A/N: I'm back! Long time, no read huh? Just a warning though that I have finals coming up lasting until May 12th, so I'm not sure what kind of time I'll have to update between now and then. I really hope to get another chapter of this out soon, but life always seems to get in the way of writing sadly.
Note: Goddess divine Stephenie Meyer owns everything. I just borrow the characters. If I owned them, I'd never let Edward come out and play. Edward Cullen does, however, own me.
Summary: When writer's block gets in the way of Bella Swan's second book, serendipity and misunderstandings bring her inspiration in a place she never thought she'd find it.
Chapter 1: Writer's Block
"Ugh! I seriously cannot write anymore! Goodbye talent, hello unemployment!" I sighed in frustration and balled up the sheet of notebook paper I was scrawling on, throwing it over my shoulder and onto the floor.
The floor around me was littered with a lot of balled up sheets of paper actually.
"Okay, drama queen. It seriously can't be that bad. Let me take a look," my best friend Jasper said and picked up the newly discarded piece of paper. I watched him smooth it out on the kitchen table. His eyes scanned the page and I couldn't help but notice him trying to fight a smile as he read.
"It's bad, huh?" I sighed again.
"Well, it depends on your definition of 'bad' per say," he said and half laughed at me.
I threw my arms up in the air and huffed dramatically.
I'd been trying to work on this new book for ages now. To be more precise, I'd tried everything. I could feel a story in the back of my head looming, begging to be let out, but no matter what I did, it just wasn't coming out right.
The worst part was I actually had a deadline coming up. One that if I didn't make, there was a good chance I wouldn't need to finish this book.
I'd always been fairly creative with my writing, but never really considered myself good. In tenth grade I entered some local literature festival and ended up placing second much to my surprise. The story that won was about magical unicorns or something … whatever. Yeah, I still was a little bitter about the unicorns if you can't tell. But I've moved on.
That girl didn't have a bestselling book to her name.
Well, actually I didn't either, but that's a technicality. I wrote under a pseudonym because I was too chicken to attach my real name to anything. Turns out this also afforded me some level of anonymity as well. And thank heavens for that because to my great shock that bestselling book was unexpectedly popular.
And here I was trying to write another one.
This book though was turning out to be more like a bad trip to the dentist than a walk in the part. Cruel, excruciating and all together too difficult. Writing had never been this hard for me and suddenly I had found myself unable to string two sentences together into more sentences.
My agent had been calling me pretty regularly asking for updates and I'd told her the basic premise of the story. She loved it of course, though she did offer some suggestions and frequently asked when she was going to receive the first draft. I gave her the same answer every time. "Soon."
Ugh. Problem was that "soon" was coming much too quickly and there wasn't more I could do to put off that deadline.
"Hey, Bee," Jasper said, bringing me out of my thoughts.
"Mmmm yeah?" I mumbled with my arms over my head on the table.
Jasper and I were best friends and had been for pretty much our entire lives. We'd grown up next door to each other in the sleepy town of Forks, Washington. When my parents had divorced and my mother had left, his mom had kind of taken it upon herself to become my surrogate mother. I couldn't thank her enough for it and told her every chance I got. When Charlie, my father, was too embarrassed to give me the 'why your body is changing' talk, Mrs. Whitlock had sat me down and calmly discussed it all with me. We'd gone out and bought my first box of tampons and package of pads together before she sent me back to my house. Charlie's face had been seven shades of red with mortification when I showed him what I'd gotten with her.
Needless to say, Charlie and I were not exactly open with each other about … uh, embarrassing things. Yeah, we were cordial with each other, but he and I had more of a 'less is more' kind of relationship. He was there when I really needed him, but we more or less lived our own lives separate of each other. I knew he fiercely loved me and the one time he'd actually said it my heart had leapt through my throat with that odd kind of love one has for their parents.
But other than that, he just told me he was proud of me. The whole town was actually. I was a local celebrity for becoming so famous after writing my first book. The town major even declared July 12th to be "Isabella Swan Day" in Forks. Oh yeah, I about died when he'd insisted on a public ceremony on the steps of the town hall. I'd pretty much wanted to crawl into a hole and die when the flashbulbs started going off for the one local newspaper and pretty much everybody in town taking pictures of me with their own cameras.
Yeah, I wasn't much for the spotlight. The one television interview I'd done for my book was a complete disaster and my agent had stood off to the side wanting to drown herself in the cup of coffee she'd held. I'd pulled at my hair and looked around shyly the entire time, avoiding the eyes of the interviewer and of course avoiding the camera.
But I digress.
