5 Lessons Learnt: Word-High July

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Wow. So July kind of flew by didn’t it?

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll noticed posts ramped up during July as I took part in the Word-High July Challenge as hosted Maria of Doodles and Scribbles and Rosema of A Reading Writer. It was a pretty wonderful challenge, that I really enjoyed doing. It kept me creative pretty much every day and, best of all, it was a pretty big learning experience! So, I thought the best way to finish off July would be to include some Word-High July Lessons Learnt!

  1. I can write every day: Before I took part in the challenge, I used to grumble that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Weeks would go by when I hadn’t blogged, or written, or photographed, or edited. I’d end up feeling like I was wasting so much time in my life. Having a set goal to write each day told me that doing something every day was actually achievable; I just needed discipline!
  2. Life does get in the way: Contrary to the point above… Sometimes life does sometimes get in the way. July was perhaps simultaneously the best and the worst month for me to have done Word-High July. For numerous reasons I found myself very busy, with work, family, house moving, illness… At times it was difficult to write every day, with all the rest of my life taking place around me. The positive thing to take away from this though is that it’s important not to beat yourself up. I’ve shown that, from a 30 day period, I managed to write 80% of the time. That means life got the better of me only 20% of the time… Which is fairly small and pretty understandable when you think about it!
  3. You can plan ahead: This is less about planning an actual story and more about planning your time… As seen above, I missed 20% of my days writing. Some of these were unavoidable, I had loved ones in hospital and I had to spend a lot of my free time moving things from one house to another; Nobody’s fault. What I did learn though, is that some of the days where I did do my writing… I could have easily carried on writing. So, perhaps this is a lesson to stay ahead of the curve? Have a post or two or three, lined up and scheduled so that I’m always prepared! And, if I know something is coming up (like a particularly busy weekend) I can utilise my time before it better!
  4. I do need to edit: When I was writing for Word-High July, I was writing on the day, every day (80% of days). This meant that the stories I were producing were nothing more than a barely proof read first draft. I wasn’t always particularly proud of the work, sometimes it was something fairly hastily written with the sole goal of filling a slot. As I’m working on a novel, this is an important lesson for me that I need to give my work time to breath, come back to it, re-edit it and put more time in to it. You don’t always get it completely right first time, but you might get a little something right!
  5. I can write: Point above taken, I am still proud that I did actually write some stories and I was actually inspired enough to write these pieces… Sometimes coming from Prompts which, at first, had absolutely no inspirational impact on me. It’s taught me that I can actually write something that people find enjoyable to read and, combining that with the other points, I will be able to produce something substantial!

So was Word-High July a benefit to me? Yes. Immensely. Whilst I didn’t meet my target of a post every day, it’s taught me some valuable lessons about my writing and the way I write. It’s reinforced some things I already knew and it’s given me a new perspective on other things. Here’s to my future writing goals and here’s to being creative almost every day!

Did you take part in Word-High July? Maybe other, similar challenges? What did you learn? Have they helped you?

Word-High July: Halakhak

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When the sunlight hit Mike’s face through the blinds he awoke in panic; 8:18 flashing on his alarm clock. Shit, he thought; swinging the bed covers to the side and landing them on the floor. Where had his alarms been that morning? How had he slept through them? Bounding to the bathroom quickly he had no time to keep to his usual routine.

Everything had to be condensed into a hasty, assortment of actions. Mike grabbed his toothbrush from the side, coating it in paste as he pressed the switch for his shower, and stumbled into the glass cubicle with a foot tangled in curtain. That’s when he slipped. In slow motion Mike watched as his toothbrush flew upwards, ascending towards the turquoise ceiling and over the steamed up shower walls. There was a loud splash and he knew just where the toothbrush had landed.

Shit, he said to himself. Taking a quick peak from the shower, he confirmed his suspicions of the toothbrush meeting the toilet. With no time to sort anything, he grabbed the toothpaste from the side and spread it over his index finger. It was clearly not going to be the most efficient method, but what of today had been? He thought.

Leaving the shower he went straight for his phone and pressed the automatic button to signal a taxi. A driver would be with him in 4 minutes, it said; plenty of time to get dressed. Freshly cleaned from the shower he grabbed his shirt from the side and started putting it on. When it immediately clung to his back it dawned that he hadn’t even begun to dry himself. He looked into his mirror just in time to see the soap suds stain the back and collar of his shirt.

