Daniel Williams

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?- Short Story

In Short Stories, Writing on 13/08/2011 at 16:36

Short story originally written for an assignment back in late 08 (or possibly 09) but recently heavily revised, edited and rewritten.

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?

It said on Wikipedia that Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie read that sentence again. Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie worked out that he was one year and two months younger than Arthur Rimbaud when he had given up writing. Charlie did not feel happy. Rimbaud had written poetry that was ahead of his time, but he had been ignored. Charlie’s poetry was not ignored. His poetry tumblr received views, several of his poems had been reblogged and he’d received solid 2:2’s for his Creative Writing assignments. But he had not yet written a ‘Drunken Boat’ or a ‘Season in Hell’ or said anything as deep or as profound as ‘I is someone else’. Though, Charlie thought, his own description of himself as a ‘cynical idealist’ had been something.

But now was the time, Charlie decided, that he would write his ‘Drunken Boat’. Now was the time, Charlie thought, that would be discussed by scholars for decades to come and it would all begin when he opened up a new Word document.

The laptop screen was white and blank. Charlie had his fingers poised above the keys.

He waited.

He wondered where his Muse was tonight. He wondered if she’d taken the night off? Maybe she went out drinking with other writer’s Muses? Maybe they discussed their writer’s works? Charlie imagined what his Muse would look like. He thought she’d be a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He started to type a line about a blue-eyed girl. He deleted it. He knew he couldn’t write honestly about a blue-eyed girl because he wasn’t in love with a blue-eyed girl. He thought he’d have to wait until he was in love with a blue-eyed girl. Which was a shame, he was sure that poem would make his future blue-eyed girl fall even deeper in love with him as well as well written.

Charlie could hear a noise. It sounded like people muttering. He put his ear against the wall. He could hear his housemate Paul’s TV. Charlie huffed and left his room. Charlie knocked on Paul’s door.


Paul was lying on his bed, remote control across his stomach. Charlie said, ‘Paul? Would you mind turning your TV down. It’s just… I’m trying to write.’

Paul lifted the remote control and jabbed a button. He said, ‘Actually you might like this, it’s a documentary all about how peop-’

‘I can’t,’ Charlie said, ‘I’m very busy writing.’

‘Well, alright, then.’

Charlie went back to his room. He sat down at his desk and wondered how he was supposed to work when other people kept distracting him. He thought in years to come Paul would tell people things like ‘You know I lived with Charles Simons. I thought he was a git because he kept telling me to turn my TV down. I didn’t know that he was working on-’ Charlie hadn’t decided what to call his first poetry collection, but Paul would say ‘If I had known he was writing that, I wouldn’t have had my TV on at all!’

Charlie had a Creative Writing handbook on his desk. It contained several exercises to help practice writing. Charlie decided to pick an exercise at random and do it. He flicked to a random page. He read the exercise description. He decided to pick another. The second one he found didn’t inspire him either. Neither did the third or fourth. Or fifth. Half an hour later Charlie had not found one that suited him.

Charlie went downstairs to the kitchen and made himself a drink. His housemates came in and said they’d been talking about going out.

‘I can’t. Very busy writing.’


‘I’m in a very creative mood.’


Charlie went back to his room and listened until his housemates had gone. He decided in the peace and quiet he would abandon Rimbaud and poetry and start work on his novel. He had an idea for a story set in prohibition era Chicago where a beautiful jazz singer falls in love with a writer mistakenly believed to be a bootlegger. If the poetry wasn’t flowing, Charlie thought, it’d be the novel that made his name.

Enjoying the quiet, Charlie lay on his bed and thought it best to try to work out the finer details of his novel before he started. He imagined the writer and the jazz singer, who looked like a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He imagined and dreamed them until he was woken up the sound of his housemates coming back home.

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