Work in Progress
by Sara Sherwood
Imagine a day in September. When you get up, there is drizzle on your bedroom window and not enough shampoo in the bottle to wash your hair properly. On the bus to work you read an Instagram caption about how we should all strive to be kinder. You should be reading that Philip Roth novel you’ve had in your bag since June. You make a new-school-year resolution that you will be kinder.
You start by writing a note on the inside cover of a hardback Sarah Waters novel for your friend’s birthday present. You WhatsApp your mum a detailed update of your day before you go to bed. You write postcards to your Nana from art galleries she’ll never visit. You leave supportive comments on your favourite Harry/Draco fan-fictions. You post an apology letter and the first Lindt Santa of the season to your best friend. Last summer, she quit her job, quit you and moved to Berlin to write about performance art. You read all her articles. You wish you were as clever as her. You miss her so much that your bones feel dry.
Then, as the daffodils wave you on the way to work, you realise that being kind applies to you too. You stop stepping on the scales and recording your weight every Monday morning. You start eating pizza again. You re-read Lorrie Moore’s ‘How to Become a Writer’. You wonder if getting over a best friend is much harder than getting over a romantic partner. You talk about this quite a lot on dates. One date recommends you watch Girls. Another asks if you’re a lesbian. You decide that it’s an example of sexism that there’s no adequate dialogue to describe the break up of two female friends. Your friends agree. One of them says you should write about it. You wash that comment away with three gin and tonics.
“You decide that it’s an example of sexism that there’s no adequate dialogue to describe the break up of two female friends.”
It’s August Bank Holiday. Your housemates are away, the flat is empty. You drag a folder named WRITING out of your Recycling Bin. You re-read the first draft of a novel you wrote two years ago. You laugh at a couple of lines but cringe at most of it. You open a fresh Word document. Your fingers hover over the keyboard. You remember ‘write what you know’. You begin. You call it work-in-progress.
It’s September, again. You see a woman. She’s got a bleached pixie cut and a nose piercing. She’s laughing with another girl, a more basic girl like you, on the bus. The sight of them makes your breath catch and your heart skitter. You still miss her. You still want to screenshot tweets and send them to her. You want to ask her what she thinks of Megan off Love Island. You want to say sorry for not saying happy birthday. You don’t, but you write it all down.
You keep writing. You write into October, November, December, January and February until you check the word count and you’ve written 50,000 words. All those words. All yours. You want to send them to her. You want to ask her if you’re being too sentimental, if anyone ever would want to read about two best friends, if you’re telling instead of showing. But you don’t. You just marvel at how you ever lived without your words.
Sara Sherwood | @sarasherwood
Sara Sherwood spends the majority of her time thinking about pop stars, the Kardashians and former British Prime Ministers. She lives in Leeds.