Up the stakes

This post is inspired by a writing prompt at The Write Practice. The prompt suggests writing about an experience from your day, but up the stakes by introducing conflict.  Here is my attempt.


I woke naturally, sunlight glowing through my eyelids.

“Why didn’t we buy curtains yesterday?” I wonder to myself, peaking at the clock to find it’s only 7.30am. Back home I would never have woken this early without my alarm.

Still, it is a week day and I need to go into the office so I roll out of bed and make my way to the bathroom where I do my hair, then back to the bedroom to dress. As I fasten my cufflinks I look at my reflection. My hair needs a cut, but it doesn’t seem that long ago I had it done. I noticed a barber downstairs on the weekend and wonder if I should give them a try. How does one go about finding a new hair dresser?

I switch on the coffee machine and it comes to life with a whir. A scoop of beans and the grinder is on. I’m relieved it worked first time today as I can’t afford to replace it right now. I sit down to my coffee and muesli and the doorbell rings.

“Yes?” I answer.

“Courier! Please come down to collect your parcel.”

Wonderful! This will be our modem. We’ll be able to keep our appointment with the telco tomorrow and be online before the weekend. My holey old sneakers clash with my suit but I can’t be bother wrestling with the shoe horn. As I step out of the elevator I pity the postman surrounded by his pile of boxes, continuously paging the various apartments he’s delivering to today. I wonder how many people aren’t home and how long he waits.

Breakfast done, I throw an apple in my bag and make my way to the bus stop. It’s a pleasant morning, blue skies and not yet hot. It’s a shame the afternoons have been getting so humid, but perhaps today will be different without the cloud cover.

This is only my second time on the bus, but it’s an easy 20 minute trip. We race along the bus lane, slipping in and out as people get on and off. The person next to me has pressed the buzzer and wants to get past. The bus is still bouncing along and I stumble as I stand to let her out of her seat.  As I sit back down, I think of the train gliding smoothly along its tracks and feel a pang of home sickness. I realise I miss the time spent with mum on the train, and hope she will have a good day today returning to the office after her break.

The van beside us toots loudly as the bus pulls out in front of it, and I’m drawn back to the present.

At the next stop a couple board the bus with a large dog. The man is wearing an Everlast singlet, showing off his tattoos. The cold white lights of the bus reflect off his smooth shaved head. His girlfriend is wearing heavy make-up paired with large gold hoop earrings, chewing gum as she taps away on her phone with hot pink nails. I wonder if dogs are allowed on buses, thinking this is not something you would expect to see back home. Maybe it is, then again maybe the driver doesn’t have the courage to turn the couple away.

Suddenly, as a lady stands up getting ready for her stop, the dog barks and snaps at her handbag. Startled, the lady trips and lands on her back, knocking her head on the edge of a chair.

Distracted by his girlfriend, the man had relaxed his hold on the leash and it slips through his hand.  The bus has stopped, doors open, and the dog races from the vehicle.

“Hey!” the man yells, oblivious to the fallen woman and the blood on the floor.  “Get back here!”

His girlfriend looks up from her phone, slaps him on the arm and tells him to go after the dog. They both hurry off the bus.

Meanwhile, a young man is kneeling beside the fallen lady drawing a clean handkerchief from his pocket and applying it to the back of her head. She appears shocked, and silent tears are welling in her eyes.

“It’s ok,” the man comforts her.  “There’s a small cut, but it doesn’t look deep.”  Another passenger is gathering her belongings back in to her handbag.

“Is everyone ok?” The bus driver has made his way down the bus to investigate the commotion.  The young man stands and explains what has just happened. “And are you alright?” the driver asks of the lady who fell.  She has managed to sit up, but is still on the floor.

“I…I think so,” she mutters. “My head hurts, but I think I’ll be ok.”

“You’ll need to get yourself checked by a doctor. I’ll write up an incident report, and someone from head office will contact you later in the week.” He gives her a friendly smile, then says in a louder voice to the rest of the bus, “I’m sorry everyone, but we’re going to be stopped here for a little while. I’d suggest you dismount and take the next bus which is 5 minutes behind us.”

Some people groan, but most are understanding. We all stand and gather our belongings, then shuffle down the aisle. The young man has helped the lady into a seat to avoid her being trampled by the crowd.

She catches my eye as I pass and I give her a sympathetic smile. I hope she’ll be ok.

Cover photo by Ernanette Carolino on Unsplash

“Modernist poetry”

Today’s post is based on this excercise at The Write Practice.  I made a few attempts, which are all captured below.