Jasper and I had moved to Chicago after that, me convincing him to come with me by showing him pamphlets of all the museums. He'd always been a history buff. He'd even studied it in college while I'd been the consummate dork and received my degree in English.
He found a job with the Field Museum and was doing research for them about the indigenous Native American tribes of the Midwest. He'd showed me some of the things he'd learned one time, but honestly that stuff kind of bored me to tears.
Regardless of his boring job in life, Jasper was a pretty good guy. In college he'd rescued me from a few absolutely horrible dates, picking me up when I wanted to stab my date's eyes out with a fork over dinner. They were guys that seemed pretty normal on the outside, but once you got them over food or away from other people you pretty much could feel your IQ dropping with each passing second. Or the one who hadn't stopped talking about himself the entire time. Yeah, that guy. We've all had those kinds of dates.
We shared a three bedroom apartment in the city that I paid for with my royalties. Well, that and I'd sold the screen rights to the story too for a pretty decent amount and was told there was good chance it might actually make it to the big screen within the next five or so years.
Jasper and I each had a bedroom and the third room was dedicated to my office, a place I could barely even go in now because I had crumpled pages every where and scribblings tacked on three of the walls. I was a little disorganized at the moment with my thoughts. Okay, a lot disorganized.
Today I was writing at the kitchen table on a pad of paper, the same way I wrote everything. I'd found that handwriting everything allowed me to think slower and let me plan everything out much more thoroughly as I wrote. That and I had pretty cute handwriting so I liked to look at it. Such a girly thing really.
"Seriously, Bee. You're killing me with this miles away thing," Jasper said again.
"Oh, sorry. I keep getting distracted by my thoughts," I half smiled at him.
In another life I would have considered Jasper a very handsome man. He was large compared to me, maybe 6'2" or so compared to my meager 5'6" height. He had sandy, wavy hair that I liked to run my fingers through in a friendly way. He had the friendliest blue eyes I'd ever seen and cute little dimples at the side of his mouth if he smiled just right.
"Darlin," he prodded.
Oh and a tendency to pull out a slight Southern twang he'd acquired from one too many summers visiting his grandmother in Texas.
"J, I know. My head's all over the place right now," I confessed.
He sighed and plopped down at the kitchen table in the chair across from me.
"You know what you need?" he asked.
"A frontal lobotomy?"
He laughed and slapped his knee a few times, his eyes scrunching up and chest shaking.
I rolled my eyes at him.
"Ah, platonic love of my life, you kill me sometimes. Well, I'm not going to argue with that suggestion, but I was thinking more like a break. You've been at it for days now and obviously whatever you're doing isn't working," he said and leaned back in the chair, crossing his arms behind his head.
My eyes narrowed and I frowned.
"Who's to say this isn't working?" I asked and crossed my arms in front of me.
Jasper laughed again, this time even harder.
"Seriously, Bee? Are you even trying to pull that crap with me? Geeze, Bella. Just look around. The floor is covered with pages of paper with only a few lines on them. Your office is littered with scribbles. You haven't left the apartment in days," he said and leaned in, sniffing my hair a few times before I pushed him back. "And honestly you kind of smell like pencil lead."
"Ewww gross!" I squealed and ran my fingers through my hair quickly before trying to covertly sniff at the locks.
He was right; I did kind of smell like pencil lead.
I sighed and pushed the legal pad away from me.
"Dammit, Jasper. I hate when you're right. Worst yet, why do you have to be right so damn often?" I asked in defeat.
He chuckled and stood up before leaning over the table.
"Because I'm just that good, Bee. And who else would be so candid with you now that you're Big Famous Author Lady?" he grinned at me.
I rolled my eyes again.
"Yeah, right. I'm not big or famous, and I can hardly consider myself an author seeing as how I can't write a straight sentence right now."
Jasper snorted as he walked down the hall to his bedroom.
I looked at the pad of paper in front of me with all the blank lines and realized Jasper had a point. I'd been holed up in this apartment for too long trying to force something that just wasn't coming out. The old proverbial trying to get blood from a turnip thing.
"Bee, you're always an author and this little stint just proves it. No good author can call herself such until she's experienced a bit of writer's block," I heard Jasper say as he came out of his bedroom and back down the hall towards me.
"Sssshhh!" I said frantically and waved my arms around. "Don't call it that! It's bad luck or something!"
Jasper laughed at me again and plopped something down on the table in front of me.
"Fine. Call it whatever you want, but you need to get out. Explore the city. Live life. See the sights. How are you supposed to write about the world when you're stuck inside scratching at paper?"
