Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Sad Side Of Stubborn

This is the result of an unedited, ten minute warm-up exercise.

Danae had always had a close and loving relationship with her mother.  However, their relationship changed when Danae’s boyfriend was killed in a car accident six months ago and Danae found out she was pregnant ten days later.  Danae’s mother, Marjorie, suggested Danae move back home until the baby was born, but Danae had flatly refused the offer, and since then had hardly spoken to her mother.

Now, sitting at the top of the stairs in her newly rented town-house, Danae was regretting her head-strong ways.  “What have I done?” she asked herself, as she covered her face with her hands and started to cry.  “Why did I push everyone away?  Why didn’t I listen to Mum?”

Danae sat there, with her head bowed and tears streaming down her face for almost half an hour.  She was brought out of her period of self-questioning by her baby moving inside her.  To Danae it seemed that the baby was trying to tell her something.

“You’re right!” Danae exclaimed after the baby kicked again, harder than before.  “I can’t just sit here feeling sorry for myself and dwelling on my mistakes.  I need to do something, get moving, and take some positive action.  Thanks Baby.”

Carefully making her way down the stairs, Danae once more rued her stubborn streak.  It had landed her in trouble more than once over the years, but this time it may have cost her more than she could bear to lose if she couldn’t work things out with her mother.

Picking up the phone, Danae dialled the only phone number she knew by heart.  Her heart was pounding as she waited for her mother to answer.

“Hello?” an unfamiliar voice answered.

“Er, who is this?” Danae asked.

“It’s Ted.  I’m Marjorie’s neighbour.  Who is this?”

“Oh, Ted, I didn’t recognise your voice.  It’s Danae, Marjorie’s daughter.  Is Mum there?”

“I’m sorry, Danae,” Ted said in a sincere voice.  “I was just trying to find your number.  Your mum was taken to hospital about five minutes ago.  She’s had a stroke.”


A little bit behind

Okay, so I know I said I would try and post a short story or two here each week, but everything has been so hectic lately that I am running a little behind schedule.

I have been polishing a competition entry and now that it is out of the way I hope to have something up here by the end of the week.

Thanks for your patience 🙂

Hidden creativity

How many of us allow our creative sides to take a back-seat to our ‘real’ lives?

Since I ‘came out’ about my writing, I have been approached by so many people who have said, “I write too!”, or “That’s what I want to do too!”  In my office alone I have discovered authors, poets, photographers, and artists.  I am sure if I dig a bit deeper I might even find a musician or two.

It seems such shame that there are so many of us caught up in the day-to-day grind of making ends meet that our creativity is hidden or put on the back-burner of ‘one day…’.

It is scary to say out loud that we have a hidden passion.  To change our thought processes and identify ourselves as a writer, artist, photographer etc instead of an administration assistant, manager, clerk or what-have-you takes courage.  Allowing others to view our creativity for the first time leaves us feeling unsure and vulnerable – what if people don’t like what we do?

Most of us are taught that creativity will not pay the bills, that we must have a ‘proper’ job, and that we should keep our talents hidden.  Few are lucky enough to have parents that encourage us to express ourselves creatively.  Even fewer have parents who encourage us to seek a living based on our creativity.  So the majority of us are left to dabble in creativity as a hobby, or even worse, ignore the creative side of ourselves altogether.

As a person who has so recently rediscovered the joy of writing that I knew as a child, I encourage all of you to embrace your creative sides and wholeheartedly engross yourselves in whatever form of creative expression takes your fancy.  Stop hiding your talent and start telling everyone about what you do.  Share your work, because there is no greater joy than seeing someone else get pleasure from reading your story, reciting your poem, admiring your painting, or listening to one of your songs.

Sweet Temptation

Oh, Sweet Temptation! I know you are there just lurking in the shadows, waiting to get me when I am at my weakest. I stand on the precipice of succumbing to your charms often. But there is always something that holds me back from your heavenly embrace. My inner core is too strong for your persuasive powers to break. So, I continue to come to the edge of the unknown and stand there wondering if this time that rod of steel will have weakened enough for me to acquiesce to your powers of persuasion.

And it is funny, that I can stand beside the crevice and remain alive and breathing, not in the least ready to surrender at the level of my soul, but yet yearn for that release when I am safely out of harm’s way. I fantasise about taking that one tentative step that will cause me to free-fall into the chasm. My mind goes off on a million different tangents imagining the various scenarios of when, where, and how your seduction will be complete. And I am jealous of those who you beguile while you are waiting for me. How dare you flirt with more than one of us at a time! Why can’t you wait for me to come running into your arms like long-lost lovers do in the old Hollywood movies?