Explicit words left his mouth again as he flung a different shirt into the dryer; this one still damp from the airer. Mike watched it spin for a moment before reminding himself how little time was left. He still had trousers, socks, and shoes to put on; let alone a shirt to press once it was dry. Anxiously he sorted the rest of his things, until the shirt was his only delay. He took it from the dryer and slapped it onto the table – no time for the ironing board – and began to smooth out the creases. As he worked quickly, the iron steaming away, his phone buzzed; the taxi driver was outside, and had been for 3 minutes.

“I’ll be out in a sec!” he said, answering the phone, “I know, I know. I’ll be down in two minutes I swear”

Mike put the phone into his pocket and returned to his shirt, where the iron had begun to burn one of his cuffs. Angrily he wrenched the iron away, leaving it on the side where it could do no more harm. There were no more words for his morning, and at least a cuff could be turned up, he figured ,hopefully Nobody would be the wiser. With the final adjustments to his outfit, grabbing his keys and his bag, he left for the taxi; the agitated driver almost ready to leave without his client.

“Sorry!” Mike shouted as he got in, “It’s one of those days.”

The rest of the journey was out of his control, placing all his faith in the taxis abilities. Still, Mike couldn’t help but feel that everything was moving that bit too slowly, that traffic was that extra bit congested. Restlessly he sat in the back, too agitated to look at his phone, and tried to take his mind off things to no avail.

When Mike arrived at his office place he tipped the driver generously, but more through lack of time to wait for change, and ran into the office. He waved quickly at the receptionist, flashed his badge to security, and burst through his office doors just in time to sit at his desk. With relief he let out a loud sigh and looked around.  With all his efforts and rushing Mike had actually managed to arrive right on time, but, to his surprise, his colleagues looked at him with confusion, as though he was in some way unusual.

“It’s nice to see you” Said his boss “But isn’t today your day off?”

Mike’s jaw hit the desk in disbelief, then his eyes darted to his calendar pinned up on his partition. True enough, today’s date was circled in a bright yellow smiley face. Today was his day off, one he had actually been looking forward to for a while. One he hadn’t wanted to wake up early on, and one he had wanted to spend the whole day doing nothing but relaxing after a stressful couple of weeks. Mike laughed. He laughed louder than he had in a long, long time. He laughed so hard that tears streamed down his face, and so hard that his colleagues, some of whom were oblivious to the reason, laughed with him.

****

This is entry #26 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!

Word-High July: Pahimakas

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Minutes previous we had watched from our rooftop as the sun descended behind the cities skyline; silhouetting skyscrapers across a golden horizon. Her body tensed in my arms, she was on edge, as she always was this time of night, but something in her was starkly different.

“You’re going to meet him, aren’t you?” I asked. I knew the answer already, but I needed to hear it from her.

“You know I am” she said “I have to. He has to be stopped”

For what it’s worth, I always admired her conviction, even though I always knew from the start it would also be our end. She’d been the strongest personality of anyone I met and I likely wouldn’t meet another girl like her. I wasn’t truly sure if that was a blessing or a curse.

“Why can’t the police do it this time?” I asked in vain, fully aware the question wouldn’t work. It was a please I had made a thousand times, when the stakes were less high, and she had never listened then.

“You know the answer” She said solemnly, pulling away from me and starting her preparations. She pulled her large sports bag out and unzipped it defiantly; laying her costume out in neat piles. How I hated that bag of instruments. I would spend our days together scowling at it, aware that inside it she held all the things that were pulling us apart.

I watched from my concrete seat as she pulled her black mask over her golden hair and clasped it tightly under her chin. Suddenly her true self was standing before me. To enemies and allies alike she was known as The Shard; but not to me.

“Kate if you go…” I started, my lip betraying me with a quiver. I cursed myself under my breath for not having her strength of will.

“I’ll be back,” She said, a small smile curling on her face; her confidence ebbing from her stance as she finished adjusting the rest of her suit.

“But I won’t” I said, physically rising with the volume of my voice. Tears edged their way out of my eyes; pushing mascara out their path and forming contours in my foundation. “I’ve watched you leave too many times, Kate. I sit up all night wondering when – not if – but when I’ll have to learn about your death on the front page of some disgusting tabloid. When you slip up, or when someone comes along who is just better, I’ll lose you and I’ll never know. If you can’t give up being The Shard then we can’t go on in this relationship”

It felt good to get the words off my chest; it always did. How many times had we had the argument? The same back and forth that got me nowhere. Kate wouldn’t ever change, this was her life and her self-imposed duty.

“Sophie look-“ She started, her hand out as she approached as though extending the proverbial olive branch.

