“I hear a noise, like a tapping sound. I get up out of bed and see a typewriter on my desk in the living room. I don’t own a typewriter…and the keys are typing by themselves. I woke up after that, but the next night, I have the same dream. This time, I go a little closer, but can’t read what is being typed. The third night, I dream again and go closer still. On the fourth night, I manage to see the paper, but it’s blank.” Francine stopped. She looked intently at her therapist.

“Have you had any more dreams since?” Wanda asked.

“No, no, not since last week. What does it mean?”

“You said you are having writer’s block, is that right?”

Francine nodded.

“I think the typewriter and blank page represents your block. Your subconscious is reinforcing this.”

“Okay, that makes sense. So, what should I do about it? I mean the writer’s block?”

Wanda took off her glasses, which she did when she was thinking. She sat for a few minutes with her eyes closed and then spoke, “Well, I’m not a writer, but I do know about dreams; why not change the dream?”

“What do you mean? How?”

“Before you go to sleep, say to yourself, ‘I want to have the same dream, but this time I want to see what’s written on the page.’”

“Can you do that? I mean, influence your dreams.”

“Yes, I ask my patients to do this all the time, especially with nightmares.” Wanda put her glasses back on.

Francine nodded but wasn’t sure she could do it. Wanda knew her client and could feel her hesitation.

“What’ve you got to lose? Do it every night before you go to bed and see what happens.”

Francine nodded again and gave Wanda a weak smile.

“Well, our time is almost up. Shall I see you next week, or in two weeks?”

“Uh, better make it two weeks; I really have to get going on with this new book, which is nonexistent at the moment.” Francine gave a dry laugh.

“You’ve done The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, haven’t you?” Wanda asked as they were walking out of the office.

“Oh, yeah, a few times, but not recently,” Francine said.

“Well, go on a field trip; a busman’s holiday…you know, go to the library, look at the books, or better yet a bookstore and browse; get some inspiration. Julia Cameron encouraged artists to go to galleries; writers to read; musicians to listen to all kinds of music…to get the artistic juices flowing again.”

Francine didn’t say anything. They made a new appointment and Francine left the building.

Driving home, Francine thought about what Wanda had said.

“Easy for you to say,” muttered Francine to herself, “change your dream…yeah, right.”

Once home, Francine made a cup of tea and sat down to write on her computer. She stared at the computer for ten minutes, not writing a word. It was so infuriating. She had done her first novel in less than six months (a bestseller). Admittedly, the next one took almost a year, but this one, Francine hadn’t written anything, not one word for three months. She didn’t even have an idea about what the book would be about.

“This is stupid.” Francine slammed the computer shut and went to her massive book case. She gazed at the books and finally saw the one she wanted. Francine took her cup of tea and sat down to look at Julia Cameron’s book. After rereading some of it, Francine knew what she needed to do.

She faithfully got up every morning at 7AM and did her journal as Julia suggested. It was interesting to start writing again about anything and nothing. She enjoyed the half-hour she gave herself to write in the journal with her toast and coffee.

Francine didn’t even attempt to write the book. She took long baths, did some yoga, and caught up on her fan mail. The typewriter dreams were nonexistent now, which didn’t seem to bother her. She hadn’t tried what Wanda suggested; she thought it was flaky and couldn’t possibly work.

Francine’s aging adopted parents both died within months of one another when she was 20. They were the only family she had. This contributed to Francine being a loner. She also had a slight agoraphobic tendency. She hated crowds, the sun bothered her eyes, the wind scared her, and the rain was, well, wet! She went shopping late at night and on weekdays to avoid too many people and did most of her clothes and other shopping online. This was part of the reason Francine sought Wanda’s help: to get out more and socialize. So far it hadn’t really worked. It did start Francine writing, though, and miraculously got her published. She continued to see Wanda, not so much for her antisocial behavior but as a soundboard for her writing. Wanda was a good luck charm and of course Francine was also very superstitious; she felt she needed Wanda to continue with her writing career.

After a week of journal writing, Francine decided to go to her local Indigo store on Friday evening. It would be hit or miss whether the store was busy. She could always turn around and go home if it was.

Luckily, it was okay, with only three other people in the store. Francine took a deep breath in (as recommended by Wanda) and shuffled her feet on the floor to ground herself (another tip from Wanda) and was then ready to browse.

Francine loved the smell of books, the texture of the pages as she flipped them, seeing row upon row of literature and written words all together. This was her world; the silent one of reading and imagination. She looked at the books of her favorite authors and some classics. Francine read some of the pages over again and delighted in the memory of the stories. She looked at her watch and realized it was almost closing time. A shelf of books caught her eye and Francine went over to have a look. They were reduced. “Maybe I could buy one of these if it’s a good price,” she said to herself. Francine looked at the titles and nothing seemed to interest her except one.

Take the Long Way Home. Francine wondered if she had read it as the title sounded familiar. The author’s name was Frank Attelli. That’s funny, she thought, as her name was Francine Bottrelli. Francine opened the first page and began reading…

She stopped, “I must have read this before; I remember it.” Francine spoke aloud without realizing it.

