Five Minute Writing

My blog article https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/18/free-writing/ on Free Writing shows how the following story was written.

On one of my courses I was set 5 minutes to write as much of a story as I was able.

As I mentioned in the above article some people do this as an independent art form. And it is surprising when put to it just how much you can accomplish in just 5 minutes.

I haven’t put this through any kind of editing process so here it is warts and all. I hope it proves interesting to someone reading.

“One of the man animals has escaped Siltha”

“What? How old?”

“This one is 18 – prak458”

“Mother save me – a dangerous age; set the mechdogs on his scent and restrain him before any damage is done”

“I think that it maybe too late”

“Who?”

“One of the volunteers, from the last group, we hadn’t time to psychologically scan them all, this was one of the ones we hadn’t got to yet”

“How old?”

“She is 21”

“Underage, unlicensed, the penalties are more severe…”

“It is a pity, this man was the result of selective breeding, we had hoped …”

“How did he get out?”

“Well the suspicion is that she released him”

“That must never be divulged. Is she from good family?”

“Her mother is a major benefactor to the programme”

“Justice must be seen to be done. In normal circumstances I would specify gassing, but I think in this case – lethal injection, recorded for public viewing. It is regrettable, but an example is needed and protracted death is indicated. Ensure that a screening is specified for the monastery.”

Prak was certain that no man had ever been outside of the monastery in his lifetime. Of course there were dreamers, the old men who spoke of half-forgotten days when it was possible to run out in the fields. There were few men now and none left their cells unescorted. The monastery was a prison, but Prak was now slowly realising, also a refuge. There was already a shrill whistle from unknown flying machines which scanned the monastery from overhead. There was little time.

Why had she done it? He was in the programme, almost certainly would have been licensed in another 7 years, as long as he proved docile.

She had come to his cell at evening prayers. He shouldn’t have, it was only afterwards that he remembered he should first have checked the birth records. He should have been licensed. He should have been medically screened. He knew all of these facts. His actions were unforgivable. He had only a vague idea of the death awaiting him, but he did not imagine it would be swift or gentle.

And then when they were finished she had turned on him, screamed at him, struck him, raised the alarm. The change in her was as instantaneous as it was unfathomable.

Until he had started to panic, looking for an exit, then she had sat, calmly and watched . He wasn’t certain but he thought that he had seen a small glint in her expression. It was as if the pleasure came not from experiencing him. The real pleasure was in watching his fear, watching him run.

No man was ever free at visitor time. This fact had helped him as he fled the bright corridors and out into the darkness. It was impossible for a man to escape – so complacency let him run, and run, and run yet further. Till the gasps came in quick succession and the pain in his chest finally overcame the panic.

The alarms were quieted now; he had found a hiding place, deep in the rubbish holders. The smell was diabolical, but there were no alternatives, no cover, no escape routes. The site around the monastery kept clear, to allow the aerial spybots and the mechdogs hunt more effectively. The lights of a settlement far down the valley side, too far to run. And when he got there; how would he survive – one man animal – alone.

The induction – when they were still whelps – the mechdogs films. They had shown there was no way out. The mechdogs were efficient, empty, ruthless – no one could escape.

He remembered the film of the last man that escaped. That film so old now, long before the monastery. That low servo-whine as the mechdogs set on the man’s trail. He almost imagined he could hear that whine now…

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Free Writing

A technique which appears to come up rather often. Variously termed free writing, timed exercises, stream of consciousness writing and so on.

Some people practice this as a distinct form of writing, which I had not considered as an option for example:

https://ashortconversation.com/about/

Both writing and counselling use this technique. (It is likely it is used elsewhere as it is so useful).

When used as part of counselling automatic writing is about whatever comes to mind. The idea being that this may access thoughts which are otherwise hidden.

It may also be used as part of a mindfulness practice.  Writing tends to slow the thoughts and enable a person to observe their own thinking. This practice may make it easier to manage that thinking going forwards.

Expressive writing involves an allotment of time (say 20 minutes). In this time a person writes down their thoughts about a challenging aspect of their life. The writing should fully explore how they have been affected by it. The idea being that it helps the person to deal with the situation.

Evidence suggests it is effective for example in conditions like anxiety.

It is also used for assisting clients to deal with difficult situations from their past.

From the perspective of the author this is a time set aside for writing practice without preconceptions or plan. It is designed to assist in bringing out ideas. It can be used to try to help a writer become unstuck.

The very act of getting words on paper can bring out solutions to problems that you have been wrestling with.

There may be as many ways of attempting this as there articles about it.

I have this approach from one of the writing courses that I attended. It is as effective as any other method:

Decide in advance how long you would like to give the exercise and set a timer (smartphones do this very well).

Ten minutes, twenty minutes up to an hour are usual amounts of time. This is dependent upon how long you believe you can sustain the activity. (It might be easier to start with shorter amounts of time and build up as you get familiar with the process).

Once you have allocated the time, you have to write for the whole time. The main rule is that you do not stop, get up or in any other way interrupt the practice once you have started.

Observe certain rules to get the most out of the exercise.

