Recently I’ve noticed a problem. Because I spend every day writing adverts and marketing, my words have become rather formulaic. Punchy headline, informative sub-header, persuasive body copy, repeat.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that when it comes to work – the more I do, the better I get at it. The better I get at it, the more I do. But when it comes to writing something different, that approach can make things a little more difficult. Books, for example, don’t need a strong call to action. Articles don’t require a reason to believe.
The more marketing I write, the less comfortable I find writing the kind of thing I used to enjoy – the kind of thing I still would enjoy, if 0nly I did it more often.
So, having come to such a realisation, I’m going to try and fix it. I’ve set myself a challenge to help me get back into the swing of things. That challenge is as follows:
Every week I’m going to write a short story.
Whether I feel inspired or bored or fed up or simply lacking in any ideas, that doesn’t matter. Every week I’ll force myself to get something down, and you can all be my witnesses. The rules are simple:
- The story must be no longer than 500 words (I don’t want to bore you), and
- I must do it. No excuses.
With the gauntlet laid down, what am I waiting for? Let’s begin with short story number 1, and see where this weekend whim takes us.
It had been weeks since it very first happened, and since it very first happened I’d been scared. I dared not go outside in case it saw me, I knew if I stayed in eventually it would come. I could not just sit and wait for my fate to find me, I had to get out, but out was where it was, whatever it was that was waiting.
Weeks ago when it very first happened, I’d been sitting in my flat like I am just now, waiting for something. Only then the ‘something’ had been a little less macabre and a little more mundane. Maybe something good would come on the TV, maybe a friend would call, maybe I’d go to bed early. Near enough anything was possible.
As I sat and I waited for I did not know what, I could not have foreseen what was heading my way.
The first sign of something unexpected was the silence. I live in the city centre, where sound was everywhere and noise was the definition of peace. The hum of traffic, the subtle buzz of electricity and the occasional bang of a door would fill the air throughout the day and deep into the night, and after spending a lifetime with the city around you, you became deaf to what others might call its loudness.
Silence, then, caught me by surprise. As if a plug had been pulled, the noise just stopped. The traffic came to a standstill, the electrical whirring turned off and, soon after, so did my television. The power failure was the next thing to strike.
During a particularly nasty storm, a powercut might be expected. But during a peaceful Saturday where the wind was feeling lazy, the lack of power caused me concern. My first instinct was to open my door and check to see if such a problem had also afflicted my neighbours, but as I pulled my door towards me something else began to push, and our combined strength sent it flying in to trap me between it and the wall.
I struggled back, confused at first rather than scared, and attempted to free myself from my temporary confines. I just about squeezed out, and peered my head around my door to see what was out there.
I expected to see a neighbour, perhaps one who had been just about to knock on my door as I opened it. Bad timing, just an unfortunate coincidence.
A neighbour was, as it happens, exactly what I saw, but as I gazed upon the four headless bodies lying outside their flats I realised that it was perhaps best for me to stay inside.
I shut the door and now, weeks since it very first happened, that’s the way my door still is. Locking it out, locking me in. Sooner or later something would give, and I hoped it would not be my head.