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SIX HUNDRED WORDS- Creative Writing 101
by Ian Searle

Charles, this is for you to read out to the Creative Writing Group today. I shan’t be there. I have not missed a meeting for the past ten years, except when I was ill a couple of times. I don’t suppose you remember them. Still, even though I can’t attend, I thought I’d leave this article for you and ask you to read it on my behalf.

Six hundred words, as usual, that’s what you always ask for, no more and no less, so that’s what this will be. I’ll make sure by getting the word-processor to do a word-count from time to time. I’d hate to exceed my allowance. (114 words so far, by the way.)

I suppose the first question you will be asking is why I’m not at the meeting. I didn’t say anything at breakfast and doubtless you are surprised that I haven’t turned up. I know you wouldn’t wait to begin and I know that you have always insisted on reading out contributions from the absentees first, so this will be one of the first items to be read out. You’ll already be taking note of the abbreviations and the non-literary style which makes it sound too colloquial for your taste, and I dare say you are already forming some of your usual judgements ready to pronounce on my writing ability. Wife or stranger, it cuts no ice with you, as you have said in the past. (Goodness me! 246 words already! I’d better get to the point pretty quickly before my time is up.)

I would have found it difficult to say any of what I have to say face to face, not because I would be too embarrassed or anything, but simply because I don’t honestly think you ever listen to me anymore. Whether it is breakfast time or supper, it is always you who seem to have so much to talk about and which you have for years presumed I want to hear. In bed you don’t talk at all - indeed, you don’t do anything else, either. When I actively consider it, I realise you have never in your life been able truly to listen to anyone, nor have you ever listened to me, either, not really listened. Oh, you may have pretended to listen, but in reality you were only listening so that you could find counter-arguments to what I said. You always have to have the last word (and you even ration the number of words I can use - 425 now.)

Well, this little literary exercise just might make you stop and reconsider your own limitations. You have limitations, you know, although you don’t seem to recognise them and you are never unsure of yourself. I shall say what I have to say in as direct a manner as I can, "a desirable quality in prose," you always say, don’t you? I shall keep the paragraphs short, too. (495 words)

I’m leaving you. I’ve had enough after fifteen years of so-called marriage. It has not been fun. You are a bore and a bully. You have treated me just as you treat your Creative Writing Group members, indulging them, telling them so patronisingly that they have interesting things to say, and then suggesting how they could say them better your way, not theirs. You have spent fifteen years of my life telling me I have a lot to offer you, the family and the world, then suggesting how I should use these mismanaged talents.
What does the Group really think?
(599 words - I’ll leave you the last one as always, of course.)

© Ian Searle 2000

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