freewriting

Do you ever wonder if people wonder if you wonder whether they wonder about you? I wonder sometimes. Okay, more often than just sometimes. It’s just that there’s no sure way of knowing whether sentiments are ever truly reciprocated. Whether it’s a couple of blocks down, or a couple boroughs, or towns, or cities, countries, or continents. There’s no way to tap into someone’s subconscious and know how they actually feel and whether what they say bears any substance, or if they’re just saying it for the sake of saying something, period. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We never really know. We don’t actually ever know for sure how our friends feel, what our loved ones truly like or dislike about us, whether our laughter or other idiosyncrasies cause our partners to silently cringe a little inside, whether our colleagues truly admire us or would rather sully our name so as to be rid of us for good. We never really know these things, though we may think we do. But the truth is, others themselves may not be fully aware of how they genuinely feel toward us all the time. So we invest ourselves in this silent system of trust, of enduring, of periods of unquestioned tolerance. The same kind of trust we put in drivers (who are strangers) stopped at a red light as we pass in front to cross to the other side, having the faith that they won’t press down suddenly on the other pedal. But faith alone isn’t always enough. Any driver could easily run us down, whether by accident or by design, and the same goes for those around us. Trust, that secret currency among us, an unexplainable faith in people, and the unrelenting hope that we will not be left to go into the dark alone (no matter how much some of us may think they desire or deserve otherwise), is what keeps us going. Inevitably, there will always be a handful of people who care enough to accompany our journey. And hopefully, they, too, wonder.

How People Watching Improves Your Writing

Sensory detail. 

When I was fourteen or fifteen, I liked to draw. I’d look up internet tutorials on how to draw the human figure, and nearly all of them suggested going outside and sketching anyone who goes by. Not only was this relaxing, but I noticed my art style become more realistic over time. I think we can apply similar concepts as writers to improve sensory description. 

How to practice: Try writing down specific details about the people you see. How is their walking gait? What does their voice sound like? What quirks about them stand out as you observe them? Write down descriptions using all of the senses (except maybe taste) and, over time, you’ll notice your words become more lively.

Observation.

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to benefit from observation skills. Writing stories is all about noticing connections and seeing the extraordinary in ordinary life. People watching can boost your ability to notice little details and recognize them as important, and it can help you sense patterns more easily.

How to practice: In this case, remember once again that you are not Sherlock Holmes. Don’t assume that you know a person’s life story based on what socks they’re wearing (and definitely don’t try making such assumptions with friends or family). 

Try to take in people who pass by and the small, unique details about them. Notice how they’re interacting with other people and the world around them. Think about why that might be and write down any thoughts or connections that interest you.

Freewriting. 

Writing first drafts can paralyze anyone. We all know that getting the words out is the first, most important step, but that can feel like torture sometimes. If you’re a hesitant writer, freewriting can help you feel less self-conscious when writing and jot down thoughts or impressions as they come. Other exercises can help you with editing later on, but you can’t get there unless you freewrite.

How to practice: Write down anything that strikes you without worrying whether it’s important or you’ll use it later. I like to focus on one person per minute and during that time, write anything that I find interesting. Once the sixty seconds are up, I move onto another person and continue that cycle as long as I want to keep going. With time, you’ll get faster and may notice that words come more easily.

Creativity. 

In the book Stargirl, one of my favorite parts is when Stargirl and Leo go to the park and play a game where they make up stories about the strangers they pass. As they connect together little observations, they create vivid backstories that may not necessarily be true, but that’s not the point. What matters is stretching their minds.

How to practice: Play this game for yourself. Pick a person at random and, piecing together little details you notice about them, give them a backstory. What are they doing, and where are they going (both right now and in the long-term)? Why are they hurrying so quickly to wherever they’re going or walking almost aimlessly along? Don’t worry about getting it “right” so much as creating an interesting story for this person.

Empathy. 