Joe suggests picking a random word, and then another unrelated word. I found it really difficult, because once I had latched on to a word I couldn’t help but think about it and how it would normally fit into a sentence.

Trying to force myself away from the previous word, I looked around to find another object or sound that I could include, trying to force myself to meander. This forcing myself started to feel like I was going off track, because it shouldn’t be something I’m thinking too hard about.

But then something happened…

My mind started to wander wider and notice patterns in sounds or words. I started to come up with nonsense rhymes, which ultimately led to my third attempt which I’m actually quite fond of.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on these, and if you’ve taken part in this exercise yourself why not share your writing below? It would be great to discuss how you found the exercise yourself.

First attempt:

whiskers smell
trickle drip cool flip potato chip
hum buzz fan churn twinkle star
sky hot dark stove moon burn glow bacon
puzzle clear crash build city
bird ran climbed jumped burped
harry potter skipped to hogwarts farting all the way

Second attempt:

banana skin is super thin
i like to fly a kite might try through a bike
then a bird on a shelf read a book full of wealth
snow white nibbled an apple
but shouldn’t have

Third and final attempt (for tonight)

i like mushrooms with butter and thyme
time is often to short
short of breath after running
running late to a meeting with a stranger
strange I haven’t heard from my aunt for a while
while you’re here please read my book
booked a table for two at six pm
pm has left the country to meet with others who lead
lead is poisonous and gets in the water
water the garden to keep it alive
a live broadcast will stream the game
game for anything if you ask him
hymns are sung on sunday mornings
morning the loss of a loved one
one last line before i go…

Cover photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Why this cover photo? This writing exercise reminded me off a rollercoaster, twisting and turning and going all over the place. Unlike a rollercoaster, a poem like this is guaranteed to go off track!

Finding my way with my500words

So Jeff’s challenge turned out to not be quite what I was expecting. It has also helped me understand my goal and what I want to start practicing.

I have found that the my500words challenge is just that, a challenge. It’s a great way to motivate people to set aside some time to do some writing. 500 words is no small word count, and I have found it a bit tricky on some days to hit this target.

What I’m finding is that I’m very motivated to write, and I have no shortage of time, so these challenges aren’t quite for me.  What I’m really looking for is writing prompts to help get my creative juices flowing so I can start creating (short) stories about imaginary people in real or imaginary places.

And so, I will continue to read the daily challenges, and in some cases actively respond, but more likely than not I will be selecting a writing prompt from somewhere else to complete my daily writing exercise.  I’m finding a series of prompts at The Write Practice are quite interesting to me, and discovered Writing Exercises which has a series of tools to generate random writing prompts.

So I will be continuing to write at least 500 words a day for 30 days, but will now be deviating from the official challenges to my own writing prompts. Some of the outputs I will share here, some I will share in various writing communities and others I will keep private.

Cover photo by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash

my500words – Day 3

Jeff’s third challenge is to get up early – something I’m not particularly keen on. I’m actually quite a night owl and don’t have any intent to change my current sleep schedule.

Regardless, I’m still going to write my 500 words! Rather than posting my writing here, I’m going to take a step back and draft this one privately. I’ll be using the Out of Place writing prompt from thewritepractice.com. Depending on the next challenge from Jeff, I might even use this prompt again tomorrow to elaborate on today’s piece and create a longer one.

my500words – Day 2

So I’ve set out on this journey, but where am I going? What do I want to achieve? This is the writing prompt for day 2 of the #my500words challenge.

Initially I was disappointed by this prompt. Why aren’t I getting a prompt to encourage me to write a creative piece? What sort of prompt is this? I wondered as I read through the email from Jeff.

But now I’m wondering what I want to get out of the challenge. Why do I want to write 15,500 words over the next month? Do I just want to add to the clutter out there on the internet?  The answer is no.

So, for me to be constructive and really benefit from the challenge I need a goal. It can’t be anything generic or ambiguous either. At the end I want to be able to reflect on the 31 days and measure how well I’ve achieved that goal. Suddenly today’s prompt has evolved from a disappointment to being very valuable.

Going back to my initial response to the prompt, Why aren’t I getting a prompt to encourage me to write a creative piece? helps give me some clarity around why I actually started this.

I came across the challenge by doing some Google searches for “how to start writing” and “writing prompts”. And the reason I did this is that I want to start practicing to write short stories. I want to improve my creative writing, unlock ideas for short stories and build confidence to write and share these stories. For me one of the hardest things is knowing where to start, and in part I think this is because I looking for an amazing idea that will result in the world’s most interesting story that everyone will want to read. In reality, this is highly unlikely.

