Quietly, almost with nobody looking, I've been working on a follow-up book to Laundry.
It's not another straight novel (I don't have the energy for another of those right now), but rather a collection of short stories, each written in just one sitting.
The idea came when I heard about a very interesting little website, 750words.com, which is a great place to go and literally empty your ideas onto the page. The concept is simple: every day, you write 750 words (about 3 pages worth) on absolutely anything you like, in one sitting, and then you let it go. It can be a journal, a story, a love letter, whatever you choose - the only rule is, it has to be at least 750 words.
The concept is great for just emptying out the junk in your head and loosening up. I, of course, saw it as an opportunity to get creative, and so decided to sit and write a series of short stories, each at least 750 words, and composed in one sitting - usually about 30 minutes. The only other rules were that I must not have a preconceived idea in place, that I just had to trust one word dripping after the other would form a cohesive story, and that whatever was produced in that one sitting would be exactly what gets printed. No editing allowed.
The liberation that comes from not writing from a seeded idea and not being allowed to retune it later is absolutely awesome. It's allowed me to go to new places as a writer, try new ideas and styles, without fear that I was betting the farm on my output.
If you have are, or have any aspirations (secret or otherwise) to write, I definitely recommend doing the 750 words thing. It's not a lot of letters to stitch together, and the pocket-sized feelings of accomplishment it brings are absolutely awesome. Soon enough I'll have all my little stories and I'll put them out. In the meantime, here's a sampler. I hope you dig it.
I woke up.
I didn't know where I was.
Sometimes that happens. It takes a moment or two for the brain to talk to the rest of the body. But this time, the moments were becoming longer and longer and longer, until I just didn't know where I was. I pushed myself up from the ground, gravel digging into the palms of my hands, leaving orange peel impressions on my skin. It hurt.
My eyes hurt.
My legs hurt.
My whole body was waking up, telling me that I hurt.
I took a couple of steps, realising that I had no shoes on my feet. Hurt, hurt, hurt. In my blurred state of consciousness, the pain was the only thing that seemed real.
There was dust on my jacket. Dirt on my knees. Wherever I had been, there was traces of it all over me, but nothing on the inside of my mind to fill in the blanks.
People looked through me, I must have looked like a bum. Maybe I was. Maybe that's what I am. I didn't know. I couldn't know. It was like starting from nothing, only harder, because nothing comes out of nowhere. Only the universe pulls that trick.
I sat under a drainpipe. Water. Cold, trickling down my back. Cold like I'd never felt before. I looked at my hands. Dirty fingernails and a scab on the knuckles of my left hand. Had I been fighting? Working? A vision ran through my head, imagination that I may have been working on the roadside. Or maybe I had spilled from a train? I didn't know anything, but I felt fear in my heart. Anxiety. Like I wanted to be near my family. But I didn't know who they were. I sipped the water from the pipe. I didn't realise how thirsty I was till I drank that water. It tasted like a gift.
I moved on, shambling, the pain of walking, of cutting my feet on the gravel, but I felt the compulsion in me. I didn't know where I was headed, just that I had to be somewhere. And it was the closest thing to knowing anything - this feeling in my stomach - a sense I had somewhere to be.
My jacket was getting tighter. I noticed it when I tried to pull it tighter, trying to keep warm. My shoulders were pressing hard against the fabric. I furrowed my brow, determined that I had to trust this feeling inside of me.
I walked for miles, forward, past buildings and cars and people. I walked until my feet were so numb I could not feel the pain anymore. My jacket started to tear. My whole body was cold. But I walked, and I walked, and I walked, telling myself aloud that I had to trust, trust, trust. In confusion, you latch onto the only thing that feels like a certainty.
Eventually, my feet stopped. They knew. I knew. The light shone from the window. I walked to it.
As I sat underneath it, I listened to the mother weep. It was the most beautiful and tragic sound I could know, and I imagined her eyes, filled with the tears. My shoulders ached.
'Please God...' she whispered. 'Please... Don't do this.'
And then, I heard something else. I looked up, and there, climbing out through the window, was an angel in a nightgown. Her wings were beautiful and broad, almost twice her size.
'Hello,' she said to me.
She was so young. I stood up.
'He told me you would be here.'
'What?' I was confused. 'Who told you?'
'The man,' she continued.
I didn't know who she meant.
'I wish she wouldn't be so sad.' I looked through the window with the angel. Her mother held her fragile, lifeless daughter. 'I'm going to miss her.'
'Yes,' I said. And then I felt her fingers as she took my hand.
And we watched the angel's mother cry, letting her release all her pain for as long as she had to.
We watched her every day for many, many months, quietly, so as not to interrupt her grieving. And when she was asleep, the angel and I played games, and talked, and dreamed. And eventually, when the angel thought it was time and I agreed, we decided to go.
My shoulders snapped, and my own wings spread out, and the feeling in my stomach took over, and the angel and I left together, safe in what we didn't know.