SPEECHLESS

I awoke in the middle of the night with my throat burning. The pins in at the back of my throat were nearly as uncomfortable as the hot breath that exhumed from my mouth. It tasted like a corpse. I rose and found my way to the sink, splashed some water on my face. I cupped my hand beneath the running water, and used it as a makeshift glass. The soft, cool sips of water provided a short respite from the fire in my throat, but it was quickly overwhelmed. Exasperated, I opened my mouth to chastise my image in the mirror, but as I finished drawing a breath in, I found myself unable to speak. It was as if the words had been caught behind the layer of spikes, each word popping like a balloon before it could fly from my mouth.

Panic welled up inside my throat. My eyes bulged as I struggled to articulate the slightest of noises. I turned away from the mirror to look at the bathtub. This must be a dream, I thought, Or rather, a nightmare. I gagged on the unseen forces. My hands trembled, and my chest heaved. My vision blurred. The strength of my body failed, and I tumbled to the floor.

When I awoke again, the room was still dark. I had been returned to my bed, though my memory of this was gone. My throat no longer burned, yet I still could not speak. It was as if the heat had consumed my power to speak. The room was eerily silent. I rose, and the once creaky floor of the room bore no noise. I flicked the light of the bathroom on. Strange. Who turned out the light? The words echoed in the cavern of my mind. I turned the water on, then froze as I realized I could not hear the water running. I flicked the light switch back and forth. There was no noise. I felt the heaving setting in again.

My ears began to burn. I looked in the mirror and saw them turning crimson, like the color my boss turned the more he yelled. I turned to the bath, and threw the water on. A silent rush flooded out, filling the tub. I thrust my head under the stream of water, not bothering to wait for it to fill. As with the sips of water I took earlier, it provided a brief moment of freedom, but eventually even the water could not contain the pain. In a rage, my body whirled about wildly. I had been overcome by instinct—the instinct to free oneself from pain. I saw my image in the mirror. My ears had grown redder than I could have possibly imagined. I turned to the towel rack by the toilet, and tore it from the wall. My eyes filled with rage at my own image, and I swung the towel rack at it. The mirror splintered, cracks lining it’s being, before exploding into hundreds of thousands of pieces. It was all in silence. I felt my body growing weak again, like before. I scampered toward my bed, ignoring the glass on the floor as it dug into my feet, but just as I reached the doorway to the room, my legs dissolved from under me. I pulled at the rug with my hands, inching my way toward the bed, but they, too, grew weak. My vision turned weary again, and I was out.

Again I awoke in darkness. It was so black I could not see even the sheets before me. I rose, and stumbled again toward the bathroom, feeling the walls for assistance. As I found the doorway, it crossed my mind that the glass was likely still on the floor. I turned away from the bathroom, and instead felt my way to the door to the rest of my home. I found the doorknob, but found the door inoperable. I was trapped. I tried to control myself. Why was it so dark? My eyes should have adjusted by now. I paused. I was afraid. They had taken my voice, they had taken my hearing, were they now, too, about to take my sight? I walked to the lamp that stood by my bedside, and hesitantly felt for the chain. I pulled the chain, no doubt flooding the room with light. But my vision remained dark. I felt for the light bulb. Were the electricity out, it would remain cool. I placed my hand on it, and found it warm. My heart sunk. Why is this happening to me? I thought. Tears fell from my face, and I brushed them away. I crawled into my bed, awaiting the pain that I had come to know so well, but instead, I merely felt myself lose my strength again, and my consciousness faded.

——

 

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GIVING CRITICISM

Hello everyone,

It’s been a little while since I took the time to be a “normal” blog and give those little updates on life that have literally no impact on the world whatsoever (don’t worry, more creative work will be back tomorrow). Which is why I am not going to talk about how I finished all my graduate school applications recently, how stressful it’s been, etc, etc, etc (wait but that’s what you just did Cassady…). Instead, I wanted to talk about something that has not happened to me before. Someone who had been reading my blog asked me for advice. Now, obviously I am a busy person—we all are. But I took the time to check out a bit of their work and give them constructive criticism. Which I like to think I am decent at giving, and I know a lot of people who are not very good at it. So I wanted to discuss it.