Developing empathy as a writer is so important, though not often talked about. If you can put yourself in the shoes of another person and consider what complexities, challenges, and little joys life holds for them, you will create emotionally powerful pieces. People watching helps train your eye to notice those around you more and remember that yours is not the only voice in the world.

How to practice: Remember the definition of the word “sonder:” the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Look for those complexities. Notice relationships. Notice facial expressions and emotions. Don’t just look at them but see them, and write down what strikes you about them.

There is something in the cornfields. I hear it at night, disguising its cry among the calls of coyotes and my neighbor’s pet lab. Its call is otherworldly, but I get the feeling that it’s been living on this earth for far longer than you or I. Sometimes, when I’m coming home from visiting my mother late at night, I try to catch a glimpse of it as the cornstalks blur past my window. Sometimes I think I can see its shadow, weaving through spaces between the stalks, but I convince myself it’s just the shadow of my car. Because even though part of me desperately wants to see what hides there, the rest of me knows I’d never sleep again if I were ever granted such a wish.

Sometimes, you look around and you realize you’re falling behind, not just according to anyone’s standards in particular but your own, which may or may not have been informed by unrealistic standards set by others but of course that’s just an aside, and so you dwell on what could have been and where things went so terribly wrong and how things could have been different and how you had dreams for yourself and your parents and friends and family and imaginary pets had dreams for yourself but you’ve let them all down, you let down all of your imaginary pets and now they cry at night staring at the moon at how you have disappointed them but the world keeps on turning and you keep waking up to the shitty nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach, wondering suddenly if you should have put periods somewhere in that post on tumblr that one time because god knows how many people you killed that night, fuck all they wanted to do was read a seemingly interesting text post but now you’re a murderer and the authorities are getting onto you because your internet service provider is a snitch and now you gotta run, pack your shit and go motherfucker this is all your fault you killed your hopes and dreams and let your imaginary pets down and killed people on tumblr with a single miserable text post that heavily lacked punctuation and the autopsies show that they fucking ran out of air because you forgot to put a goddamn period you fucking moron what’s wrong with you - don’t answer that, it’s a fucking rhetorical question - but yeah, so you’ve let everyone down and possibly accidentally killed some people you’ve never met in your entire life and - oh yeah, you’re falling behind in life like it’s 11th grade advanced functions and ms kim was a demon but she was nice enough to give you a 51 and then you took that shit in night school and dropped out because you were angry at the world and studied the most thoroughly unemployable subjects in the world and besides america is about to vote in one of two demons and the whole world is going to shit and everyone might die because either one of the two idiots could blow shit up for who knows what reason and now the grounds opening up and sucking you whole and you’re six feet under and you say fuck it.

fuck it. at least the police won’t find you down here.

Uncorked

When I close my eyes,
I can feel the champagne settle into my bones.
I can feel my fears seep from my pores,
sit on my skin like clothing.
How desperately I wish
you could be here to peel them all off,
to kiss the exposed flesh beneath.
One more sip, and I remember
All the reasons
I’ve made up
why you never can, and only will
within the sun-stained
Daydreams that get me through
these Monday blues.

The cork on the next bottle doesn’t want me to
Pop it off.
It holds fast to the glass,
and the effort I’ve put into ripping it out
feels desperate and sad.
It doesn’t matter anymore;
What’s another drink going to do to me?
Just drown me in all my ugly thoughts,
tear me apart and reveal the things
I love to loathe about myself?
My skin feels heavy.
I swear my bones are made of lead.
Each finger wrapped around my champagne neck
falls limp as everything begins to sink into the couch cushions;
where, oh where, did my heart go?
I can’t seem to feel the beats anymore.

