What Gets Me Writing

Irving Benjamin 6th March 2017

What Gets Me Writing

(Irving Benjamin 05/03/17)

“So what is it that gets you writing? How does it work?”

The journalist from ‘Bizarre’ sat across the table from me in my small cramped consulting room. I thought she looked terribly young, more like the office junior sent to do the interview, certainly not the editor of the quarterly magazine. I had agreed to be interviewed, following some useful publicity about my sessions in the local paper. I was sure I could turn this to my advantage.

“It’s really hard to say, dear. It varies a lot, depending on who is consulting me and what they are looking for. Nobody comes to a psychic unless they have some deep felt need. Sometimes it’s a lost loved one, sometimes anxiety about their future. I have to listen to their problems carefully, and then I have to wait to get the messages. It’s like that, you see.”

“So then you just start writing, is that it? I’m finding it hard to imagine.”

The girl obviously hadn’t done her homework. Even the article in the paper would have told her more than that. I didn’t think this was going to be difficult. I leaned forward and studied her carefully. Young, pretty, but about a stone overweight. Short dark hair, clothes in the current youth fashion, but rather worn, shoes scuffed. She held her notebook and pencil in her lap. Her fingernails were bitten, and dark pink varnish looked as if she had applied it herself. She had a plain slim black ring on her left thumb (plastic?) and a Claddagh ring on the fourth finger of her right hand. A capacious shoulder bag rested on the floor against the leg of her chair, the top open. A mobile phone and a packet of 10 Benson and Hedges.

“Well, let’s see. Take you, for example. If you had come to me for help, rather than just this nice chat, you would probably have started by telling me about what’s on your mind. But sometimes I just get this feeling about the person, and that’s when the words come to me.”

The girl tapped her pencil nervously on the notebook. “How do you mean, ‘words’? Do you hear them like voices or what?”

“Sometimes they’re like voices, or sometimes I see the words, sometimes swimming faintly in the air, shadowy, hard to grasp. Or sometimes I see a word that’s just blazing like a neon sign. Those are the ones I can’t ignore, and then the need to write just grips me. I can’t stop myself.”

I could sense scepticism in my interviewer. No surprise there. This wasn’t a bereaved mother looking for reassurance about her lost son, or a wife agonising about a cheating husband. Let’s see what I can do to convince her. She was about to phrase her next question. I held up my hand.

“Wait a minute! Stop a sec. There’s something here now. Give me a moment.”

I closed my eyes and controlled my breathing into long deep sighs, and waited for just the right time. I hummed softly, and sat back in my chair. I sensed the girl becoming uncomfortable, and I leaned forward again. Without opening my eyes, I grasped my pencil and began to scrawl words, randomly scattered over the unlined A4 pad on the table in front of me.

Ireland. Boyfriend. Money. Ciggies. Fat. Rent. Clothes. Credit.

I slowly opened my eyes and looked at the girl. She was staring at me open-mouthed. Her eyes flicked between my face and the paper between us.  I looked down at my words with a puzzled frown.

“Sorry, dear, I don’t know what happened there. There was something that I couldn’t quite get. The words were there but they were very vague, and I just wrote them as best I could see them. It’s probably nothing to do with you, but I was just getting a feeling about someone with an Irish connection, maybe with boyfriend problems, not much pay, trouble keeping up with the rent. Something about smoking, maybe giving up, fear of putting on weight – I don’t know, I’m really not getting anything that makes any sense. I just had to write the words but I don’t think I’ve been much help to you. You asked me what gets me writing, and I think that’s just it, I simply don’t know. It’s something that just comes to me from somewhere else, whether that’s the spirit world or not I can’t say. Sorry dear. Sorry to disappoint you.”

The girl’s hands were shaking. She hadn’t written anything in her notebook. Clearly what gets me writing hasn’t worked for her, but she should certainly have something to write when she gets back to the magazine office. She gathered her things together to leave and thanked me, shaking my hand with a moist palm, and I showed her out of my room. Not a bad morning’s work, shame I didn’t get paid for it, but hopefully the publicity will be enough.


  1. (Only me – just checking that the comments work!)

  2. Great story, Benj. Very clever. I will be tucking my handbag out of sight next time I see you!

  3. kentishramblerblog

    I like the swift, precise characterisation – we learn a lot about them in a short piece. And the handbag was a very clever device! Braidyspice (https://llwinder.wordpress.com) should be pleased – you’ve included one of her favourite words!

    1. Ha! Moist, yes, I didn’t notice that I had used her word. Interestingly, when I commented on her use of the word, I jokingly added “were you writing er**ica” (in full) and the web bounced it! I had to remove the offending word and resend!

  4. Excellent story, Benj. I love the way you’ve dropped the description in, making us see everything your ‘reader’ can. It’s beautifully balanced and very entertaining.

    And many congrats on the blog – I can’t even change the background pictures on mine…

  5. […] What Gets Me Writing by Irving Benjamin. Irving is one of a few writers who has chosen to use a narrative style to address this week’s theme. I am pretty sure I found the right link for the post but Irving seems to prefer a no comments format. […]

  6. […] was that journalist from Bizarre magazine that caught me out. You remember the article: ‘What Gets You Writing?’. That’s how she started her interview: “So what is it that gets you writing? How does it […]

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