  1. There is no pausing once you begin. No reading what is already written. No stalling or gazing out of the window.
  2. There is no editing during the process. No crossing out, punctuating, substituting words or similar.
  3. Even if something is obviously wrong do not remove it. This includes things you did not expect/intend to write, poor spelling, punctuation or grammar. The writing can be as scrappy as you like including failing to respect ruled lines or margins.
  4. Pretend you have no control over what you are writing – this may help you be more creative.
  5. There should be no time for thinking – disengage brain and write.
  6. If the writing turns out to be scary too self-exposing (or in any other way taking risks you’re unhappy with) go with it anyway. The idea is to use this energy.

The aim is to get to your truest writing self. This is where you no longer censor yourself but write what you are truly feeling and thinking.

Here are some of the exercises I completed on my course. I never worked out the characters any further than this so I doubt they will appear anywhere else:

Exercise

And I have found that the majority of people that I meet have skills which I have no experience of. I have no idea how they learned or why I didn’t.

I do not see that things that a person wears. I do not remember the look in their eyes, detect the tone in their voice. I do not remember that yesterday their hair was grey and today it is boot black.

The truth is that I do not detect the importance of these things. I am not clear that the investment of effort and of time yields the results that others, gleaming eyes, inform me of.

I believe that it causes a great darkness of gossip and inward looking. I am not clear that the knitting psychological effects do not offset this. I cannot be clear unless I develop the skill.

But this part of the brain is missing. I think now only of events of changes and of developments. Identifying things, items and moments has always been far easier more diverting. I have to relate that I find it impossible now to invest any energy in the skills that I do not have.

I am a parody of a person. Now an actor in which the outer shell is a charming soul who listens, perceives, comments and applauds. Internally I am mechanical. A whirring set of gears designated to achieve only the outcomes which I have selected important. A manipulator content for others to smile whilst I manoeuvre into a position that takes me where I wish to go.

And yet oiled and tuned as the machine has become I remain thwarted unsuccessful limited. I reflect upon those skills and wonder if the outer signs are not subtly detected. The dark inner facets of my soul displayed to those I seek to charm.

Exercise 2

Awareness, working and silence. Dark with the dull red gleam of the alarm clock humming oldly beside the bed. Then again a twitch and the bed shudders like the dying spasms of a large fat animal.

Damn 2:15am again. Pain across the eyes. The struggle upright and look at the ground. Vacant greyness as the cogs start to whirr. Carpet focusing and defocusing until finally he accepts – awake again.

Shuffling silent descending and mumbling through the early rituals 2 ½ hours early

No steadiness, no rest, no silence. At last angry at accumulated sleeplessness. He sits TV sound off and allows a vacancy to permeate his brain. Waiting for the drum drum announcement of heating water which informs him at last that day can officially begin. The routine scramble for leaving can finally take over.

The greyness now seems inside as well as out. Each action harder, each thought more tenuous. Minor accidents now creating great depths of anger disproportionate to their effect.

The heavy needles of warm water serve only to remind of sleep opportunity lost and long day to come.

Regret no less than annoyance – why no sleep again.

The journey is too difficult too trying. Each vehicle a personal slight on him. Too slow; too fast; too hesitant. An excuse for overheated annoyance to swelling bombasity.

Watch that. Quell it. Have control. Slip quietly back. Slow. Watch yourself. Quietly does it

The heavy mist lays down around the park. Silent trudging marks the finals stages of the journey. Miserable damp sticky. A wait for the self-important guard to release the security door. At last he reaches the place of all his concerns. Wheezing the final steps till he makes an arrival.

Exercise 3

Your careers teacher tells appalling lies. “There is nothing that you cannot do”; “Aim High”; “The World is your oyster”.

Pretty soon you determine that you can’t depend on your careers teacher unless you already know what to do.

You turn up and stare blankly at one another. Until, in desperation, you come up with a random idea. Which he/she sets to with relish as if it were part of some life plan for you.

Of course you may follow this through in the absence of any better idea. But beware if you hadn’t an idea beforehand. Following someone else’s idea is even worse.

Your parents will become amateur careers advisors the moment that they recognise the fix that you are in.

Be wary.

This is lies too.

Formed from good intentions no doubt. But of absolutely no use to you. “You need a trade” “it doesn’t matter what you do just do it well” “we’re proud of you whatever”.

This is not helpful.

Lastly do not pay attention to any of your friends. “Working in this job is easy”. “Why don’t you try what I do I hardly ever put in a full day’s work”. “I started in April and already they’ve given me a pay rise”.

Utter tosh.

You will find the truth yourself. Many aspects of that truth will cause you to resent those lies. It will cause you to doubt advice from that point onwards.

You are correct to question that advice. Indeed any advice. For what other person has any idea of how you think, believe, react.

http://skepdic.com/autowrite.html

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/expressive_writing

https://www.mindful.org/a-writing-practice-for-those-who-like-to-keep-doing/

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/writing-as-therapy-a-silence-that-speaks-louder-than-words

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-power-of-writing-3-types-of-therapeutic-writing/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201308/writing-therapy