Tag Archives: writing exercises

10-Minute Stories – It Is and It Is Not

“Knowing that there is more than one way to react to any situation, I could sit myself down and pay attention for a while so that I can figure out which one of my reactions is worth the effort I am putting into it, and just go with that,” said Henry.

Of course, he was talking to himself, and not even out loud, so no one knew what turmoil he had allowed a simple invitation and request to bring into his mind.

“Alright, so I agreed to go to that party and to put together the gift basket,” he continued to himself as he walked to the self-service checkout in an attempt to get the heck on with the whole charade. “I knew. I knew the moment I accepted, that I did not really mean it. I keep making this same mistake. I know I do not fit in with that group, but it feels like I am a bad person if I do not participate. As if I had to sign-in and be a part of something.”

In spite of all this turmoil and self-doubt, Henry had managed to assemble a nice selection of items for the gift basket,and well within the allotted budget too. Perhaps it was this creative aspect of the invitation that had led him to accept. At work, he had been told he was too strict, or too organized. “Straight-laced Henry,” they called him, teasing. He liked that group. They worked well together and then he could go home and leave it all behind. That was easy. But this…

Henry was the soft-spoken sort. He did not dare upset anyone and felt that any rejection of others on his part was unacceptable, even if it was just declining an invitation to a dinner party. Saying no was not a soft sort of response in his book. Hence the turmoil.

ps - basketAll he needed now was to stop by a florist or craft shop to get a roll of shrink-wrap. “That’s me!” he suddenly thought, laughing to himself. “That’s me right there in that gift basket: a bunch of objects or thoughts brought together, but that really do not belong together, and then sealed together in a bubble, like a stocking on the face that squashes the nose and barely allows you to breathe, and makes you feel ridiculous.”

This thought had shed some light on his situation, somehow. He got home and put the basket down on the table. He arranged the gifts inside and sealed everything under the shrink-wrap. Then, he stared at it for a while. It seemed this would allow him to follow his earlier thought to its natural conclusion.

“My doubts do not belong together anymore than these gifts do. Later today, someone will tear through this plastic bubble and release the contents, but they will end up being scattered and meaningless even more than before. Only one or two items will bring true joy to the recipient. I need to identify the one or two ideas I have about myself that bring me the most joy. That is all that is real. I must let go of the rest.”

And so later that day, Henry delivered the gift basket he had agreed to put together, politely explained that he was not able to stay at the party, and walked away feeling he had finally taken a step in the right direction.


Topic: Talk about a time when a character felt divided over an incident, decision or act. Start with, “Knowing that there is more than one way to…” and use these divided (hyphenated) words: self-service, shrink-wrap, sign-in, soft-spoken and straight-laced.

Exercise Book: Take Ten For Writers

10-Minute Stories – Out There

I was in that place again, that place and time I return to at least once every month. Usually I land here when I close my eyes to rest them for a moment. It happens in that instant when you doze off into profound sleep, yet wake up minutes later, perhaps seconds. In that instant, an entire journey takes place.

This time was different. I had not closed my eyes to rest. They had shut by themselves when the ball hit me as I sat there at the concert picnic. It does not seem that it hit that hard. Children were throwing a baseball nearby, far enough from the gazebo where the musicians played Celtic tunes. I must have been in a very relaxed state. All it took was a surprise nudge from a ball flying out-of-bounds, though there were no boundaries, really, just what seemed like enough distance. It was not their fault. I passed out.

ps - market

It is not the first time I land at the far end of the merchants’ street in that dream. I know the place well now and it is as though people there accept me, even though I come out of thin air and vanish into it again, without notice. I know they can see me, yet they let me be, as if it would be too much for me to accept that I am really there; at least for now.

Again, as before, I visited fantastic sidewalk stalls featuring mesmerizing items the likes of which do not exist in the awake world. The abundance is remarkable. Clearly, they are never out of stock. You can pick one item and take it with you, yet nothing is ever missing from the display. And it seems you do not have to pay; just take what appeals to you.

I have held and admired so many colorful, artful and mysterious things from these displays. They are vivid in every way. One moment you are admiring and object, noticing its every colors and angles, deciding to take it; the next moment another object captures the attention and everything you take you never really take at all, but it never feels like you are leaving empty-handed. Upon waking, it is impossible to recall all the details for more than a few, very short minutes.

Now that I think of it, there are no merchants; only merchandise and a very abundant and colorful crowd, but you never bump into anyone, nor walk right through them. Perhaps all of us are knocked out, sharing the space of a dream for a while, then returning to our waking life.

If this is another world or dimension, then they have figured out how to be. It is a world of utter experience. There is no currency, no work, no lack; only color, creativity and abundance. This is a place where it is not possible to be out of work or out of food, and shelter seems irrelevant.

It is the first time I try to put it into words and as I do I realize that this world is probably rich in symbols to take, observe and savor the same way I savor the objects at each street market stall. It seems I do take many gifts back home after all. Something very deep and tangible remains after these dreams.


Writing exercise from the book Take Ten For Writers

Topic: A ball hit you in the head. You were out cold. Had the weirdest dream, beginning with the words, “I was in,” and using the idioms, out-of-bounds, out of work and out of stock.