“Forget it Kate. There’s too much at stake. This is you, this will always be you. It’s me that fell in love with you, exactly as you are, and it’s me that foolishly thought you would ever change. I don’t want to give you an ultimatum, because I know you wouldn’t be happy if you chose anything other than the fight. If you’re leaving on this mission, which I know full well you are, then I’m sorry but I’m leaving too”

I walked away from her and down the apartment stairs, slamming the door behind me as I left. I always admired her conviction; but it was finally time to have some of my own.

****

This is entry #26 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!

Word-High July: Kinaadman

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“No. No. No.  What? ‘Madam Vista’s Art of Divination & Entrails: Volume 2’? Really? When did I even have Volume 1? Anyway, No. No. Look I can see the next 5 or 6 and I can tell you it isn’t any of those either!”

Magister Malig sighed in exasperation as book after book floated in the air in front of him; his whole library passing by his eyes like a smooth and invisible conveyor belt. Each single one disappointed him as none had been exactly the information he needed. He dropped his quill to the side in annoyance, ink splattering across the clean page and onto his long, wispy white beard; not that he noticed either happening. With a flick of his wrist all the books flew off, each finding their homes back on his shelves up in the rafters and walls. Where could it be? He wondered, pulling himself away from his desk and starting a slow, small stepped pace around his circular room.

“I’ve seen it somewhere! I know I have! But how long ago?”

He stroked his beard thoughtfully, ink coating his fingers silently as he pondered. Maligs eyes scanned the room as he considered possible locations; he’d already turned most of his workshop upside down. Luckily enough, though, magic was an excellent maid and it was impossible to tell just how much mess he had been making earlier. Suddenly, an idea jumped into his mind and he ran over to the side of his room. There, underneath piles of old artificer tools, garments long since worn, and implements unused, sat a large chest. It was made of red tanned leather, and had old, now weathered detailing all along its sides.

Malig hastily removed the things on top; little care in his mind to where anything landed, and slammed his fists on top of the chest.

“Open up!” He shouted, his hands making a dull thud as they landed on the lid. The chest growled at him in return, as though disturbed from its hibernation, and at the hinges noticeable drool began to gather.

“Don’t give me that attitude, you’ve been asleep for months you can at least show a little enthusiasm now.”

He pulled at the side of the box and, with its growling getting louder,  the chest wobbled backwards out of his grip. His patience waning, Malig put his hands together tightly, palm against palm, and whispered some unintelligible words. Around his fingers, tiny blue lights appeared, spelling out scripture and runes from his ancient practices. The forgotten letters and unwritten symbols danced and spiralled around the lengths of his fingers, moving rhythmically to an unheard tune. Then, in a quick movement, he slapped his hand down on the top of the chest. Smoke erupted from his palm, and the chest whined like a scolded dog.

“Ha!” Malig laughed, “Didn’t like that now did we! There’s more coming if you don’t get your act together.”

The chest opened up, a ray of tainted, yellow teeth showing along the brass edges, and a big, thick crimson tongue flopped out and onto the floor, creating a pool of saliva at Maligs feet. The Magister rolled his long sleeve up above his elbow and placed a tattooed arm inside the box’s mouth. He winced, the impossibly sharp teeth along the edge always gave him shivers; one slip of his hand and he could lose an arm. His hand went in deeper, searching for something that felt familiar. He spent a few long, tense minutes as he pushed items out the way, fumbling blind for his goal. His rummaging was successful, however, and from the living chest he produced an old and tattered cloth book with a purple eyelid on the front. It blinked open, it’s red pupil sat in a sweaty, yellow sclera, and panicked. It flickered around the room in awkward confusion, before it’s pupil narrowed and focused on the Magister holding it. Once again, Malig whispered under his breath, and once again the magic wrote itself around his old, gnarled hands. This time there was no smoke, no sizzle, but instead the cloth book glowed a vibrant purple and flew into the air in front of him, open and awaiting consumption.

Malig got up from his knees, dusting off his robes, and began to read from the purple book. His tongue licked the sides of his lips in concentration, and his eyes narrowed with what he read.

“This is it!” he yelled triumphantly. “This is that knowledge I’ve been searching for!”

The Chest barked to the side of him, licked its sharp brass teeth, and fell back asleep.

****

This is entry #25 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!

