My 15 minutes:
I’m never fully aware of what goes on in this house. From time to time I hear mutterings in the eaves, and sometimes a spoon will go missing from the three places I set at the table out of habit, though never from my
seatown. There’s no rigour to their thievery, but it comforts me all the same. Otherwise, the rest is silence. Once I woke to find a bee flitting about my pillow, and I lay still until, apian energy expired, it settled down to nap on the bridge of my nose. I tried to watch it awhile – it’s hard to focus on something so close to you – but eventually closed my eyes and when they’d reopened the bee was gone, as though I or it had been dreaming the other into existence.
My routine is strict, mostly. Up with the sun, a breakfast of oats and berries drawn from the forests not two miles East. Open the windows to let the breeze (and occasional bees)
filtercirculate through the house, only to close them when the moon decides to make its rounds. Write till noon, read till nightfall. It’s not silence when you dissect it with your close attention. It dissolves into clicks and whirs of insects, the occasional outburst of birdsong (though few birds make it out this far), a bee’s whirring on the winds. Bees being insects too, of course – I’m repeating myself. Habits when no-one’s around to defend against one’s missives. Except them, and they’re not really the most exacting of audiences. Soon, men will return here, with hopes of finding me. Butmen are not bees, and it’s not just spoons that disappear in these parts.
It’s intriguing but is that enough? The first paragraph is an interesting one (I came up with it during the hubbub of fractured chatter in my own house this morning), especially the anecdote about the bee, but you could excise the second bit and not lose much except a bit of blatant exposition. “There’s no rigour…”: I like that inversion, it’s an unexpectedly thoughtful approach to loneliness. Hard to tell where this story is going – feels like the alluded drama of the final par is just thrown in for over-effect. I like the last line, though, it plays on the “three plates” set-up at the start in a way that’s more introspective than horrific. Is the bee anecdote a subconscious homage and if so where am I going with that? There’s something going on around words, audiences, writing v. reading, but it’s unformed – like a chrysalis, only time will tell if it spits out a butterfly or an impossibly beautiful Japanese girl.
The task: I set myself 15 minutes to write something, anything. Then I critique what I’ve written and give you a chance to do so as well. This is a compressed variant of one of my old regimes and a useful habit if you’re aiming to improve your writing especially under time pressures. Like weight-lifting (which I abhor), repetition is the key.