“Miss…excuse me miss?” a store clerk was trying to get her attention.

“Oh, sorry, yes?”

“We’re about to close; would you like to buy that?” she asked.

“Uh, no, no I don’t think so, I think I read it.” Francine put the book back and went out of the store.

That night, she had the typewriter dream. This time, she could see some writing on the page. It was the first paragraph of the book she saw in the bookstore. Francine woke up in a sweat. She went to her computer and typed in “Frank Attelli.” Nothing came up. Maybe she had the spelling wrong. Doing variations of the name, title, Francine came up with nothing.

“That’s weird,” she said. She gave up and went back to bed.

Francine decided to cancel her appointment with Wanda. She wanted to keep exploring her journal writing and browsing. Francine went back to Indigo the next evening and went straight to the book she was reading. It wasn’t there.

“Oh, don’t tell me someone bought it,” she moaned. Francine went up to the front and asked if they had any more copies of the book.

“What’s the author’s name?”

“Frank Attelli.”

“Hmm, we have no record of any such author. What’s the title?”

Francine told her but again it came up short.

“Well, that’s weird; I was here just last night and was looking at it.”

“Let me check our records. We keep a log of every book that’s sold, clearance or otherwise.”

Francine was getting impatient.

The clerk gave her a funny look. “Sorry, there isn’t a record of any book sold under that author or title. Maybe you were at a different bookstore? It happens all the time.”

“No, no, of course not. I only ever come here.” Francine was indignant.

“Oh, never mind. I’ll go to the library.” With that, she stormed out.

Francine could feel herself getting agitated. Her heart was racing and her palms were sweaty. This was not a good sign. She might be in for a panic attack. Francine walked as quickly as she could to her car and sat in it. She was breathing heavy. She made herself take some slow, deep breaths. Francine knew she didn’t dare go to the library. She made her way home instead.

That night, the dream came back. This time there was a whole page written on the paper. Francine didn’t have a photographic memory, but she could remember it word for word. She quickly typed it into her computer.

Every night, Francine dreamed about the typewriter and saw the text on the pages. Immediately after waking up, she put the words on her computer. This went on for a week. A story was unfolding and it was rather good. It was about a young man who had an abusive childhood. He became an alcoholic and nearly destroyed himself. It took place in the 1950’s.

I wonder if doing Julia Cameron’s book has undone my writer’s block? Francine thought one morning, but it doesn’t explain the book I saw in Indigo. I don’t want to be done in by plagiarism. Maybe I did read it and somehow it’s coming through my subconscious? Francine slumped forward. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s so frustrating,” she said aloud.

Francine called Wanda’s office and made another appointment.

She continued to write the pages she saw in her dreams. Besides, she didn’t dream about anything else and it was impossible not to; it was all-consuming.

Once in Wanda’s office, Francine began to relax. She hadn’t realized how uptight she was. Her neck felt like there was a vice around it and a slight headache throbbed behind her eyes.

“So,” Wanda began, “how are your dreams? How’s the writing?”

Francine began the long tale of doing her journal writing, going to the bookstore, Frank Attelli, the written pages in her dreams and the story that was unfolding.

“Hmm,” Wanda pursed her lips and took off her glasses. She didn’t speak for a while. It looked like she was going into a trance. Francine was getting impatient but didn’t want to interrupt Wanda’s thought process.

Finally, Wanda spoke, “Do you believe in the supernatural?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought about it…no, I don’t think so, but what’s that got to do with my dreams and this guy Frank Attelli?”

“Now, this may sound bizarre, but maybe this is someone from the other side who is contacting you to write his story.”

“What; you mean the other side, like dead? You mean someone who’s dead?”

Francine looked horrified as Wanda nodded.

“Holy shit, sorry, I mean, that’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes, possibly, or…” Wanda stopped again, “or it’s your story, but that’s the only way you can write it, through your subconscious dreams.”

Francine felt goosebumps on her arm. She pulled her sweater around her for warmth.

“Ask in your dreams,” Wanda said.

“What?” Francine asked.

“When you’re dreaming, ask if this is Frank coming to you.”

“Look, this is a bit hocus pocus for me; I don’t believe in all this.” Francine nervously fiddled with the buttons on her sweater.

“There are all kinds of unexplained phenomena that happens and you’re struggling with a story; poor Frank didn’t get a chance to write his, so he sees an opening and voila, you’re both winners.”

Francine couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was Wanda that needed therapy, not her. Francine couldn’t wait to get out of there.

“Look, this is a lot to process. I think I need to finish now.” Francine’s palms were sweating and she was getting overheated. She took off her sweater.

Wanda looked concerned.

“I’m sorry I may have frightened you. Of course; let’s finish and I’ll see you next week.” All Francine could do was nod. She made an appointment but had no intention of seeing Wanda again.


For all installments of “The Ghost Writer (Francine’s Dilemma),” click here.