Tag Archives: writing exercises

The prison of the mind

More effective than any steel barred, concrete and stone edifice. More closely monitored than the most intensely scrutinised exercise yard. No need for watch towers or barbed wire, no need for guards or patrols, the control excerpted by the psyche absolute. The terror of self imposed solitary confinement, self enforced isolation, the dark walls of a mind closed in on itself, shut down by years of neglect, of loneliness, of constantly questioning motive, drive, reason.

And yet a single word, a moment of compassion, a smile at the right time, some gentle, barely perceptible external stimulus, some moment of discrete kindness could shatter this prison, this fortress of broken promises, of scars that can not heal more effectively than any wrecking ball wielding demolition crew. Will you be the one to set the walls of my prison mind tumbling?


Watching the sky on a Winters morning

The clear blue sky streaked with jet contrails, lines of pale vapour creating interlocking patterns as passengers are conveyed across vast distances, their purposes unknowable to the observer on the ground, the only evidence of their existence the trails, fingers pointing to some far off destination, the arrowhead shape indicating the direction. Sun glinting on the metallic fuselage of the jet, the comet at the head of a spreading tail. The trails merge, filtering the rays of the sun, reducing its power, blocking the ultraviolet warmth, returning the cosmic rays to space.

I remember a time, not so long ago, when volcanic ash replaced the trails, when the planes lay idle on the runways, grounded by natures fury, the Icelandic fires, when the sky was clear, the air was pure. I remember seeing the blue vault of the heavens as if for the first time, unsullied, unchained from these gauzy remnants, the sky my ancestors saw before the coming of the modern age. A sky not seen at any other time in my life. Those few days stay with me, and as I watch the skies fill each morning, the trails spreading like a blanket I wonder, just for a moment

“What have we done?” 

Her muse

The coffee cup, half finished sits beside the monitor as her fingers skittered over the keyboard, the words filling the screen, line after line, sentences structured, the story clear in her head as the voices of characters weaved a semi-magical ribbon of narrative fabric, almost autonomous, a natural rhythm to the cut and thrust of dialogue. Lost in reverie, in the swirling kaleidoscope of colours and sounds the story takes shape, moulded, sculpted, carved from the language of the everyday, the mundane but reformed into something more, something beautiful, something wonderful.

He watches her work, lost in admiration for the ease with which she conveys the deepest human longings, emotions and sensations etched across the mind of the reader, seared into the psyche creating new archetypes, hinting at hidden meanings, of deeper truth, of passions beyond the experience of most, but longed for at some primeval level. She pauses, looks up from the screen, a faint smile on her lips as she sees him watching, a smile he returns, and in his eyes she sees her muse….


The Sun sat low to the horizon, barely risen as eyes, crusted with sleep opened slowly. Even this weak early morning light harsh and unforgiving slicing through the after effects of last nights excess. The evening had begun quietly enough, a couple of beers over a pleasant enough meal, steak, medium rare, potato gratin, peas, a hollandaise sauce. A couple of shots to follow, post prandial chasers to aid digestion, a couple become three, four, the singles becoming doubles as the night wears heavy, the bitterness of dining alone, the chafing rawness of potential unfulfilled, maybe just a bad result for his team. There is always an excuse, but never the truth. 

Another morning, another time, the same sleep crusted eyes open, not to sunlight but the infinitely more harsh reality of steel bars, the tread of the jailers boot, the hopelessly cheerful whistling of souls lost in this concrete and steel purgatory. Another meal, a few drinks, the drive home. Another excuse for the inexcusable, the accident someone else’s fault. The court found differently, five years the sentence, but there is always an excuse, until you have to face the truth….

Cruel to be kind

Fingertips brushing lightly across soft, smooth skin, the lightest caress of warm breath against the back of her neck bringing a gasp from her lips as her body responds against her conscious wishes. She fights the growing feelings of desire, lust as his strong hands manipulate her slender form. Each touch jolts her like an electric shock as her senses are heightened by her position, wrists bound tightly with hemp rope, arms pulled taut above her head connected to an iron ring fixed deep into the masonry of the ceiling arch. Another length of rope binds her legs from knee to ankle, securing her, hoisted onto the tips of her toes, every muscle stretched, aching.

She senses his movement, the soft band of padded silk covering her eyes making her hyper aware of the movement of the air as he changes position, the sound of his breath, the slight rasp of a throat abused by years of cigarettes and bourbon whisky. The harsh bristles of his three day growth of beard sharp against her skin as he leans close, kissing each vertebra along the length of her spine. A sigh escapes her involuntarily, then a shudder as he chuckles softly, the sound diminishing as he pulls slowly away. A tear runs down her cheek as the door shuts behind him leaving her alone again….

The shot


Nocking the arrow against the taut string of the beautifully worked longbow. Hewn from a branch of an old Yew tree, the dark wood of the back contrasting with the paler heartwood of the belly. A tension spring primed by stringing…


Taking sight on the target, two fingers hooked over the string, one above, one below the nock of the arrow, a moments pause as peripheral vision dims, the focus of the gaze locked…


Drawing the bow, straight arm extended towards the goal, drawing arm smoothly pulling back the string belying the bows 150lb draw weight, a practiced draw honed over long years of study, the muscle and sinew of chest and shoulders refined to this single purpose…


A pause at full draw, final adjustments to the aim, the lift and carry of the arrow, the drop over distance, the wind, soft but enough to defeat the unwary. Time stops as the decision is made, strong fingers, calloused to perfection relax in perfect unison…release! The arrow flies, straight and true falling to pierce the heart. A clean kill!


The fruit machine

Flashing lights, patterned sequences that coax the unwary, tempting with rising numbers and tones. Siren call to the desperate, the dispossessed. So easy to drop your money in, to push the buttons, to watch the reels spin as the lights dance before your eyes. The reels stop, spin again, stop, the cycle repeats as the credits decrease.

A win here, a win there, just enough to drive you on, to believe with all your heart that the jackpot is just a spin away. The sequence seems so clear, so obvious but still the big win eludes, always just one spin out of reach.

You know the house always wins but the lights are calling, seducing, and you know your choice is made. You drop another coin….the kids won’t eat tonight…