There is no human being, no soul that will break me into feeling like i am nothing. There might be days of weeping, of struggling to stay afloat and doubts but those days will come and go. I will decorate my words with light, i will wash my soul clean of their darkness. I will laugh again. I will love again. Darling, i will do these things inside the altar of my being. I will heal my wings and slowly learn to fly again. I will clean the mirror and smile at my reflection because there is no human, no situation, no soul strong enough to hate me into hating myself. I will welcome myself home. I will welcome myself home.
—  Ijeoma Umebinyuo, this being is too great, darling

I want you.
I want you in every sense of the word.
I want time with you,
I want adventure with you,
Hell, I want naps with you–
Friends on Netflix in the background.
I want your hand in my hand,
Your lips on my lips,
My body curving into your body;
We fit together so well.
I want laughter with you,
I want conversation with you,
Dear god, I even want arguments with you
Because it means we’re together
and we care.

So let’s do it.
Let’s make the jump
Together.
Take my hand
And love me.
Let me love you.
Because you once said
We could’ve lived a beautiful story,
And I know now that’s the only story
I want to read.

I want to write
A beautiful story
With you.

I’m Afraid of Soon.

“I’ll talk to you soon” is the scariest sentence I’ve silently listened to,
because the person saying it has always been one that made me swoon.
My heart beats for weeks on a pumping streak in the silence left by “soon” until my pipes begin to leak.
My bones begin to creak and my lungs wheeze like wings struggling against the breeze.
Soon is a lot longer than I realized, time and time again and I’ve been patient.
Six years is patient, right? 
Or is my patience just latent, not yet manifest, unfinished like all the rest?
My projects and writings that I thought might be good enough, but ended up being minor pests,
Lingering in the back of my mind with decent lines, aging like fine wines.
Maybe you’re just a fine wine, aging to perfection, but to my recollection wine stays in the cellar.
Wine doesn’t vanish after six soon years of aging without even paging an “I’m Okay.”
Soon has become a synonym for uncertainty, because certainly all those who’ve said it have pertinently disappeared permanently.
More than anything I worry with a flurry of texts floating in my head, unable to send because numbers change and rearrange just like the space we fill.
More than anything I just want to hear that you all are okay, that you made it to the bay, that you had your days, that you’re still out there making waves.
If soon is never than I hope we never speak again, because I’m afraid we’ll never amend our stories together, that memories might bend when you lend them to your friends
Most of all I’m afraid of soon because I don’t know if you still take in breaths,
or if you really started caring less,
or maybe you left because I was such a mess,
or what if I became your pest?

I just want to know that which you’ll never be able to show, lest some miracle catalyze and blow in with the wind carried along with your grin. I really hope you’re fine and have had time to unwind from the daily grind that I imagine we both face even today. Please keep breathing, please keep reading.

walking home




I am not sad today. I will not have it. Walking home

and August is already

making trees yellow at their edges. The sky 

pierces between buildings, unnatural colour,

electricity. I will not feel it. The shadows are

too cold to stay in - the kind of chill that crawls

beneath your clothes and clings like water.

Summer has died so early


I want to shut myself away

with the curtains drawn. I want

to lie in the grass and tip my face back,

feel the sun feel the rain stick to me


I want the earth to sink, wet
and cold and take me in
I do not want to miss
a single thing



When I was younger, I remember hearing stories of the one who loved more,
the one who fought harder,
the one who who went through hell to win their lovers love.
I remember thinking these stories were heroic,
that the hero was the one wearing their heart on their sleeve -
but I was wrong.
I grew up being this version of a hero,
loving all the wrong things for me,
watering all these dead flowers in hopes to bring them back to life.
You see, no one tells you that giving people the benefit of the doubt is the same thing as being naive.
I used to think that wearing my heart on my sleeve would pay off,
because those stories I remember when I was little,
made it seem like the happily ever after I always dreamed of.
Nobody tells you that the hero in those stories isn’t the hero at all.
There’s no romanticizing unrequited love,
there’s nothing bold about fighting for someone who doesn’t give a shit about you,
there’s nothing beautiful about continuously letting yourself down because you don’t know how to give up a fight that cannot be won.
I’ve learned this first hand,
that the hero is actually the one who knows how to drop the sword
when the battle has left you too beaten.
That the hero is the one that lets lovers beg for them,
knows how to be distant but soft,
knows the balance of too much and too little.
I only know how to give whole pieces of me,
so tell me, what’s so heroic about that?
I want to tell you the story of one who loved more,
the one who fought harder,
the one who went through hell to win their lovers love.
So let’s start by saying this:
This is not a love story, this is not boy saves girl -
there is no hero in this tale,
but a very broken soul…
One who gives too much, and feels too much, and loses themselves in the battle.
Don’t live your life giving away the best pieces of yourself,
to the girl who will never love you back the way she should.
You are not a hero, you deserve to be the one to save yourself
and to love the girl who knows how to love you back just as hard.
—  You’re not a hero in unrequited love, you’re the victim, (coloringtheworldwithwords)
Bed Light

