Cheerful daisies turn their faces upwards.
Big sun, bright heart reflected in egg yolk centres
And mirrored in the humblest things.
Life energy lights the sky
and falls to earth, yet not diminished.
Instead its littler twin multiplies its force.
As above, so below.
For what I see, I can be.
And though I am ever so small
is contained within me.
The old storm has abated and the next, not yet arrived.
Did I throw out my oars in despair, or were they ripped from aching hands at the height of the tempest?
Adrift, bearing unknown, the lighthouse blind and dark,
clouds obscure the sun and hide the stars alike.
rudder splintered, compass shattered.
I hold my breath, not daring to inhale the leaden, empty air
no land in sight.
The waters shift below, yet no kindly current arises, lost here in the doldrums of life.
A heartbeat, then another, the only timepiece in this forgotten space
an unreliable machine, prone to error
incapable of solving the riddle, the longitude of my soul.
Aimless, unmapped blankness branded on my skin.
She checks the bedroom one last time, gaze sweeping around the walls, into each corner, over the floor. The desk is empty, bed stripped and bare, walls blank, almost like a prison cell.
She remembers watching some TV drama, the new inmate arriving in an ill-fitting orange jumpsuit with a small pile of possessions in her arms. There was fear in her eyes, anxiety for the future and regret for the past. But there was nowhere else to go. She had to enter, and face whatever lay ahead.
Now it is her turn to move on. She pulls the door close, without shutting it completely.
“You could stay, you know.” He stands by the window, staring out at the light rain pattering on the rose bushes outside. His hands are jammed in the pockets of his sweatpants. He never does that normally. Through the fabric she sees his fists, balled up and tense. Her stomach twists. Those hands, like that mouth with its thin upper and generous lower lip, are still capable of so many things.
“I’m all set to go.” She forces her mouth into a smile, huffs out a breath. She uncurls her own fist, nails dug into the soft flesh. “This is yours.”
The key sits on her palm, its gleam dulled by time and repetition. If she took her hand away, would it float there in the air between them, given but not taken?
His jaw tightens and he presses his lips together. She does not offer comfort. Her hand remains steady, not shaking, as she feared it might. She looks away from his face and down at the key, examining the tiny nicks and scratches, an unwritten history.
New objects have crisp, sharp boundaries that separate them from their environment. But over time, a thing rubs and chafes against the outside and loses its shape. Eventually the edges are so worn that its original form is forgotten under the onslaught of a thousand tiny collisions with the world. Nothing survives life intact, and no-one knows where the lost pieces go.
She steps forward and sets the key on the kitchen table. He glances at it and then directly at her. She gazes back, breathing deliberately, consciously slowing her racing pulse. Nothing stops time. It runs fast or slow, but it wears everything down.
“I’m sorry,” he says finally. She notes with detachment that his eyes are still the startling blue of a summer sky that knows no grey.
“Me too,” she replies, nodding.
She slings her bag over her shoulder and walks out, away, closing the door softly behind her.
Not because it was risqué or difficult. I felt it was a great piece; honest and true. And that was the problem. It was too honest, too raw, and reading it over felt like dissecting a part of my heart and leaving it open for anyone to see.
This piece was not meant to be confessional. I wrote it for a competition, and I missed the deadline. As we all do, I drew on experience as well as imagination to create my world. Somehow what was normally hidden sneaked past my filters and on to the (virtual) page .
It sat on my hard drive for a while.
I considered, and rejected, the idea of a pseudonym.
How could I send this off to be judged, but hesitate to post it on my own media?
The difference was anonymity.
It was too close to uncomfortable truths. I usually bury those truths within the lie of fiction, but here they were all too visible. I hesitated to expose so much tender flesh.
Many writers know this feeling. What if someone who knows me reads it?
I wanted my stories to be strong. But I didn’t want to have to write them with my own blood.
One day, heart pounding and mouth dry, I attached the story to a competition entry and pressed send. I felt sick.
Months later, heart pounding and mouth dry, I read that prize-winning story to an audience of writers. Many told me how they had been drawn in by the emotions portrayed.
The dilemma we face as artists is the need to be authentic, to bleed onto the page, while retaining our emotional integrity. Deep connection with a story is visceral recognition, a punch in the gut that says yes more eloquently than any words could. And it is the drop of our blood, the moment of vulnerability, that makes the moment true.
So now, months and many thousands of words later, I am braver with weaving my true experiences and emotions into my stories. And when readers message me to say yes, I felt that too, there is no better reward.
I don’t suggest you should spill every secret on the page. But some experiences have lessons worth sharing. Show us a glimpse of your soul, show us what it is to be human.
When you hesitate because it feels too personal, write it.
When you pause because it’s still a little raw, write it.
When your heart pounds at the sight of those true words, write it.
Someone needs to read your words and feel understood.
Do you love words? Do you sometimes struggle to find the exact word to convey your meaning, whether for poetry or prose? Here’s help, and it’s beautiful.
The Visual Thesaurus is one of my favourite tools. It functions like a mind map for words, linking words, meanings, synonyms and sometimes antonyms. The interface is elegant and clean, and it blossoms on the screen like a flower.
Like fire, but not
For example, take ‘fire’. Typing this into the search bar brings up the animated map above. It shows different synonyms for fire, colour coded by verb, adjective and noun. When you hover over each node, a definition appears with example sentences containing that word. If you click on any word, a second map appears, and you can navigate back and forth until you find the precise word you need.
At the centre above you can see the word ‘hire’ which is the opposite of one sense of fire. This is useful when you can’t quite remember the word you need. The brain works in strange ways, and Visual Thesaurus allows us to approach the needed word in reverse.
Another word for burn?
Clicking on ‘burn’ brings up this map, which is also fully interactive. You could follow any word, generating maps which vary in the number of nodes, but always give new ideas.
You can choose to hear the central word spoken in US or UK English. It is possible to print your result for offline use. The site has many other links and word games, enough to keep logophiles happily scrolling for hours.
The cost is very reasonable too: $2.95 monthly or $19.95 annually. You can try it free for fourteen days.
I love the infuriating, sprawling, mongrel language that is English. I love its willingness to assimilate words from other languages, giving so many shades of meaning that it is usually possible to find that elusive nuance that I’m seeking. That breadth can outsmart a tired brain which knows that fire is sorta, kinda right but not quite.
But what about other languages?
Fear not, VT has you covered. Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish are also included. You can choose to search one or more languages. Here is the map for ‘fire’ showing UK English plus French. Every word is fully searchable.
How cool is that?
This tool allows much greater variety in description. It’s satisfying to write about fire without using the word. This tool gives you the alternatives you need, in a comprehensive, informative, visually appealing format. You’re sure to expand your vocabulary if you spend some time with this thesaurus, whether native English speaker or not.
And it’s fun to use! We all need more fun in our lives.