One of my good friends is a person who doesn’t know how to give criticism. He will  say things like “that’s bad” or “I don’t like how this looks at all.” And that’s fine if a person is secure with their work, but let’s be honest, how many of us really feel completely secure with our work? Especially when we are just starting off? Probably not that many of us. I know that I, personally, was exceptionally afraid to show people any of my writing when I first began doing it, and even before that, I was afraid to write because I felt like I myself would be doing a bad job. If someone had criticized me like my friend does right away, there’s a good chance I would not have gone forward with my writing.

Certainly, this is “my fault.” No individual should stop someone from achieving his or her dreams. But that’s not reality. Humans value other opinions—it’s the reason we ask people for advice on relationship, even if they have a terrible track record in them. It’s true that the only way to improve is to get criticism, but when we criticize it can be done in a better way. One way I like to do this is through a “compliment sandwich.” Going back to my original scenario, this blogger asked me to take a look at their work in the comments of one of my posts. That takes some guts, but they sounded rather shy about it. So I took a look, and I found a few things. First of all, they had a great basis for their work. Their concepts were really personal and relatable, which is a solid bedrock for writing. That said, they looked like they had rushed through their writing. Which we all do. I do it. Professionals do it. It’s not a big deal. That’s why people hire editors. But it did take away from their overall message, and they need to correct it to make their work as good as they envision it to be. So I pointed out the positives, then the negatives, to reinforce that they were doing good work but that it needed improvement, and then finished up with a reminder of those positives. Not excessively-if that is done, then the person isn’t going to take the criticism seriously. But this does allow for a friendly way to express the needed improvement. If someone, especially a stranger (or an acquaintance that isn’t very close), asks for advice, it means they value the opinion of the person they are asking, and to shoot them down will only cause self-doubt. It makes the matter more personal than it really is.

What do you think? This approach can vary in impact depending on the context of the discussion. Check out this article for some areas where this technique doesn’t work. Do you have any techniques you use to give constructive criticism? Let me know!

——

 

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SUNGLASSES

I bought a pair of sunglasses

In order to cleanse my view,

Yet now I look like the masses

Whose bare eyes have become so few.

 

We bought them to cover our eyes

From harsh realities of life.

We numb ourselves to form a guise

And seem aloof to all the strife.

 

But the truth is, we hope to hide;

We bury tears behind a mask.

Till sun sets in the countryside,

And our peers will begin to ask:

 

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?

I mean, they do make you look fly.

But you’d do better in classes

If you weren’t just a passerby.”

 

They make us feel self-conscious,

And we quickly pocket the shades

Yet come sunrise they’re back on us

And that fear of self we felt fades

——

 

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TWEEDLE-DEE-DO

Twinkle-dee blinkle-dee winkle-dee…

I wonder what they think of me?

With my wooden shoe

And my eyes of sky blue

They’re scared of what I’ll do.

 

Maybe it’s ‘cause I don’t drink milk,

Maybe it’s ‘cause I only wear silk.

Maybe it’s ‘cause I laugh with a cackle,

Maybe it’s ‘cause of the horseshoe debacle.

Maybe it’s ‘cause I spritz when I flitter,

Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m covered in glitter.

 

Whatever it is, they care what I do

And I’m here on the fence singing “Tweedle-dee-doo”

 

Blue, bleu, bloo, blew.

Boy, it’s such a wonderful view.

 

There are stars in the sky

And the river below runs dark.

There are vulture’s flying by,

Look! There goes uncle Mark!

 

Look at the fiery red of his hair!

…What do you mean there’s nobody there?

He’s right there, standing next to the fire.

Are you calling me a liar?

 

Tweedle-dee, tweedle-dee, tweedle-dee-do,

Boy, gimme a minute and I’ll show you.

 

I’ll show you all what it means to fly!

Out over the skies, a-way up high!

Just watch me jump off and take the leap!

I wonder if then maybe they’ll weep.

——

 

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PRESSURE (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Haiku Simile

I’m like a haiku.

My life is short and fragile

But I pack a punch.

 

A Dream

I feel a dream

Welling up inside of me

Ready to burst forth

 

Interpretation

“Eat like you mean it.”

Read the ad. Or maybe it’s

“Eat like you. Mean it.”

 

Thank Yous

How do you give thanks?

Is it with actions or words?

Or can they just know?

 

Pressure

I need more people

Interested in my work

Or else I’ll fail.

——

 

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