Writing Advice and Samples

A compilation of essay tips, general writing advice, poems, and thoughts.

When We Meet

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Tears, meet cheeks. Start slow. One by one and on your own terms, flowing silently downhill in the midnight bathroom corner. Tears, don’t stop. Meet lips and flow to mouth. Salt ridden tongues hide secret troubles. Push the thoughts away and try to forget they ever existed. Until next time.

Red, meet blue on the street sign outside this diner. There is no illusion of comfort here. The world is an empty place haunted by empty space and we are the only ones who will ever notice. I am freezing from the inside. I hide my distress under the goosebumps on my legs, arms, neck. How can I despise the skin that keeps me safe? I think it’s supposed to keep me warm, too, but I could never tell.

Voice, meet wall. Seep right through. A midnight phone call muted by forgotten words. Hush. Be quiet. I can almost hear your hesitations unraveling in this lack of meaning, speaking for the sake of speaking. Voice, say goodbye to your old friend and return to balance. Silence. Silence. Silence.

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The Birthday Call.

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One phone call every year on my birthday
A reminder that he still knows I exist
Two minutes to unpack the lifetime of baggage
Hidden in my forgiving heart
He says I think of you every day,
And you are my spring rose,
And I’m doing great,
Never better,
I’m on the road up north,
And the view is amazing,
If only you could see this, honey,
And I’ve been cooking a lot,
And tell Mom I said hi,
And how is she anyway,
And why don’t you just try to get your brother to call me back?
He starts to cry
I start crying too because nobody likes to cry alone
We sit in silence and he says he has to go
Happy birthday, honey,
I’ll call you again next year.

Sales.

Long nights oppressed by fluorescent lights. The invasive buzz follows me home as I drive down this quiet back road. I am always desperate to leave the day behind.

I hear footsteps in my sleep. My heartbeat mimics the clicking heels of suburban wives. My shallow breaths turn into the sound of needy shoppers grasping at glass with dirty fingertips. I turn to grab the Windex before it all disappears into the night. I unfortunately don’t get paid to work in my dreams.

The dull aches in my feet go by undetected until I try to rest these heavy legs under heavy eyes. I know I’m not alone in observation, but my solitary thoughts feign isolation. I like to think I hide it well.

I wonder if I’m the only one who cannot cope with endless shifts and faceless bodies. I look around and see smiles inspired by commission cheques. I cringe as a salesman across the hall adjusts his body language in an attempt to match his customer. The transformation is clunky and disingenuous.

I try to disconnect discretely from wonder to wander. My voice echoes. I walk in circles around the cash wrap, tracing floor tiles with my heels. My body is the second hand, ticking away meticulously as I trade my time for money in this empty room full of brand names.

Dream in Colour.

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I look out the window of my childhood bedroom. The world is brand new. I am sheltered from the harsh realities of daily life and my existence is clouded by youthful misunderstanding. I stand by as ethereal colours blend into a hazy backdrop. Purple, pink, and orange. There are no distractions for my ears—only silent beauty swirling in front of my eyes.

There’s a ledge jutting down toward the untouched forest that is my backyard. Dull, grey shingles lie against the twinkling mist. The evergreens are a stable reminder that spring will come again. I am safe. I am comfortable. I am home.

Then I see her. She’s dancing on the ledge, free and unaffected by my eyes. She’s smaller than a mouse but complete in her perspective. A full-grown entity I could hold in the palm of my hand. I could crush her with a single misstep. A lesson in patience and futile observation.

Where her hair should lie, feathers blow in the wind. I watch her dance until I can’t tell where her body ends and the world begins. She spins and twirls and her purple skin blends with the tired sky of my past life. I shake myself awake.

Fiction.

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I speak in abstract concepts to prevent myself from lending my eyes to others. I am not a library. My experiences are not collective. I am inspired by a forgotten past, an imaginary person, a dream, a nightmare. All things the same. All things different. Only you can decide where my memories lie. I am too indecisive for conclusive truths.

We both know this perspective is not my own. It’s probably not yours either, but I breathe it into the world and now it is as real as us both. I enter a stranger’s mind to feel closer to myself. I create imaginary people and circumstances to free what my truth cannot express.

Do not take me at my word. Follow me as I dance through hypnagogic imagery. Look the other way as I defeat the shadows on the edges of my nightmares. I am as real as the masks we both wear. Stripped of dignity in my recycled thoughts.

Morning Minute.

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one fresh drop of coffee on the lonely spoon in the sink
a quiet home in peace
unexpected emptiness controls your train of thought
while you get lost in second chances
you drink your coffee slowly to preserve a morning minute
it grows cold despite your efforts
and reminds you not to stay in one place for too long
you gag on the final frosty sip
lacking warmth like the tendency of your own skin
to freeze over in isolation
your feet run cold
you first discovered this abnormality when somebody touched them
and asked you if you considered yourself human
or snowman
or ice queen
do you melt in the shower?
does the water burn your skin away?
yes, every day, emerged anew

Unseen.

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You are the phantom hair
Clinging to my skin
Felt but never seen
A torture from within

An unforgiving memory
A strategy concealed
I search but never find you
And your truth goes unrevealed

The agony of hope
A life beyond my eyes
My vision blurred by broken glass
You’re hidden in disguise

Forgive yourself for now
And I’ll forgive you too
The part of me I cannot see
To never be removed

Vocal Fry.

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I speak and you refute my words on the basis of my annoying voice. I am a young woman, vulnerable to your judgment, presumably insecure in my convictions. Is there a question mark trailing my thoughts? Upspeak you say? Do I um and uh too often? Do you struggle to take me seriously? Look within yourself. There’s a disturbing history of strategies like these at work to silence women’s voices. We are irritating. We get on people’s nerves. But my words are not sounds I make for fun. I have something to say. If you cannot hear my message through my inflections, then a problem exists within you. Fix it, or suck my vocal fry.

Forget It.

Enjoy the Silence

CC image courtesy of Thomas Leuthard on Flickr.

Local is a state of mind. Halfhearted familiarity is the curse that stops us from digging deeper. I don’t want you to know part of me. If your complete understanding of who I am is quietly fragmented and shrouded in partiality, I hope you forget my name. How am I supposed to live, and grow, and change, when you’ve created a conveniently consistent narrative around me?

We could take on Emerson and say consistency is the enemy of self-reliance. It’s good to be misunderstood. But if we twist his words through time then we are negating his very advice. I find comfort in the silence of my failures. I’m not here to make artificial noise to please another ear. I have enough trouble sorting through the echoes of unoriginal thought on my own. Please don’t place your burdens on me. I am brand new, just the same as I’ve always been.

Limits.

Crater Lake

CC image courtesy of Andy Spearing on Flickr.

Know your limits
Get them straight
Test them out from time to time
But don’t let them get away

Keep them to yourself
And you will feel much better
No eyes, no ears can validate
Your soul although you’re clever

You know why you’re afraid
But you’ll never say it loud
Cause once you let your limits slip
Your flaws flow through the crowd

If I can give you this advice
Then you can break it now
I’m warning you a time or two
Don’t let your doubts sneak out