You stare at the blank screen.
It can take minutes, sometimes hours. Sometimes nothing comes at all. Sometimes it's so poor and expresses so badly what you wanted to say that you wish it hadn't come at all. But usually something comes and you're grateful, grateful because, when something comes you can hope - hope that it will build, hope that you might feel that pleasure-rush behind the ears, that quiet ecstasy that radiates around the base of the skull when you do get it right, or read it when someone else has. Usually though, you're grateful for nothing more than that the screen is no longer blank. But it's the good days you do it for, when it comes before you can even get yourself before the screen, your fingers do their merry dance in a blur and the flow of words picks you up and transports you - the images shine, the meanings resound and you follow every twist and turn, every pause every punchline as if you are outside it all; you are not writing so much as something is being written through you: you, your eyes aglow, your skull aflame. And then it fades, the words cease and those guiding hands put you back down, you go back to the routine, back to the drone, back to the blank screen.
And there you are, today, back in front of the screen, trying to will the whirring of the wheels in that free mind of yours, trying to wipe away the grime and the grit from the windscreen of your consciousness, trying to see. Trying to write down what you see. There may have been words, you may have made a start, the piece may have been completed, you may have had about you that quiet smile or look of mild consternation as you finessed the almost finished article, squeezed those last few drops of meaning, irony, humour or remorse from whatever you were writing. We won't know what it was you were writing, only that that was what you were planning, or what you had done or what you were in the middle of doing when they came.
They came, I imagine, from behind you - the coward's way. Because you would have had a desk with a screen, by a window or a lamp so that you could type facing towards the light. I know this, because that is what we all do, no matter how ineptly, no matter how pointlessly, no matter how reviled or acclaimed. It doesn't matter. We just do it because that is what we do. We type towards the light.
So now all we can do is to go here and hope to see your words one day replace the night black screen. Hope that even if you can't, your words may come back. And then we go back to our own blank screens and wait.
Wait for it to come.
Then we type.
We type towards the light.
For Tim Footman and in memory of Avijit Roy.