The people around me have no idea of my addiction to you. They would be surprised at how much you occupy my mind. Like spirits to an alcoholic, you have a hold on me like no other. I know our relationship is not healthy, but I don’t know how to make you stop tantalizing me with what might be. And I am not sure that I want to make you stop. Because when all is said and done, at times it feels like you are the only one that cares, even though I know you don’t. But unlike the people who should care but don’t, you give me a sense of myself that I know is truly me. When I think about you I know it is my own thoughts I am thinking, not some seed that was planted long ago that I adopted as my own, when it was not my place to do so.

How long will we dance like this? How long will you call my name and show me your enticing nothingness? Will I ever have the strength of heart to turn my back on you forever? I can’t see that happening anytime soon, can you? You are like a siren song to a weary sailor, the light to a moth, the full moon to the high tide. You draw me to you time after time and I am helpless against your charismatic endeavours.

But I need to be strong. I need to live. I need to be whoever I am – the me that is hidden by all the baggage that has been heaped on me over the years. The me that is not enslaved by the thoughts and deeds of others. The me that is true.

So, here we are, Sweet Temptation. Face-to-face once more. This time I am stronger. This time I am acutely aware that you don’t really care for me at all. That has never mattered before, but today it does. Today I am making a stand, and I am asking you to take your wares and leave. I know that you will return, but I am not in the market to buy your treasures today.

Seeking discipline

To say that I am an undisciplined writer would be an understatement.  I am lazy, (I only tend to write when the words are busting to get out), and I like to procrastinate.  This generally means that I write in fits and starts, and sometimes I don’t get a lot of writing done at all.

I have ‘story starts’ everywhere – on a pin-board, in notebooks, on sticky notes stuck on my book case, on scraps of paper in my handbag, hidden in my drawer at work, and scattered on various paper forms all over my desk.  These ‘starts’ are complete sentences that pop into my head from time-to-time, quotes from the people around me, notes about something I read, emotions I felt listening to a song…  Anything that really strikes a chord with me at any given moment usually ends up in my collection of ‘story starts’.  The problem I have is that I have not been disciplined enough to develop these ‘starts’ into something more substantial.  If I don’t get the whole story in one go, then until now, whatever I ‘get’ has been forever destined to float around as incomplete, and unrealised potential.

Partially to save myself from being buried under all of these bits and pieces,  partially to improve my writing, but mostly to develop a good writing habit so that I can write my first novel, I have started to push myself to tackle at least one of these ‘story starts’ each week and develop it into some kind of half-readable story.  Of course, this means that I have had to write when the words are not necessarily ready to come out of their own accord, and when I have lost ‘the moment’ in which I madly jotted down the words in the first place.

Interestingly, procrastination has reduced since I have started to sit down and ‘force’ myself to write.  I have looked forward to the designated writing time more than I thought I would.  Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I would do it 24/7 if I could, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy having to work a bit harder to get the words out than I normally would.  Writing is starting to become a priority, almost to the point that I will now write when I am procrastinating about doing other things (like the household chores).

Having said all that, I am still undisciplined.  I don’t have a minimum time target, or word target for each writing session.  My recent routine has been to come home from work, cook dinner, get the family sorted, check my emails and then sit and write as much as I can before my eyes require some physical assistance to remain open.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, suggests an absolute minimum of 1000 words per day, regardless of how much time it takes. I am nowhere near that target at this point, but I am working up to it.  Working full-time and having a whole heap of emotional and family problems going on around me provides plenty of excuses for not writing, but hopefully by the end of the year I will be well on my way to the 1000-word-a-day target.

The other interesting thing that I have noticed is that the more I write the more ideas I get.  As I turn off the computer, or put away the pencil and paper after working on one story, my mind is often inundated with new stories, characters and plots.  I am taking this as a good sign that I am on the right path.

Creating Writing From The Ashes has definitely helped motivate me.  Announcing to the world that I will be posting one or two short stories each week means I have a goal to work towards, and this has definitely helped me focus more on writing and be more determined to spend the time required to create a readable story from the ideas I get instead of just jotting down a sentence or two and leaving it at that.  Writing blog posts is also a good ‘warm-up’ to get my mind focused on the writing task at hand.

Well, I’m off to do some more writing!  Thanks for taking the time to visit.  I would love to hear about how others have become more disciplined – tips about what works and what doesn’t – so please feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Orange-Grove Lane

Note: The short story below is a response to this prompt: “You are walking down a lonely street, and you notice quiet footsteps just behind you.”  This is an unedited, 10 minute creative-writing exercise from Creative Writing Now.

I have to admit that this is not the nicest day to be walking to work. The clouds are black, and hang heavy in the sky. When it is this dark in the evening the streetlights are on, but this morning they were turned off hours ago because the city has them on a timer. I would normally drive, but my car is out of action for at least another week. That’s what my mechanic says anyway.

