Nothing to Write About by Carol McGill

Clara lay on top of her duvet, head thrown back, gazing at the ceiling as her guitar rested on her tummy. Her toes, raised on vertical legs, pointed at the ceiling. She was contemplating her new shoes, six-inch killer heels with rounded toes and rainbow stripes along the sides. Having bought them just last week, this was only their second time to surface from the shoebox of shiny smells and crisp white tissue paper. What was more, it was their very first time on her feet since her leaving the shop. For the first couple of weeks, Clara trusted herself to wear brand-new beauties such as these only when she had just stepped out of the shower and was scented with strawberry body lotion. It would be some time before they actually touched the ground.

Photo by Phoebe Kelly McDonnell
Photo by Phoebe Kelly McDonnell

It had taken no effort to convince herself that it would be easier after a shower. She would be suitably refreshed, her mind would simply explode with inspiration. It would expand with creativity like a sponge, and eventually it would reach its limit, and ideas would drip out of her pen and onto the page. This, however, had not been the case; and, although she had spent all last year procrastinating from guitar practice, practising guitar had suddenly become the perfect form of procrastination. For nearly half an hour, Clara had been flung on her bed plucking at the strings, humming to herself, admiring her shoes, and ignoring the blank page lying on her desk a few feet away.

The essay was due tomorrow. That paper had been sitting there for a fortnight – well, actually, that particular page hadn’t been on her desk quite so long. The original had become crumpled and covered with biscuit crumbs.

Really it shouldn’t have been so hard. It wasn’t the kind of writing that required massive amounts of research or good hard facts. Clara was usually queen of waffling, but proper fact-based essays were a nightmare. This was different from either of those. She had to write a story. She was supposed to be creative. And whenever she tried to be creative, Clara just felt too much in awe of Dickens and Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling to get very far. She was sure anybody who read her scribbles would want to scream in horror at her disgracing the English language so.

The problem — she thought with a sigh as she sat up, put her guitar aside, and tucked her rainbow heels carefully back into the box — was what to write about. If she could only understand what worked in a story, she’d be fine. But her life was utterly devoid of anything that might help her to write something interesting. That was the sad truth of it. She looked around her room. How was anybody supposed to write anything motivational after the relaxing and completely unexciting morning she’d had? Who would read a story about striped rainbow shoes, out-of-tune guitars, strawberry body lotion, and a blank piece of paper?

Hair still damp, and dressed in her baggiest t-shirt and comfiest pair of shorts, Clara wandered barefoot out of her room and down the stairs. She felt it was time to go in search of inspiration, or at the very least a cup of tea.

On her way past, Clara scanned her landing for ideas and found nothing more interesting than some dirty underwear deposited outside her brother’s door. Somehow she didn’t think this was what she was looking for, and moved on.

Next she saw her mother’s keys sitting on the hall table, where they no doubt would never be found; a number of jackets hanging on the end of the stairs instead of the hooks on the wall opposite them; and three stamped and addressed envelopes which had been waiting by the front door for three days for somebody to remember to post them. General signs of the lack of organisation in her house, but nothing deserving of storydom.

Really she should just write about tea, Clara reflected five minutes later, picking up her previous train of thought when equipped with a steaming mug and a chocolate biscuit. Tea was the best. Everyone loved tea. Or chocolate. She would happily write an entire book about chocolate, if she only knew how.

While she was on the subject, what about food in general? Food was one of the best things in life, no denying that, Clara thought dreamily as she started on her second chocolate Digestive. People would probably get a kick out of hearing about her disastrous attempts at cooking, back when she’d attempted home ec. The saddest instance had been when an entire chocolate cake had burned completely to a crisp because of the wrong setting on the oven; the funniest, when she’d set the pizza recipe on fire.

But would it not seem weird, to put stuff she’d actually done into a story?

It was time to venture out of the house, pull out all the stops, and go for a walk in search of an idea. She grabbed her hoodie, changed into leggings, and set off.

Despite her self-confessed laziness in other general aspects of life, Clara loved to go on ridiculously long walks. She liked them best when it was cold out, or better yet raining, because then nobody else visited the park beside her house, and she had the place to herself. She didn’t understand the complaints about wet weather. Well, yes, rain could be a pain most of the time, but if you were going for a walk, it just felt so…clean. It was fresh. That was what she liked about it.

Today was more windy than wet, but that was nice too. It was cold enough for her hoodie, scarf, and rain jacket to have a purpose, and not many people were about. The wind had a lovely feel to it as well, though she knew that between not drying it properly earlier and this weather, she’d have a tough job with a comb when she got back. Did people read stories about walks?

Maybe she’d write about a walk on a frosty morning, when the air is cool and crisp and you have to wear gloves, and you leave pleasant, crunchy footsteps in the grass behind you. Maybe she’d write about the gorgeous feeling of a long drink of cold water when you’re really, really thirsty, or the little happiness of finding two jigsaw pieces that fit together. Maybe she’d write about the joy of bouncing on a trampoline to see how high you can go, or about terrible, hilarious, secret singing when nobody can hear. Maybe she’d write that dystopian novel she’d always dreamed of putting her name to.

She could write about sitting in an exam hall, the ticking of the clock her lord and master as her mind despaired and her fingers ached and her pen raced across the page. She could write about bonding with someone, about that moment when you look in their eyes and you’re both laughing and you know you’ve made a friend here. She could write about her first kiss, years ago at a dance, and how she cried because it didn’t feel the way it was supposed to. She could write about the misery of disappointing the trust of a friend who is dear and who relied on you. About the relief when you make it up and you both stop crying. About how nice it is when someone cares that you’re crying. About how good it feels to laugh.

She could write about the horrors of not being able to find a matching sock.

Clara went home, sat down at her desk, and wrote a story about how she had nothing to write about at all.




Carol McGillCarol McGill lives in Dublin, where she makes to-do lists and then avoids doing things. However, she does occasionally have productive periods which result in stories being written.  She has found that writing stories is an excellent way to procrastinate when she should be doing schoolwork, which has increased drastically in recent times. She enjoys chocolate and pretty notebooks.


Phoebe Kelly McDonnell is 17 years old and is currently living in Dublin. She spends a large amount of her free time taking photos, drawing, and ignoring impending exams.

Germ Magazine guest author
… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.



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