Lantern’s wick
soaks up oil
unquenchable
for it’s flame.

Burn brighter
bedside star
guide true
to a deep slumber.

Slow burn
steady flicker
silent snicker
before suffocation.

Quiet smoke
wisps dance
willing dreams
unbeknownst.

Recovery

Progress is not linear.

I remind myself this every day I cannot get out of bed before three PM. I lie awake, physically energized enough that I could get out of bed if I needed to, but not mentally prepared to face the day ahead. Or what is left of it. I remind myself of this on days when I manage to get out of bed at noon, late for most but rather early for me these days.

Today, I have decided to buy groceries for the first time in weeks. Not a trip to the dollar store to buy children’s canned foods and a bag of pretzels, but actual groceries that require prep and cooking and effort and don’t leave me with IBS flare ups an hour later.

This is progress. It is slow, and I will have more days that I decide to sleep instead of wake up and write, or even wake up and play a game, but it is still progress. There will be days when a can of spaghetti o’s is just easier than cooking chicken with vegetable sides, but this is still progress.

I will have ups and downs, but slowly, gradually, I will have more ups and less downs. This is recovery. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow process and it is extremely easy to become discouraged when a bad day rears its ugly head and keeps you cemented to the bed until someone comes home and makes you get up because you can’t on your own.

But that’s okay, because I can do this. You can do this. We can do this. We can get better, we can have the life we were meant to have and we can live the life we deserve.

Progress is not linear.

we write miserable shit

and you do it better than me,
when we walk and you stop
and stare without breathing
a part of me grows jealous,
knows that it means
you have seen
some little thing dying
or coming to life,
that you’ve heard
the singing of trees
or the lamenting of stars.

yeah i smoke too much,
curl up on the couch
and pull back inside myself
but you drink yourself to sleep each night,
and i know why:
we’re time-wizards, slowing daze
with whatever dumpster-truck Tardis.

listen how we bang and peal through the night!
we are fifteen-tonne bronze bells falling
from the centre of a thunder storm,
crashing onto the congregation of a wedding
just as they pose for a group picture.

acceptance; misery is ether to us,
we breathe it in and drench ourselves
in its addictive scent,
let it flow through our bodies,
carry it with us where ever we go -
polluting our surroundings,
huffing like a factory expelling
dark magic poetry
into a crying sky,
oozing rivers of sludge,
stinking up the joint.

It’s the little things that I find myself getting the most excited about.

Like the other day, when we were talking about finally living in the same place next year, and you said “Soon we’ll be in our bed.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about those two words and how they fit together so perfectly in my head.

“Our bed.”

I can’t wait to share things with you. To wake up in the morning and roll over to see your face. To make shitty instant coffee and drink it in bleary silence because neither of us is a morning person. To go to work, and come home with takeaway boxes of food that we’ll eat on the couch while binge watching The Office, crying during the best Jim and Pam scenes (aka, all of them). 

And I can’t wait to go to sleep together every night. To listen to your snoring and stare up at the twinkle lights you can’t fall asleep without, the ones we’ll hang above our bed.