Month: April 2015
I’m a natural at walking. I can stride, stroll and saunter or tramp, tread and traipse without even thinking about it. My agile mind detects upcoming obstacles and adjusts my gait to stop me from tripping over kerbs or falling down wells.
Sometimes though, when I’m out perambulating it occurs to me how complex the act of walking is. I’ve seen videos of sophisticated robots utterly confounded by a rudimentry set of steps, confused to the extent where one of them smashes its face into the floor.
And once I start thinking about what I’m doing, it becomes much more difficult. It usually starts with my arms. They start swinging too much. A moment before, when my subconscious was controlling everything, they were swinging just enough to provide me with perfect balance. Now, I have no idea how much to swing them to keep me upright so, just to be sure, I overcompensate.
This, I suddenly realise, looks ridiculous, so I stop swinging them completely and walk with my arms rigid at my sides. But this can’t be right… How do I do this normally? I have no idea.
Then working my legs becomes a problem. Should I lift my knees this high? Or kick out more with my foot? Should I be leaning further forwards? Or back?
And before I know it I’ve almost completely forgotten how to walk. Obviously I can still get to where I’m going, but now I might be walking like a gorilla or a scuba diver still wearing his flippers.
I can also speak quite fluently. In almost any conversation I find myself involved with, words flow from me in the correct sequence and my avid listener is enriched with the knowledge of almost exactly what I mean. I don’t have to think about it.
So, why, why in the name of all that is literally holy, is it so hard to write anything sensible?
I believe that it’s the walking problem. As soon as I analyse what I’m doing, as soon as I worry that my meaning might be misunderstood, I’m doomed. An easy sentence to say becomes an impossible one to write. There are too many choices, too many wrong ways of expressing myself.
A brilliant writer is like an amazing one-man-band strolling down the street, drum beating, cymbals crashing, ukelele strumming and mouth organ humming, all in perfect harmony. It looks easy and part of the audience’s delight comes from the fact that the music produced is not forced, it’s a natural product of the lithe skill of the artist.
Oh how I wish I could write like that.
So Faber Academy run a #quickfic competition every Friday. They’ve been doing it for a few weeks now, but I’ve only just found out about it.
This week, the challenge was to write a story in 250 words or less inspired by the canine idiot in the picture.
I called mine “A Man’s Best Friend” and it’s an ironic insight into the human male’s disregard for relationships in the face of his single minded pursuit of more pointless projects.
I thought it was quite clever in its meta qualities as I was obviously procrastinating by writing it.
It didn’t win, but here it is…
A Man’s Best Friend
It took many, many hours spread over years to train him, but I finally did it.
Jasper could smell an item of clothing inside his little, blue suitcase and determine who it belonged to in a room full of strangers.
It was our party trick. He’d hold the suitcase in his mouth, sit on his haunches and take a few moments to stare at everyone before him, considering. Then, with a confident flick of his tail he would take the suitcase to the owner of the item.
He was always right. It was like magic.
I loved showing him off at parties. I’d get him to do it ten times over the course of the night, and all our guests would be delighted.
Yesterday I was surprised to see Jasper sitting on the cobbles opposite the cafe I’d stopped at for lunch. He was staring at me, with his suitcase hanging daintily from his mouth.
As if triggered by my attention, he jumped up, trotted towards me and dropped the suitcase at my feet.
I looked around to see if I could spot my wife grinning from some hidden vantage point, but there didn’t seem to be anywhere to hide.
I lifted the suitcase onto my table and opened it.
Inside there was a pair my socks with a note pinned to them.
“I’m leaving you.” The note said. “You can keep the dog.”
I scratched Jasper’s head and wondered how he’d managed to find me.
The winners are here: QuickFic Winners 17th April 2015