The Novel

by Genevieve Stills


Every writer dreams of somehow producing the greatest novel of their time. Travis is one of these aspiring novelists, yet he cannot bring himself to put words to paper. This story reveals his mental anguish and disdain for himself and humanity, and whether there is any meaning left in the world.

How can you write anything original when your brain is so filled with catchphrases from television shows? So inundated with lyrics from songs that you retain because you believe that they relate to your life? Can you truly trust your own thoughts to be unique when every person you meet says at least one thing you remember, whether it's meaning holds any importance or not? These are the things he wondered as he sat at his desk, the white page on his computer screen begging to be filled. Travis was at a loss as to the answers to these questions.

Like so many aspiring writers, he wanted to produce the greatest novel of his time. He wanted to jot down the words he felt would speak to his generation and the generations to come. What he had at that point was nothing. It was hard to even comprehend what his generation could relate to. There was the endless barrage of "relatable" thoughts posted on various Facebook pages, the fanfiction that was ever at the online community's fingertips, the ridiculous memes that seemed to spread a sardonic light on absolutely everything and everyone. None of these things seemed of much worth to him, yet they seemed to hold so much substance to those around him.

He had read so many short stories and epic novels by various authors who undoubtedly had this same dilemma in their own time and place. Surely the great novelists of the 19th and 20th centuries had to search through the fads and the mindless trends of the time in order to find meaning. But then again, the word was not so small back then. Humanity still had reason to search. The world was not so small and connected back when your only means of communication was a pen, a piece of paper and the hopes that someone would eventually convey your message. The world seemed so smaller now. Why would anyone need to look further than a search bar displayed in the screen of your cell phone.

It's that easy, he thought. The world is literally at our fingertips. The culmination of human knowledge compiled into the world's computer mainframe and conveyed through radio signals. Perhaps that's why people couldn't understand the struggle for meaning. There is no point in finding it when there is so much meaningless junk to sift through. He sat back in his chair and sighed. Perhaps his endeavour was the thing that lacked meaning. Sure, it has meaning to him. But in a world of almost 8 billion, what is he worth?

He stood up from his desk and decided to take a walk. Maybe the cool night air would jog his brain into a writing mood. He put on his light summer jacket, grabbed his keys, and set out into the suburban darkness.

The streets were pretty quiet; all he could here was the distant crashing of waves and the hum of the highway just a kilometre away. These two sounds mingled, so that after a few minutes, one was indistinguishable from another. The houses he passed were mostly in darkness apart from a light from a window here or there. He felt mildly better knowing that he was not the only one awake at this hour, possibly contemplating a dilemma.

Or on the other hand, they could just be watching TV. Late night popular series were a thing now. Just another ploy to suck extra viewing time from the public so that advertisers could peddle their self-parking cars, electric toothbrushes recommended by actors dressed as dentists and other such unnecessary yet highly appealing luxuries. This thought angered him. How was he supposed to make his mark on the world when there was not even space for another diaper commercial?

"Am I thinking too cynically?" he wondered out loud to himself. Surely there must be people in the world who were willing to listen to the things he thought were meaningful. The problem he had now was conveying them properly. It did no good to put his thoughts down as they were in his mind. No one really understood anything he wanted to make clear unless he thought out his words carefully. Of course, he could just put everything down in words and edit his ideas after the fact, but he knew that having to look into his own mind later in order to properly interpret his message, left him feeling a fool.

He had walked around the neighbourhood and ended back at his gate. The night air had grown heavy and humid and he longed for the relief of his fan cooled living room. He took one last look at the black tarmac road he had just walked down, and went inside.

He had wasted so much time stewing in his own head that the clock on the wall had just gone 2am. He had work in the morning. His gaze wandered over to the artificial bright light given off by his computer screen. Although his frustration had already set in, he decided to give his first sentence one last try. There is nowhere for me to start because there is nothing I can convey that has any meaning to you. He looked over the sentence a few times and suddenly, all his thoughts of the evening seemed to fall into place. His processes somehow now seemed logical and coherent. It's amazing how one sentence can inspire so many thoughts that all fitted.

And so he began to write...


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