Black Parrot Days: when writing won’t come

I’m thrilled to announce Writing a River has its very first guest post! 

Guest Post by Penelope Hart

Today’s post is by the wonderful Penelope Hart. Penelope has had a long career as a writer, working on glossy magazines in the eighties, and later gaining an MA – with distinction – in Script writing. Her plays have been performed in British theatres and she has also worked in Hollywood as a picture researcher. One day I expect to be going to a movie bearing her name, and till then we can content ourselves with this witty description of dealing with challenges Penelope has faced while working on her memoirs. 

 Black Parrots

Parrot has become Squire Parrot who resides in a magical palace, has a Countess wife Parrot who has four Parrot knave sons and a gardener who does push ups on my imagination; uncaring he’s left the garden gate open. There is a girl Parrot but she’s useless, can’t be bothered to get up, walk down the driveway, through the maze, over the carp lake, round the Parrot Bentleys to close the …..gate!

Poster by Chrissie Klinger

The Parrots, formally The Black Parrots are the uninvited imaginary bird-like forces that clumsily plumb down from wherever they come from (I don’t want to know from where, thank you) and create entire lives in writers’ minds, once they have been allowed to perch in there.

I have access to as many black parrots as I will, or won’t. There they are, on those branches not too far away, in a vicar’s garden say, at the end of a long lawn. It’s not quite daylight but they’re making their cawing sounds. They’ll be down to the house soon, they’ll look in through the window and see my head, in an armchair.

My head is on its own, separate from my neck and the rest of the body, sliced off neatly, mouth turned down. That’s all they see, or care about.

I’m a writer. I’ve written six chapters of a memoir that’s printed up and piled in a corner on the edge of my desk, waiting for the first words of chapter seven. Chapter seven was interesting last June because I had a sudden realisation that I’d interpreted some vital memory wrongly, which meant that I needed to stop to think about it ~ in order to portray things right. We were moving house then. I couldn’t find a rhythm (or a place to sit down) in our new home. I thought it best to stop and reflect, to nab that critter truth and pin him down in chapter seven ~ when I’d had him. It was complicated. This was my life I was writing about and I’d gotten it wrong in my memory. I needed to untwist that truth. It kept fluttering out of mind’s reach, afraid of being caught.

It was a trumpet call to Squire Parrot and his fat Countess Parrot wife. I heard them of course, was kind of sure I knew how to starve them out, left a message on Facebook (telling them they’d got the wrong scribe) and let the summer sun shine down on my sunburned mind, scribbling the while the odd ineffectual line.

The Parrot Family took over the castles and mansions in the land, the stories and fairy tales, the clocks! They gave wedding parties, they flew like drunks round my belfry, had Goth services on golf courses and cawed ‘up yours’.

My partner created a work space for me in the new home. We got the modem hooked up and some curtains too. I plugged up the printer and the lap top. I bought reams of A4. I forbade the entire world to put a foot in my space because I like my space to be all mine, as much as I insist on eating fruit off a fruit plate, or brushing my teeth before going to sleep and sleeping on my side of the bed.

Across the road, or ocean, galaxy, or dream, the Black Parrots population flood the giant cypress tree, the giant oak tree, the giant redwood tree and all the Christmas trees you can see for miles and miles. Their Parrot servants are idle but numerous and the population grows.

The summer disappeared, then suddenly it is NaNoWriMo time. I pulled out all the writing stops. Quickly. Overnight. I decided ‘now or never’ and I just went for it. Lord knows where The Black Parrots hide then. I wrote 30,000 words in three weeks, then stopped. (The subject was still Memoir but a different slice of life). My companion had to have an operation. True. He needed me. I couldn’t finish the last 20,000 words. 

The pages have been printed out at least. I’ve read them. The Black Parrots use them as toilet paper, I’m sure. I haven’t gone to check where they are, since November.

They have produced another set of questions to answer about the past.

I stop writing. Is that truth just too horrible to contemplate and resolve? Even in note form, or in journals?

It is dastardly fertile Black Parrot Territory.

They let the Parrot gardener leave the garden gate open in their estate, which is my mind, whilst he “works out’ and I don’t.

More on today’s contributors.

You can find Penelope at Writing Angles and as GoodLady on Hubpages.

Chrissie Klinger, who drew the awesome Countess Parrot wife, has a great blog for green dog lovers. By that I mean dog lovers who live in an eco-friendly way, not Martians who also have green dogs! You can find Chrissie at Pupcycled. 


  1. You even put the hash tags in Yvonne Spence! They say that ‘what goes around, comes around’ , so since you are such a generous, sharing writer and friend, (hey you let those black parrots be seen for what they really are), I wish you success. Chrissie Klinger’s Countess Parrot is just as cunning as she is in the feathers. I found it has helped deal with writer’s block

  2. I really enjoyed reading this and shall share it with my writer friends…now I know that whenever I get writer’s block I just need to call in pest control to get rid of those parrots!

    1. BethanyRose, thank you for your comment. It’s a great post isn’t it? I will let Penelope know how mush you enjoyed it. And yes, call in pest control!

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