And so, let my goal be:

To build my confidence in writing and sharing my writing, and begin to unlock ideas for short stories.

Along the way, there are a few things I want to get out of this challenge:

  1. Build confidence in writing short creative writing pieces
  2. Connect with other challenge participants to both provide feedback and receive feedback
  3. For fun, incorporate a randomly selected word into each of my challenge writings (today’s word is ambiguous)
  4. Develop a collection of short pieces which I can draw on in future writing endeavours (the first challenge on surroundings will be useful for this, and is perhaps a prompt I will revisit from a different location)

I’m please to say I’ve already made some progress on number two.  I’ve joined the Facebook page for the challenge where I will share links to some of my posts. I’ve also browsed the list of blogs on the challenge website and started commenting on posts shared by other participants.

By establishing this blog, I hope others will read my posts and provide comments and feedback to help me develop and improve on my writing (subtle hint if you’re reading this 😉 ). Also, writing anonymously will make it easier for me to share my writing and build my confidence.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to receiving prompt 3 tomorrow!

Cover photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

my500words – Day 1

This is my first post as part of #my500words.


I’m sitting here on the couch, I have been for the past 30 minutes. The whir of the dishwasher travels across the room, drowning out the softer sounds of the house.  I can’t hear the usual tick of the cuckoo clock, a souvenir from a distant holiday, or creak of the couch as I shift my weight. The laughter of our neighbour’s kids is muffled, and I can’t hear the gentle ding of the wind chime, although I can see the wind gently moving branches outside the window.

Back inside, the air conditioner is blowing gently, its cool breeze tickling my toes. My feet have sunk into the carpet, having not moved for so long.

The couch is sagging beneath me, and my left buttock has started to go numb. I really should get up and move. Instead, I swivel to the right and stretch my legs out on the couch. That’s better.

Clunk! The dishwasher is on to the wash cycle, the washing tablet having fallen in amongst the dishes. Swish, swish, swish…

It’s just after 3pm. I need to leave in 55 minutes, and I haven’t had a coffee yet. I have a meeting that I don’t want to attend. That’s why I’m sitting here, I’m procrastinating. But I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get my coffee beforehand. It’s time to get up off the couch.

I stand, my left foot tingling as the blood rushes down my leg. With a stinging limp I make my way to the kitchen.

Click! The coffee machine is on and warming up. I pop the lid off the coffee tin, and tip a large scoop of beans into the grinder. Whir! It feels like the grinder is competing with the dishwasher for noise. It has definitely won out, but fortunately stops after 15 seconds.

The machine warm and beans ground, I turn the dial and two thick flows of coffee pour reliably from the spout. It splutters as the coffee drips into the cup, small droplets scattering across the white bench top. I wipe the bench, knowing that there’ll be more spills to clean up before I’m done.

The floor creeks as I cross to the fridge, and with a squeak open the door for milk. I splash it into the steel jug, drop in the thermometer and turn the dial again to start the jet of steam.  Waiting for the milk to warm I glance around the kitchen, feeling peckish and wondering what to snack on.  There’s some fruit toast in the fridge, that’ll be perfect.

I pour the milk over the espresso, and once again regret that I can’t manage to create fancy coffee art like they do in the cafes.

I slip a slice of bread into the toaster and push the lever down. Beep! The dishwasher is done, and suddenly the room is silent. What a relief!

The silence is broken with a clunk as the toaster releases my toast. I generously it generously with butter, the knife scraping over the crunchy bread, then make my way back to the couch. Do I have to go to this meeting?

Beginning

As I embark on this journey of practicing to write, I have done several searches and explored a number of sites to see where I should begin.

I have joined several writers communities, and signed up for some email writing prompts. I have Jeff Goins 500 words daily prompts coming through my inbox, and an email series from the Write Practice.  My biggest problem right now is deciding what to write about, so both of these seem like good places to start, with regular prompts to get me going.

I have started this blog as a way for me to share my outputs and keep things together. Also, by posting my writing here I think it will help me to actually complete short pieces as I have somewhere to share them, rather than letting them gather dust in a folder on my computer.

If you’d like to stay up to date with my writing, please sign up on the subscription form to the left. If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and until next time.

Cover image by Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash

Welcome

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

I’ve only just set up my blog, and I’m still getting everything in order. But, very soon it will be fully functional so please check back shortly!

-Tweed Thinker