‘Age’: a little bit of prose

“Age is our friend,” he toyed, winning their annoyance. A council of women switched off from the listening side of the conversation, and began spewing their individual responses to the offensive keyword, barreling over one another to regale their bitter memoirs and sour predictions.

He sighed, letting this one go, being intelligent enough to recognise a lost cause, and glanced longingly at his watch. He enjoyed this, and held onto the moment. ‘Well, age is my friend,’ he thought to himself, and stroked his facial hair, appreciating each fresh sprout like a newly blossoming rose, knowing that, because he was a man, he would fare easier than these people hell-bent on misery.

“He’s not even listening!” one of them cackled, and the group broke into that dirty kind of laughter that only occurs in response to things that are not funny, and are not jokes. He smirked politely in response, returning from his daydream, from his sideburns, and cut his mental ties with each one of them as easily as he had lost helium balloons from restaurants as a child.

They hadn’t even let him alone for enough seconds that it would have taken to fully absorb the waitress, a much more pleasant presence, one who probably didn’t give a damn about age.

He hoped his friends would hurry up and die soon.

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Back in the Habit #7 : Rachel’s Biscuits

Rachel stands at the window, looking out. She munches widely, jowls giving way and crunching back in, folding in on the half-wet biscuit matter between her teeth. Compressing. She watches the nothing; the driveway of the multi-storey car park next opposite her side-street window. There had been a noise, a siren or a brief wail or something, demanding her inspection.

Her laugh is part guttural windedness, part disapproving groan. But it is a laugh. It trickles out and down when things aren’t funny to me, but seemingly awkward, not satisfactory. I avoid the collective gaze of the room. I glance up sometimes to smile at her simply because she has continued to laugh. Infectious.

We all enjoy the treats. The cultural microcosm of cakes and sugar gathered on snatched trips outside; on holidays, lunch breaks and weekends. We all reach, sometimes self-consciously, for the red box with but one finger-aiding opening dent. We smile at ourselves (but for the benefit and audience of each other) as we give in to the game, accept the exposure of our weakness – once one has started, we can all play.

Rachel reaches without qualm, without hesitation. She raises her eyebrows, she inspects the contents of the box, she carefully selects her prize. We all find something in that box, but we know in our hearts that they are all really Rachel’s biscuits.

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Back in the Habit #6 : Embedded

Today's inspiration

Today’s inspiration

They remain. They stayed behind after the busyness. The louder times. They are here, ‘embedded’, as a stranger might say, but not quite, as a native would know. Too gentle a word for the result of natural, unavoidable processes. A kindly word to nature for its noble choice. Art through entrapment. The hills clasping in the product, engulfing its desperate arms until all is quiet.

But this was their choice. They chose to live adventure.

Standing on the horizon, feeling impossible, and feeling the presence of the truly impossible, anyone could tell you they are there. The mountain face looks altered because of their energy, like a dream full of clenched-fists, a replay of a conversation as yet unspoken. There is only purple sky and green mountain, unreal saturation and stillness lurking openly underneath and all around.

Tidiness. Not emptiness, but tidiness. Everything has been shuffled away into its place. Tucked into corners in the rocks, bedded down in moss, invisible. Care is being taken.

One can only wonder what brought them here. There is only a vast unreality. Perhaps this is the reward for real adventurers. It is terrifying to think of what might have become of them, in all this time. How altered they might be.

This space always belonged to others. And it will again. Each of them may leave their signature on it, lifetimes reduced to remnants. They will not all be seen. We can never truly know our predecessors, their dreams or intentions.

Your beginning is a remnant itself now. The only path is the unknown. There is some comfort in the limitation, and yet the purple looks flat, rejecting, like a mental blockade. It is not present. Not like them. Surrounding this spot is the air of neglect, turned backs. Nature has departed to something more important. In stifling solitude you see only yourself. Your own smell, your lonely breathing sounds, your wide eyes bereft of kindly cues from predators.

The wind is silent, yet tempts one to call out. Though you are blind to all but your very self; urge on, adventurer.