Oh, well. I might as well make the most of the exercise. I know I should work out more often, but by the time I get home, cook dinner, take care of the housework and get the kids to bed, I am too exhausted to do anything except shower and hit the pillow myself. One day…

I’m running late this morning, so I’ll go down Orange-Grove Lane instead of walking all the way to James St. The Lane will save me about 5 minutes, so if I keep a good pace, I should make it to work with a couple of minutes to spare. Enough time to grab a coffee I hope, because I didn’t get to have one this morning.

I don’t normally walk down this lane. It is dark even on the sunniest day and today I almost need a torch to see where I am going. It’s too late to turn back now.

Shit! What’s that? My heart starts racing. My blood is thumping in my ears. There are quiet footsteps behind me. I speed up. They do too. I bring my handbag in front of me and grab the handles in preparation to turn and swing at my attacker. I hope the book I have in there is heavy enough to knock them out. I can’t breathe. Should I run instead? Yes, yes! Run!

It seems like minutes before my legs receive the instructions from my brain to run. I take off as fast as I can. Squeezing my eyes shut, I run blindly towards the end of the Lane. I swear, I am never going to walk this way again.

The footsteps behind me also break into a run. I start to sweat from fear and panic. Then I hear a voice yell, “Mum! Wait!”

I spin around in one fluid movement. My daughter is sprinting towards me looking as terrified as I feel. She stops beside me, struggles to catch her breath, and says, “You forgot your lunch!”


The Unforgiven

She had imagined this moment in a thousand different ways.  She had fantasized about how he would look, where he would be, and the cause.  Not once had she imagined it would be like this, and although she had dreamt about it, she had never dared to hope she would bear witness to his dying moments.

In her mind’s eye, she had never imagined this pathetic, slobbering, weakling that is lying on the bed before her.  None of her fantasies included these silent, pleading eyes that are staring up at her.  That he is mute had never been part of the movies that had played in her mind when she closed her eyes and thought about this moment.

She had certainly never expected the emotions she is currently experiencing.  She had imagined she would feel excited, happy, relieved, angry, or an endless number of variations of these and similar emotions.  So, why the hell is she feeling sorry for the bastard?

He uses precious energy to try and reach for her.  She jumps back as if burned or bitten.  Tears fill her eyes as she turns away from him and leaves the room.

In the hallway she leans against the wall and sinks to the floor.  Familiar waves of panic begin to wash over her.  She feels betrayed by her body once more.  This is not how it is supposed to be – she should be celebrating, not whimpering like a coward and weeping at the sight of how decrepit he has become.  This is the moment she has thought about every day for forty years.  His time is finally here!  How is it possible for her to feel anything but hate and loathing for him?

All those years of burying her feelings.  All those times he raped her and beat her.  All the hours spent in counselling so she could show some semblance of normal.  Do none of those things count for anything?  Can her brain not understand she should be mad, not sad?

An orderly walks towards her.  She knows she should stand, but her body refuses to obey.

“Are you alright love?  Can I get you anything?”

Oh, how about an axe?  A knife?  A gun?  Even a sharp pair of scissors will do.

She says none of this.  Instead she shakes her head and dissolves into a fresh round of tears.

The orderly touches her gently on the shoulder, but then abruptly leaves her side.

“Well,” she thinks, “That’s just great!”

She soon realises that the orderly had left her side to attend an emergency.  She can hear the alarm ringing now.  The sound filters through her mind and she is stunned to see people running towards his room.

Scared to breathe, she rises slowly.  She tentatively makes her way to the door to his room.  It is hard to see what is happening.  His bed is surrounded by medical staff.  Voices are layered over each other as commands are issued.  She knows enough of the terminology to understand they want to revive him.

“No!”

Too late she realises she has screamed the word, and she sees some quizzical glances from the nurses facing her.  She says, “Let him die.  He has nothing to live for.  Just let him die!”

They ignore her words and continue their efforts to bring him back from the dead.  She feels the anger rising at the last and yells, “Let the bastard die!  You don’t know what he’s done!  You don’t know the lives he has ruined.  Stop what you are doing!”

As she enters the room, her arms are brought up behind her.  A voice in her ear says, “Calm down.  You need to calm down or you will have to leave”.

Finally the people around the bed move back.  They look apologetic as they file out of the room.  She’s overcome once more by the undesired sadness she felt before.  She shakes loose from the restraints on her arms and steps towards the bed.  There are tears on her cheeks as she kneels on the floor and puts her face close to his.  She pauses and examines the lines on his face.  She remembers how smooth it used to be.  She remembers the sneer, the glare and the rage that all passed over his face in years gone by.

She shudders, leans closer to him, and whispers, “I will never forgive you”.