Through the struggles of finding time, energy and inspiration to write I have been gifted with the help of many good friends.
On top of that I’m a sucker for a challenge. Aren’t you? I loved the 100 Burpees challenge – even though my abdominal muscles initially screamed in low-key hatred for my self-improvement seeking soul. I relished stepping out for 10,000 steps a day for Care International’s Walk In Her Shoes. I’m a persistent volunteer for mud runs and charity races – even though I hate running with a fierce passion.
Competing with yourself has to be one of the best joys – to push yourself and see what you can do.
Casual chats with dear friend and trouble-maker Ineke Poultney (@inkyworld on Twitter) triggered my latest challenge to myself. Bemoaning my lack of ability to actually sit down and write a book Ineke suggested, nay volunteered, to put me through my paces with writing prompts to help shift my writers block. Just five minutes a day of writing to stretch my imagination and force the block through by just writing.
Just five minutes.
I have to admit that, at the beginning, I was scared. Scared that the short compositions would reveal me to be lacking in imagination and short of storytelling capabilities. Just five minutes seemed to be too long. I was not sure that I could even sustain just five minutes a day for a week, never mind fifty days.
I’ve been very fortunate to have Ineke in my corner, her industrious and determined nature have kept me on track in our project. A keen writer in her own right, Ineke’s unique world view has informed some fascinating and creative prompts which flowed with a level of consistency which has exceeded the amount of energy she might have been able to give on any single day. For fifty days she provided a line to inspire a little moment of writing. For fifty days she offered kindness and support, gently coaxing and chasing me into working.
The result has been fifty pen pictures. Fifty beginnings. Fifty places from which bigger worlds could be drawn – I hope.
So today I offer four of these beginnings to begin the next phase of this creative project. I want to extend my writing, open myself up to more criticism, more challenge. Can you help?
I need just five minutes.
You have a day to choose one to be the next beginning of a short story, dear reader, then I will take 24 hours to turn around the beginning of your choice into a longer story.
Are you up for the challenge? Please, if you can take just five minutes, read these four beginings and make your choice by voting on the pinned tweet at @RubiesB4Swine.
Thank you. I just hope I’m not wasting your time…
Story 1: Show You Care
“The best way to show you care about someone is to allow them to be themself around you, you know. That is how he has been able to do all this,” said Simeon eyeing his brother whilst sipping the Malbec.
George was at the end of his own jetty with Eleanor sitting atop his shoulders, her little arms wrapped around the top of his head, preparing to climb aboard his own boat..
Rosalind blushed and softly spoke: “Wasn’t he like this before?”
“No,” said Simeon. “No he was not. George was just anger – fury and rage. He never seemed to settle before. I’d expected he would have managed to kill himself before now, or someone else. He was a walking death wish before you. Now look how he has changed, he has softened so much. I thought there was no way back for him after Dublin.”
“Dublin? What do you mean Dublin?”
“You know, after the incident,” nodded Simeon as he waved at a happily shouting Eleanor.
“What incident?” said Rosalind, genuinely baffled.
Simeon picked up the wineglass, gulped from it and looked towards George then around to his mother in the house behind, as if looking for a person to help.
Story 2: Gifted
Martha said she wasn’t much, wasn’t important, but shimmering light trailed in her wake.
She had met Grant from the underground, having arranged to meet him on her way home from work and before some class she hadn’t specified. For many years they had communicated by Twitter, the odd humourous exchange, the occasional retweet but, as she said, he’d never thought of her as much, not important. It was only on the day his father died and he could only manage a mention of his loss that Martha came into her own and stepped forward from the murky shadow of social media irrelevance. It was weeks before she suggested they meet for this coffee on her way home and he hesitantly excepted, still fragile from his loss.
The coffee shop was unremarkable, the coffee bitter and old, and he could not remember of what they spoke, but he left that day feeling lightness and – for the first time in weeks – he felt hope. He couldn’t describe why but there it was, nonetheless.
It was only as he followed Martha from the cafe – as she went back to the tube and he started to walk back towards his office – that he saw the irridescent air behind her. As Martha passed people by none of them seemed to notice, but their expressions changed as the shimmer caught their space and frowns and blanks turned to smiles.
He looked confused for a moment, uncertain as to what he was watching, before being shaken back to reality by a homeless man sitting close to his own feet spoke.
“Some people don’t realise how gifted they really are,” he said.
Story 3: Fighting Fires
Neil nodded his head sagely and added: “According to our Risk Assessment you do not need to alert the local fire brigade.”
“Who wrote the risk assessment? Guy Fawkes,” said Barry cynically. “There’s a fucking twenty minute indoor pyrotechnics display in the middle of the set. You wanting to have us all razed to the ground?”
“Barry, you know better than anyone that we’re working to a tight budget and that, where we can save we must. We simply can’t afford to pay for further work with the fire brigade, especially not after the cost of the fireworks each time.”
Barry grunted and shrugged. He knew he couldn’t just keep pumping cash into this tour. He was borrowing now just to keep venues on side, having maxed out several credit cards on ordering the “merch”. He pondered, for a few moments, scrapping the fireworks all together but decided that he liked the sparkles after all.
“Just make sure the roadies clear away the backstage area for crap before we go on.”
He then walked over to the curtains around the back and side of the stage, tripping over speaker cabling as he did, and lifted a piece between thumb and forefinger.
“These are fire retardant right?”
Story 4: No Names
“Maybe a name is not the best way to identify someone?”
“What do you suggest – numbers? Barcodes?” asked Sadie, baffled.
“It’s just so…non-specific. I’ve grown up with three Chloes, four Lauras and a total of six Gemmas,” said Hayley. “I have never been to a single educational establishment where I haven’t been the only Hayley. How are you supposed to feel unique in a world where you’re just so…so nondescript, so similar.”
“Is this truly about names?”
“Perhaps not,” sighed Hayley. “But I think I might be finished with the name Hayley Jones. I’m thinking of changing things up.”
Sadie tilted her head, with her mouth slightly open.
“So what? You’re going to became Regina Philange now?”
“Maybe, maybe not, but I need to shake off this life, this town.”
• Remember please vote for your favourite beginning on my pinned tweet @RubiesB4Swine – if you’re not a Twitter user feel free to vote using the comments below!