When you get the call from me at your office tomorrow, be ready, said Mack. I’ll have called my aunt and jacked my job in. You’ll need to resign too and we’ll head off to Shropshire tomorrow.

Are you up for this, Jon? Do you really want this, Jon? Because if we shake hands now, there’s no going back. We didn’t get blood out or anything – we weren’t the type – but we did a lot of mutual chest-stabbing of an intense pub kind.

Next day, with an awkward smile, I told my closest colleagues it might well be my last. I’d made an oath, and I would have to follow through. But Mack, who had a six-figure salary at an international headhunting agency that kept him in coke and ’poo and glamorously self-destructive girlfriends, never called.

We don’t meet up much nowadays. It’s not really because our lifestyles are less compatible, though it’s convenient to think so. It’s because, after almost three decades, the talk of getting down to the writing is starting to ring a tad hollow.

Last time I saw Mack, he’d signed up for a series of expensive seminars with a top screenwriting guru. He said he enjoyed the talks, but couldn’t get on with the assignments. One can only watch in awe, for the vocation of virtual writer is far, far harder than actual writing could ever be.

Let us be clear. Virtual writers are not people who don’t write; rather, they are people who are about to write, who haven’t written yet, who are writers in all but the writing. They are people who care so much about writing – about writing well – that they can’t quite bring themselves to start. Their confidence eroded by over-exposure to the masters, their will sapped by the wet cuddle of booze, things are nevertheless always about to change.

It takes inhuman reserves of persistence and ingenuity to fall short of one’s dream so hard and so often. Virtual writers like Mack are fucking heroes, and the books they haven’t written are fucking masterpieces, virtually.

Browse issue 5 in full.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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