 

Word-High July: Makisig

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Princess Solia stood at the top of large, golden stairs watching the event play out. The King and Queen had been adamant about using the ball to find her a suitor, but it was she who had insisted on a masquerade. It would be impossible to choose someone based on looks alone, but masks gave someone a chance to portray other aspects of their personalities; there was certainly a vast assortment in the room. Some guests opted for simple, elegant masks, these were often the older guests who defined their lives with dignity and respect. The younger guests tended to boast more playful designs, animals and demons, which perhaps hinted more at their character then they’d openly admit. Solia had designed her mask herself in a way of having something unique. She wanted to emphasise her personality to her potential suitor, and she wanted him to do the same.

A few hours of the ball passed by, with nothing really capturing Solia’s attention. She was introduced to man after man, each who had the finest of masks money could buy. It took every part of her to be polite, to curtesy, and to smile; fighting every natural instinct of eye rolling and sighing. It had been a particularly hard task when she was introduced to two suitors wearing the exact same masks, in no way associated but following one behind the other. Mass produced and in no way unique, she sighed.

During the procession of un-eligible bachelors another man in the crowd caught Solias eye. His suit was fine and tailored, but wasn’t flashy in the way some of the other men dressed. His mask too, was unlike any of the other masks she saw before; looking distinctly home made.  It covered his whole face and was finely polished, reflecting everything else but his eyes; smooth, but with engravings all around the rim.

“If you’ll excuse me, sir” Solia said, bowing herself out of the current, forgettable conversation and making a sharp route for the young gentleman she had spied from above.

“May I interest you in a dance?” She asked, approaching the young man from behind, he turned and bowed deeply. His mask was

“Why, my lady” He said, still with his chest towards the ground “Who am I to refuse such a request?”

Solia laughed and took the still-bowing mans hand; rushing with him onto the already twirling dancefloor. Together they span for awhile, their outfits colliding in a whirl of colour, and their heads back with laughter and joy. For the first time in the evening, Solia was enjoying herself. This man, who she hadn’t yet truly spoke to, was the one who resonated with her. Everything about his attire, from his shoes to his suit, to his cuffs to his mask, screamed to her that this was a character she could connect with.

When the dancing slowed it’s tempo, and the dancing became more intimate, she finally spoke to her partner.

“Tell me” She said softly, placing her head against his chest, “Did you come here with the intention of stealing my heart?”

“No” He said laughing and spinning her slowly,  “But interesting choice of words”

“Why?” She asked, looking up at him. His mirrored mask reflecting the room around around them as they moved.

“Well, truth be told M’lady. I’m nothing but a common thief and my goal was your Fathers vault”

****

This is entry #22 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!

Word-High July: Amihan

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Numari’s ears twitched with the sounds of the jungle as she mentally catalogued the animals around. Monkeys chattering at each other, a play fight breaking out… A near silent splash of an Alligator entering the river after a bankside nap… Wings taking flight, too light to be a bird, a butterfly then… Nothing was too out the normal tonight. Why, then, did she feel something was different? Why was her arm hair standing up on end?
She jumped from her perch on the high canopy and swung from the green vines which coated the air like a trapeze artists net. She landed nimbly on a thick tree branch which was tall enough to look out over the arboreal landscape. Here it was open enough and high enough to feel the breeze lifting pleasantly against her cheek; a pleasant change from the thick and humid air of the jungle below. She carefully adjusted her spear, moving it from the sling on her back to rest at her side, and lent against tree. Her short unkempt hair caught the knots of the trunk as she tried to get comfy, but it wasn’t that which phased her. In fact, even when trying her very best to relax, and already tired from a long days hunt, she couldn’t settle; something just wasn’t sitting right. Then she noted the wind again, there was something different there. She propped herself forward and begun to walk across the branch. Her nose tweaked upwards as she sniffed the air. Instantly she was alert. The strong breeze carried smells it shouldn’t; fire, wrought metal, freshly dug up ore and something else, something otherworldly… meteorite.
With a swift movement Numari jumped from branch into the leafs below, relying purely on her instinct and senses to grapple enough vines to make a steady descent. She sniffed the air again, it was fainter down below, masked by a overwhelming scent of furs and flora, but now she was aware she could find it. She knew she had to head North east. Quickly, she set about the forest floor, her barefeet hardened to the  rocks and twigs which could cause any harm. There were fallen logs, wild bushes, and sometimes other animals that she found herself bounding over, with little thought. Numari knew her destination, she knew exactly what would be waiting for her.
As Numari got closer to the source of the scent it became stronger. The air had changed here, carrying the heat of the flames, it left a faint prickle on her cheeks. The crackling of the campfire was loud to her ears now too, and the sounds of the wildlife had died down; nothing dared come close. Her footsteps slowed, her body hunched and she drew her spear. There was always a chance it could be something different, something she wasn’t expecting, and so it was best to be careful and armed. If, on the other hand, it was exactly as Numari thought, then it was wise to be even more cautious and perhaps even better armed than she was now.
In the clearing, where the fire grew, stood a tall athletic figure. She had long hair tied back in a ponytail, which even still managed to reach the bottom of her back. To her side sat an assortment of weapons; sharp spears and even sharper swords, a flintlock rifle, a shield, and numerous other implements. It was strange to see her so unlaiden, Numari thought, her Mother never normally left her gear at her side. Something strange was happening, and it wasn’t just that she was back after a silent two year hiatus.
“Put that crude thing down, Numari” said the woman sternly, no hint of motherly care in her voice. “Your Father is dead, so we need to talk.”