He had a point … again. Seriously, this was two in one day for him. I was going to have to buy him a case of beer if he kept up his insightful life lessons at this rate.
"Fine. What do you suggest?" I asked.
"Duh. Museums," he answered like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"J, I'm not like you, you know. I'm not particularly interested in the mating rituals of the Iroquois tribe last time I checked," I sighed.
"Oh shut it, you. I'm not suggesting you invade my personal area of expertise, but I do think you should go check out the art museum." Jasper pointed to the pamphlet on the table.
I looked down and saw the pamphlet he'd given me was for The Art Institute. He and I had gone there when we'd first moved to Chicago, wanting to see every museum in record time. Some I enjoyed more than others.
The Art Institute I'd actually rather liked. It was quiet and I could get lost in the little galleries for hours. I tended to stay away from the more famous paintings, such as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat and instead focused on the more obscure paintings. I also tended to like portraits over landscapes. Something about connecting with the people in them that appealed to me.
I sat there for a second staring at the pamphlet before deciding to take a trip out to see what I could find. Who knows, I might see a painting to spark something and then I'd be off and writing on my latest and greatest escapade.
"You know, I think I might actually take you up on this suggestion and go see what I can find there," I said looking up at Jasper to find him smiling at me.
"See? Sometimes I'm just brilliant like this," he grinned and fake polished his knuckles like he was some big shot or something.
I rolled my eyes at him. Jasper could be such a dork sometimes. Honestly that's one of the things I loved about him. He could be serious when need be but most of the time we were like brother and sister.
I brought the pad of paper back to my office after getting up from the table, my joints aching and protesting each move I made. I guess I'd been sitting there longer than I thought. Gingerly stepping around all the discarded story pages, I realized that I'd probably need to clean up once I got back from my museum excursion. My normal style was to stay pretty neat and tidy, but lately I'd been letting that slide thanks to being so focused on writing even though it wasn't going very well in the first place.
The forecast was chilly for an October day, so I bundled up in a sweater and light coat. That's one of the things I actually liked about Chicago versus Washington. There was actually distinct seasons in the Midwest as opposed to one long rainy, dreary season back home. You could go days without seeing the sun, sometimes a few weeks. There was an old saying though that if you didn't like the weather in the Midwest, wait five minutes and it will change. Last winter we'd had 15 inches of snow followed by scorching summer temperatures. Talk about bipolar, huh?
I threw my handy Moleskin notebook in my purse in case the urge to suddenly write hit me while I was out and left Jasper read his book about native headwear or something before setting out to see what I could find out there in the big world.
Even though Jasper had the odd day off from work thanks to working three weeks straight including weekends, the rest of the city was out in full force. Business people in suits of every color and shape walked the streets, most on cell phones or talking to other people in similar attire. I walked up Madison towards the lake, admiring the various storefronts as I went. I'd never been a big shopper, but being in a city like this and not shopping was practically a crime. Maybe on the way back I'd stop and pick up the green cable knit sweater I saw in Ann Taylor's window.
I stopped off at some coffee shop and picked up a rich cup of the brown liquid, slowly sipping it as I went along.
I turned south on Michigan Avenue and stood and watched three young boys playing drums on a set of buckets on the corner for awhile. Of course Jasper had been right. I had practically barricaded myself in our apartment for so long that I'd forgotten about the simple joys of life such as this.
Maybe I'd pick him up something nice at the gift shop in the museum when I was done.
After I finished my cup of coffee and tossed the empty cup into the trash, I walked the extra two blocks south until I came to the huge grey stone building housing the Art Institute. The first time we'd visited, Jasper had told me the whole history of it. How the building had originally been constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 with the intention of housing the Art Institute upon the fair's closing.
My favorite part of the building were the two gigantic bronze lions standing guard outside, much like I'm sure were every other Chicagoan's favorite part of the Art Institute. I had been amused more than once to see them dressed up in sports uniforms when the Bears or Bulls had made it into the playoffs for their respective sports.
I bought my ticket from a kind older lady at the entrance and began to explore inside. Though the streets of the city were full of people, the inside of the museum was quiet and soothing. I saw a group of school children obviously on a tour wandering around, some looking bored while others were hanging on every word the guide was saying.
The white walls stood in stark contrast to the colorful paintings with ornate frames. I think that was one of my favorite things about art museums, the contrast between the two settings. In a lot of ways I was a minimalist in things, preferring to be short and to the point in my writing as well as my life.
My shoes made quiet noises on the light wood floors as I walked and I rounded a corner to come upon a quiet little small gallery I hadn't noticed before when Jasper and I had toured the museum together.
