Monday, 27 June 2016

Timed creative non-fiction writing: My Heart

Hey there. 

Remember the other day, when I was trying to avoid all the referendum talk, and I blogged about a nice vintage skirt I'd found instead of writing about what I called "real, messy, life stuff"? 

Well, 'real messy life stuff' has a way of living up to its name, and post-referendum - while skirts undoubtedly have their place (usually covering your dignity) - I'm not in the mood for them much today. 

So, instead, I thought I'd share something I wrote last Friday afternoon while I was struggling to convince every fibre in my hands not to respond to some of the opinions I saw on social media. I thought giving my hands and brain another challenge might distract me nicely for half an hour. I was wrong. 

This began as a 15 minute 'timed writing' exercise suggested by Chelsea Hodson in her 'Begin with the Body' online workshop [hosted on Skillshare]. Chelsea suggested beginning the piece by choosing a body part and then keeping your pen moving until the time was up ... funny what comes out when you just let your mind wander. I then spent more time editing it to get it to the point it's at here.  

[FYI: My first line is the opening line from the 'My Own Heart' by English Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, if you don't know it I urge you to indulge yourself as it, and indeed he, is one of my favourites. And it sprung to mind the second I'd decided to begin with my heart ... ].

My Heart

My own heart let me more have pity on, let me live to my sad self hereafter kind. (GM Hopkins).

My heart that bounces ... in danger of snapping its tethers, working its way higher, reaching, climbing, attempting to escape its place. Banging away from beneath where my chest – its skin tightly stretched over bones – is turned into a drum, two felt-padded sticks beating rhythmically from the underside.

My heart that ignites a pilot light of adrenalin inside me whenever a dog is too close for comfort ... but where exactly is ‘too close’? Right there? Yes. A few hundred metres away? Yes. Nowhere at all? That too, just thinking of them can set my blood hammering for its freedom.

My heart that sends footsteps into my ears ... regular, jogging, pavement-pounding footsteps that run along a clear pathway with nothing to slow them down. A dubstep, wob wob wobble bass throb of blood through veins. My heart noisily deciding where my head ought to focus.
Preserved animal hearts from the Animal Inside Out exhibition by Body Worlds.
My heart that aches ... distractedly, for injustices, for mistakes. I place my hand on it over the linen of the summer dress I wore to wander London last year. It feels hot, why should my heart be hot? I remember it’s June and things are meant to be hot. I also remember that I haven’t been able to concentrate all day, my blood clearly as restless as my thoughts.

I knew.

I knew from the second word out of the radio news presenter’s mouth, and all he’d said was “Good Morning”. But he'd sounded serious. ‘Major Event’-serious. He continued, confirming my fears: “Britain has voted to leave the EU”.

To leave.

My heart.


Julie x

p.s: I welcome any reflections on topics such as online courses, timed-writing, creative-non-fiction, blogging about emotions and just general chatty comments with open arms. But I don't intend to use my comments section as a debating area regarding the referendum results. Anything offensive will be deleted.


  1. As always Julie your words grab my attention - wham - and I am sucked in - and am thinking, oh my what a page turning start to a novel. I love on line classes - for me often the only way I can be involved in a class. (Unless it is one I have put together myself for my small craft group!) Usually mine are for craft techniques I would like to master but this has given me more food for thought - it sounds so interesting and tempting from what you have written in response to the prompt you had - thanks for sharing. And also heard the sense of "foreboding" in the newsreaders voice - what is it about inflections in the voice - however slight they may be - that we pick up on? Loved this post - and don't ever let anyone tell you you are not a writer - Never ever!

    1. That's so kind Jennie. So kind.

      Yes - there was definitely a tone in the voice ... and it felt like minutes until he said the full sentence ... in between I was hoping against hope I was wrong and that I'd just been reading too much into it!

      I found that online course as someone shared it on Twitter - it was very short [and free the day I signed up!!] but interesting and diverting all the same.

  2. Wow, Julie, that is a beautiful piece of writing. That description of your heart's reaction to a dog, or thought of one perfectly sums up how I feel with regards to lifts! I only have to see someone get in a lift on the tv and I can feel the pace of my heartbeat speed up.
    Oh, and that dress? Wouldn't be the one you wore when you saw 'you know who' in a certain Shakespeare play would it?

    1. Now - as much as I don't like the fact you're afraid of lifts - your comment does make me think. I've been wondering whether to write more about my phobia and - if it might start more conversations like this - I'm even more tempted now, thank you.

      And alas ... this was one (rare) anecdote that was *not* Hamlet related. The dress in question was the one I wore to meet up with my friend Kirsty!

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  4. Very vividly written, Julie, and I enjoyed reading it. I liked the bit about your linen dress. And a poignant note in it too ... I was awake at 4.45 in bed watching the BBC coverage on the iPad when they announced the result. I'm still processing it all, and feel so dislocated ...


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