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Back in the Habit #5 : The International Flat Earth Society

I had infiltrated the International Flat Earth Society. I was being accepted as one of them. I was not receiving the sceptical gazes I had imagined based on my experience of the various protective niche churches. It was all Zen smiles and gentle-padding feet so far. A centre of calm. These were a people who had goodness and healthy intentions at the heart of their system. Was it really a system? They certainly had meetings and activities. They had calendars too, though they didn’t look like ours. Somehow they seemed to make a convincing amount of sense; the pieces of card representing the days of the year hanging like bullet-time butterflies throughout the room suggested an urge toward creativity that had not pervaded the world outside here, in which science and nature were fantastic enough that we had become complacent. Contentment is the enemy of invention.

“Good morning, Madam. We have been anticipating your arrival. We would love for you to meet the group.”

This was not what I was expecting at all. How could so many individuals who looked so open-minded believe in something so nonsensical, something that argued defiantly against all evidence that had come to light so long ago, and since? How, and why, had they chosen to live in a static point in the past at which nothing was progressing. The world was literally not turning for them. Surely they were living in Limbo.

And yet they were intelligent, lateral thinkers, radical and persuasive.

“Well, have you ever watched a ship drop over the horizon? Have you followed it to that point and seen the world curve?”

No, I had not. Fair enough.

I felt on edge again; I did not want to be brain-washed. I came here to learn, to criticise, to challenge. I did not want to be challenged in return.

I moved through the activity areas; the library – not limited, but superseding expectations again, full of colourful wonders existing only outside the generally accepted collective understanding. I felt annoyed that these had been kept from me; even though it was all likely propaganda, why should I not be able to access it back in the outside world? Was I not coming from the world of no limitations, uninhibited learning and understanding, in which knowledge and truth and The Full Picture were prized above everything else; even, occasionally, at the price of people’s lives? I was afraid to open any of the books.

I continued to wander through their realm, feeling fascinated and hungry, and yet growing grumpy, irritable, at the fact that there was all this stuff that had been hidden from Us Outside, from the everyday Joe like me who was ready and willing to soak up all that the world had to offer.

‘The world’. I kept coming back to this name, as if it was a being, a proper noun, a ‘one’. I realised that I had been thinking of it differently; there was a world per society, per path of thought, per perspective. It was then that I realised I could no longer hold my silence in this place. I could not pretend. This was a company full of pretenders, of people silencing any thoughts that went against the society’s collective belief.

Frustrated, I raised what was probably a look of thorough annoyance and discontent to meet a kindly counterpart on the face of my guide.

“What must you think of us?!” I cried, and I tore down one of their smug floating dates, crumpled it assertively, stuffed it into a jacket pocket, stumbled slightly as I turned in my thick walking boots, and ran from the building.

Back in the Habit #4 : Knocking

The room stops. Time is a pair of twins speaking to each other telepathically, secretively concocting new history beyond the control of others.

She looks at you, stock still. She scratches her right cheek, which sags worryingly, as if it might come away, like wet cake.

She looks through you. She knocks on the air as if there were a window between you, and you realise the idea has come to you because the sound was made. The sound of knocking on glass.

She continues to stare. She looks down, sodden and downtrodden; sighs. She looks out of the window, emanating a long-lived disappointment. The street activity is reflected in her glassy eyes under raised eyebrows.

She looks into you, challenging, waiting. The moment is important, and you are incredibly capable of failure. The air is thick and absent. She knocks again.

The starch-stiff waves of her hair, frozen in a long-dead moment of stress unimaginable to your generation, captures your attention long enough to remind you that you are supposed to be looking at her face. Anticipating. Seeing her. She is already looking at you. You are late.

The twins continue to look, to communicate. They are reviewing. A pause in the process of creation. Your decision is paramount. It is urgent.

