The Trading Game: The Blink by Mr. Dugan

Prompt: You are in Mr. Dugan’s creative writing II class and you have to write 1,200 words on anything, but must include.

Must Include:

  1. Words
  2. Sentences
  3. Paragraphs
  4. An actual plot


“Alright ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Dugan starts his creative writing II class the same way he does every day. I don’t know why I took this elective. I hate to write and I’m the opposite of creative. I took the first section of creative writing my sophomore year, but since I became a senior, nothing requiring real effort seems appealing. Despite my best efforts, I can do nothing but coast along and remember how accomplished I used to feel.

“This week,” Dugan continues, “I’m going to give you all complete creative control.” He waves his hands in broad gestures as he speaks. The other students can’t even be bothered to pay attention, even though there are only a handful in the dying program. “You can write anything you want. It has to be 1,200 words. Can be fiction or nonfiction, and it’s due Monday.”

Ace and Coty are talking behind me. I push my feet against the desk in front of me. It pisses off Dylan, who pushes his desk against mine at the start of every class, despite the fact that I don’t think he liked me very much.

In front of me is a white screen. A blank page. The blinking cursor taunts me. It’s as if the blinking vertical line knows that I’m a fake, that I have no ideas. No inspiration. No original thought.

I can write about anything, I think to myself. I should be happy. I always ask for this type of freedom, but now I’m paralyzed by the infinite possibility of the page in front of me.

I start typing, writing the first thing that comes to mind, “Michael Stokes was a man obsessed with his neighbors. He was an agoraphobe who was unable to live his own life. Leaving his house caused him extreme pain.”

No I thought. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s an uninspired road to nowhere. It would just end up being a copy of stories already told. It wouldn’t be original. No one would like it.

I start again, “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” The neighbor yelled as John Marshal dug a hole in his backyard. John had always hated the neighbor and his dog. He was hoping to have the dog disappeared before the neighbor suspected that the dog was missing.” No, no, no. I highlight the text and press the delete key.

I look around the room and everyone else is typing furiously. They seem inspired, driven through their writing by some unseen force. A force that isn’t acting on me. Their fingers move nimbly across the keyboard while I have to drag mine across the keys with all the force I can muster.

It was easier to come up with ideas last year, when I was in creative writing I. But I don’t know what changed. Maybe I’m just a year older, and I don’t care as much. Perhaps senioritis is a real, diagnosable mental illness. I don’t know why I can’t come up with ideas, but I resent the fact that I can’t, and I resent that everyone else can. I hate that my lack of creativity makes me bitter.

“Do you need any help?” Dugan asks. He is always giving me a hard time about getting started writing. He actually wants to help, but I’m just not in the mood for it today. I shake my head and he leaves me alone.

The clack of the everyone clicking their keys around me grows louder and louder with the silence of my own keyboard. The noise taunts me. It’s deafening.

I put my head down in defeat. If I can’t come up with a good idea, then at least I can be overtly lazy. Giving up is easier than making something worthwhile. But I don’t feel good about it. Why is it that what leads to fulfillment is hardest to achieve. It’s just a stupid writing assignment. It literally means nothing. So why bother? Why am I so disappointed that I can’t write? That I can’t think? That I’m unmotivated.

I stare at the blank screen until the bell rings. I log out and close the laptop, but the spectre of the blinking cursor still exists in ethereal cyber space.


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