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This is entry #21 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!

Word-High July: Habilin

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In the past she had often visited him, keeping him company whilst he fished along the river bed. She would turn up just after the sun was highest, dancing along the ripples as though made purely of air. Her teal skin would glisten like wet scales, but she was always smooth as silk to touch, and her cerulean hair would wash down her neck, shoulders, and back like a waterfall on soft stones. She was the only being he spoke to now he lived away from the city, and she kept him company when he was otherwise alone. He was always in awe of her skills with the currents, the fish, and with magic in general… but it was her kindness he admired most of all. They would share many hours swapping stories, laughing, and joking, and sometimes they would even sit silently, content in the company each other gave. It had been awhile since he had seen her, but every day he dreamed he would, but every day it seemed less likely she would.

Today though, after spending a morning catching no fish his hopes did come true, but it wasn’t like his memory. This time the water nymph did not dance, she did not even really sway. She walked along the waters surface with her head down to her chest; her body suggested sadness and she looked less like a usual water droplet and more like a tear.

 

When she finally reached him, and sat at his side, she pressed herself against his arm. Her skin, which was usually cool, almost refreshing, to touch felt warm like she was hot with fever.

“Are you ok?” Said the Fisherman, his voice filled with concern.

“No” She said bluntly, her often playful words lost in fear. She sensed the mortal man pressing her for more, and sighed before continuing. “Surely you’ve see the state of the river recently? It’s once clear water now murky and dark, the fish no longer swimming eagerly down stream but coasting, miserable and glum”

The Fisherman nodded, unable to disagree. Each days haul was worse than the last, he used to fish a little extra to stockpile, but these days he ate what he caught or he didn’t eat at all.

“I have” He said, looking down at her. On closer inspection, she looked nothing like she once had. Her soft skin looked dry, without so much as a sparkle, and her hair looked tangled with grease. Overall her colour had faded, looking more grey than blue. She certainly was no longer the Nymph he once knew.

“It’s too late now” She said softly, “The town up ahead across the way already ruins our precious river. They pollute it with waste and take no care for nature” He felt her pull away, getting angry with her words. “They have no respect at all! If I were my father… Well… I’d wipe them from the ground” Her grey complexion almost turned more red now, than blue, and steam was visible rising from her arms and back. Her head fell low again, her eyes closed, as though counting to ten to readjust herself.

“What can we do then?” Said the Fisherman, offering some support “It’s my livelihood as well. I will do what I can”

At the sound of his aid the Nymph looked up; she was smiling.

“I knew you’d say that!” She said, a jovial hint to her words. “I have a very special request of you…” With that she put her hands to her waist and concentrated. Her body quivered slightly, and her hair began to raise. Between her palms water seemed to flow. Slowly, purposefully, it swelled and built a sphere of water, which sat with weight in her hands; it had the appearance of a soap bubble, drifting on the top of a tub.

“This is my heart” She said, looking up at the Fisherman. Her eyes had turned a fierce white and, though there was no pupil, he could feel her looking deep within him. “I want you to take my heart and leave this place. Keep it for as long as you need, until you find a perfect stream, but never let it burst.”

The Fisherman stood back, aghast and uncertain.

“I may not be truly mortal like you” She said softly, “But if this river loses its essence, I will be nothing but weakness and waste. If you take my heart away, the river will dry up and the fish will die. Consider that you’re sparing them though, sparing them from being born to live in squalor; their lives getting worse with each passing generation. Then, if you find a new stream, one unpolluted by mortal hands, I can take form again and we can live in harmony. Will you do this for me?”

The Fisherman gave it no real thought, placing his hands on her heart. It was cold, and he could feel it pulsing with water and life.

“I’ll find somewhere”he said.

****

This is entry #19 for the WordHigh July Challenge of 30 Beautiful Filipino Words!