Back in the Habit #2 : Six Minutes Old

Image from http://vimeo.com/50932006 via Google Images

Image from http://vimeo.com/50932006 via Google Images

Six-minute-old steam rose between their faces, their keen noses having drifted towards the blue glass displaying the stairwell beyond. The entrance into their lives that She would make, aided by the hand of a professional. They stared through the improbable art that they had once imagined just to have something to say to each other, in equally exciting, but less anxious times. Stern men and peacocks were purely obstacles to them now, the warps in the glass as frustrating as raindrops on glasses when you’re trying to ride a bike on a busy road.

They fiddled nervously and found each other’s fingers, danced between glimpses, first of comfort in each other’s eyes, then of worry at the expectant looks from the waiting staff. It was nearly closing time.

They flinched like flighty dogs at every shift of light, imagining at once both Her, and disappointing nothing. Plates were tidied away from their table, saucers and spoons slipped away without their ceremonious attention. This was a point in time too important for the tiniest of social niceties. The waitress didn’t need their smiles as much as they needed to be looking when She arrived.

She would bring with her: confirmation, completion. She was the answer to all their problems, and indeed all the problems belonging to the world at large.

She was but six minutes old and already the saviour of the universe.

—————————

Written in response to the keyword ‘adoption’, suggested in The Writer’s Block.

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Back in the Habit

‘Back in the Habit’, a new mini-series – watch this space for the next post.

It’s been a while since I was in the habit of producing new writing each week for open mic nights. I’ve been trying to jump-start that (the writing, and soon also the open mics) back into action recently with a good friend, meeting weekly to play tourist in the local cafés and try our hands at various creative writing tasks, to develop our skills and maintain a level of regularity and productivity. (This sounds a bit scientific – in fact, it’s a little bit more of what I love coming back into my life on a regular basis, keeping my happy and sane.) We’re mainly writing flash fiction at the moment, which is reigniting my excitement for new ideas, and I hope it will also lead to me being able to tackle bigger pieces of writing in the future. (I am truly terrible at planning and editing, living more like the latent-learning monkey, awaiting divine inspiration.)

I’ve learned a few things about my writing habits, which is always useful; for creative writing, I usually prefer to be sitting with quiet company who is doing the same thing. I am a bit competitive, and also in the habit of working in the presence of someone else, since a university housemate introduced the (at the time, seemingly insane) idea of working individually but in the same room. Now, it’s a comfort. I like to get out of the house to concentrate and not be able to crawl back into bed, but when I do write at home, I must be sat at my desk in its little alcove in the dining room. The house must be quiet and I prefer to write in the morning, usually starting around 8am. (Often-times I have provided early morning scares for my housemates, who wander into the kitchen, to which my writing hole is sort of attached but not immediately obvious.) My glasses, which I should be wearing at my computer, need to be doing their own thing somewhere else. We have a relaxed relationship.

I’ll be posting some of the bits and pieces that I get done in these sessions here to reconnect with this blog, while I’m redefining what its purpose is for me. Please do let me know your thoughts – it’s very gratifying to have people read your creative stuff and tell you what it brought to them. Of course, hearing what does or doesn’t work is really helpful, but if any of it leads you down trains of thought of your own, I’d love to hear them too. :) Throwing your creativity out into the world is weird, and getting any kind of response is pretty much amazing.

A few of the writing tasks we’ve been trying are as follows:

  • Free writing based on random keywords
  • 330 word stories based on photos we have taken
  • Writing from the perspective of, or about, a member of a specific organisation, e.g. The International Flat Earth Society
  • Revisiting old diary entries and rewriting them from a new perspective, as if it were fiction, instating new characters, and a new voice and tone. I intend to try this out with a few old texts, and perhaps rewrite them a few times, producing various different creative documents of one moment.

And a few I look forward to trying:

  • All the challenges on Chuck Wendig’s blog
  • Rolling dice to assemble a title, and going from there  – actually another one of Chuck’s, that I found on goodreads.com
  • Writing fake historical plaques like one we saw in Edinburgh this August – apparently this is a whole movement!

For the first one I’ll be posting, I owe thanks to this awesome birthday present from a friend. Which, incidentally, I would recommend to the friends of any writer when it comes to present-buying occasions. Good choice, amigo!

What writing exercises does everyone else use? Do you work best in a specific environment? How often do you write?