The sign next to the doors said "Chicago Artist Spotlight: EC." I pushed the glass doors to the gallery open and entered the small room off one of the main galleries, finding nobody in there.
There were probably half a dozen or so paintings, some larger than others. The biggest though was about five feet tall and three feet wide. It had a simple gold frame free of all the regalia of many of the other paintings in the museum. It hung on the wall off in a corner of the small gallery and there was a ceiling mounted spotlight aimed at the painting.
I crossed the small gallery in a handful of steps to examine the painting more closely.
It was a woman with her back to the artist, her head twisted around so the viewer could see her proud profile. She was wearing only a smile and a thin sheet around her waist, her back bare and skin that was practically glowing. She had long golden blonde hair and pink pouty lips.
I glanced around at the rest of the paintings and found all of them had women in states of undress similar to the biggest painting. It was this woman though that exuded the most confidence. She knew she was beautiful and she wanted the entire world to know it as well. It was almost unnerving to look at her even in a painting because of her beauty.
She was simply captivating.
There was a small couch in the middle of the gallery for visitors to sit down and admire the work and I positioned myself so that I could see practically all of the paintings while sitting.
Hours must have passed while my eyes skipped from painting to painting, taking in each small detail. Whoever the artist was, he was obviously talented because even though all the women were in various states of undress, I never once was squeamish or felt uncomfortable by it. He had managed to capture the essence of these women in his paintings and I felt I almost knew them by seeing them so honest and bare before me.
The blonde in the largest painting was in a few others and in each of her paintings I sensed an air of almost nobility from her. Whoever she was, she obviously had a dominating presence and the artist had captured it perfectly. But at the same time, I sensed that this woman held a lot of contempt for others as well. The way her eyes looked down her nose made me believe that she looked upon some as lesser than her, perhaps even the artist himself. That she was gracing him by allowing him to paint her.
In the time I was there, a few visitors walked in and out of the little gallery, but none spent as long as I did in there. None admired the paintings to the depth I did.
I think I empathized with artists in a lot of ways. Writing and painting here quite similar. I'd been told before how easy it must be to write if you have natural talent, but I think a lot of people didn't understand that writing took time to develop. Yes, natural talent sure helped, but a talented person usually couldn't just sit down and write out a full length Pulitzer-winning novel on their first try. And a writer certainly shouldn't force writing when it wasn't flowing naturally.
The more I sat there, the more I realized that. I had been forcing my writing and it just wasn't working for me. Perhaps Jasper had the best idea when he said I should live life and see where it takes me. Without inspiration to write, it's pretty damn hard to put together a story anybody would want to read.
I took my Moleskin out of my purse and jotted down a quick note to myself to call my agent and ask for an extension on my first portion due in to her. I thanked my lucky stars she liked me because if I asked sweetly enough, she probably would give it to me no questions asked. Hopefully all I would need would be one extension otherwise she might not be so sweet the second time I asked for one.
I must have drifted off into some mindless state of something because the next thing I knew, someone was tapping me on the shoulder from behind. I looked up, startled at the feeling. It was one of the museum guards in his uniform.
He smiled at me, nodded his head and said, "Museum's closing early today, miss. You're going to have to pack it up and move on out."
I quickly stood from the couch and slipped my notebook back into my purse.
"Thanks, sir. I'm sorry I've been just hanging out here," I said quietly in return.
He nodded again and replied, "S'okay. He's a talented painter. Pretty nice guy too if you ask me."
As we walked out of the gallery I turned to him saying, "You've met the artist?"
The guard smiled wistfully and said, "Yeah, he comes by ever so often to see his work hanging up. Not often someone so young is popular enough to be exhibited here."
I slung my bag over my shoulder and laughed softly. "That's true I guess. Most of the time you have to die or cut your ear off to be so famous."
The guard chuckled in reply. "Pretty much," he laughed.
As I walked towards the museum exit, the guard and I kept talking about little things and I decided I would come back to look at the rest of the museum's works again, but more so to look at the little side gallery some more. There was simply something captivating about this EC's work that I wanted to explore more.
The sun was starting to set over the tops of the skyscrapers as I made my way out the building. A cool fall breeze was blowing through the streets, reminding me of the city's moniker.
I may have not found the inspiration to write my entire book in one sitting, but I could feel the bricks of my writer's block slowly starting to loosen in their long since set mortar.
Turns out Jasper had been right all along. My system wasn't working for me. Thankfully though, I think I had begun to find a new one.
Now back to that cable knit sweater I saw on my walk earlier. And of course that six pack of beer for Jasper to thank him for giving me the push I needed.