An Exercise

I’ve been researching some writing exercises the past few days and trying to find the time to really work on one. I randomly picked one from a random website – I’ve lost which one it was, or I would post the link – and decided to work on it at work today. I always use the down time between phone calls from customers for scribbling, but more often than not I’m just nattering away about nothing in particular. Today, however, I had a goal.

The writing exercise was simple – there was a picture of a boy sliding down a water slide, and the instructions were to write about the boy: who he is, where he is, what he was doing before and after the picture, etc. I didn’t actually have the picture with me at work, but I could remember it pretty well. For some reason, this ended up being the result – I didn’t follow the instructions very well, but I got an idea and went with it.

A picture frame hangs on a wall, the only ornament in the whole dreary living room. The picture, whose colors are perfectly bright and cheerful in comparison to the gray walls, is a photograph of a boy. The boy is grinning widely, and is featured mid-slide on a wild looking water ride – he’s wearing a bright orange swim-suit and upon closer inspection, you could say that he is laughing more than grinning. In fact, you can almost hear the delightful peals of laughter as you look at the photo.

So the balding man that lived in this room felt – as if the boy in the photograph was constantly laughing at him. So many times the man had tried to take the photo off the wall, and yet, again and again, he could not bring himself to do it.

And so, the man lived out his life, jumping from one hated job to another, never happy with the person that he had become. All his days, the boy laughed in his wooden frame, reminding the man of the boy he had been: so full of hope and happiness. The future had seemed endless then, opportunities just waiting right around the bend. Sometimes, when the man lay in bed late at night, he could admit to himself that the reason he never took that old photograph off the wall was that he needed to remind himself how he had squandered his opportunities, how he had wasted his life. And yet, by day, he never changed a thing, and the laughing boy that he had been shined out of the picture frame forever more, while the man he was dwindled in body and in spirit as the days passed.

Even to himself, the man never managed to explain why he didn’t change a thing. Perhaps he lived in the boy in the picture on the wall rather than in his reality; perhaps he just didn’t know how to change; perhaps he didn’t want to change really; and perhaps, just perhaps, there was no one there who cared enough to help him change. Who knows?

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5 thoughts on “An Exercise

  1. Well now, it seems you’ve indeed captured the spirit, the essence of the exercise. Now it just needs to be (if you’ll pardon the pun) fleshed out :^)

    The balding man should show some aggression as he approaches the picture, then upon being within arms reach he pulls back.

    Perhaps he should speak aloud at the picture, maybe even gently stroke it in reverential remembrance.

    Draw out the way the wall looks: Is the plaster cracked? Are there wires hanging across it, or multiple holes from once hung photos?

    Can you relate how the room feels to the picture, and subsequently, to the man? In many years distant the room once reflected energy and laughter, the voice of his wife gently rebounding like a cotton ball dropped in baby powder. Now, it broods, shades of grey hang like old molasses in every corner, lit or not.

    I have no doubt that you get the idea :^)

    BTW, I will be doing a virtual blog tour in April and have submitted your blog to the organizers as a potential guest site! I can’t guarantee they’ll approach you, but didn’t want it to come out of right field on ya.

  2. @J.W. – Yes, I definitely know I didn’t do as much as I could have done with this piece. But I’m going to keep doing these exercises and hopefully, with time and practice, I’ll be able to fill out the subject enough so as not to leave it feeling only half finished, like this one.
    I’m so flattered that you recommended my blog as such, J.W.! Truly, you flatter me πŸ™‚ I cannot wait for your book to come out!

    @Joy – Thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked this, Joy, and I appreciate the compliment more than I can say :).

  3. I know I’ve seen your name elsewhere amongst the comments and yet for some reason it never stuck! Always seemed so wrong to refer to you as Ms. SlightlyIgnorant … lol! Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake.

    As for the comment you left me about misspelling–it wasn’t you that missed anything. I was writing my comment to you and got stuck on a word. That’s what lead to the whole ‘Word Book’ thing :^)

    Hang in there, Emily. You’ve got a lot of talent, and more time in front of you than perhaps you know. The trick is to use it wisely, and I’m guessing you’re pretty good at that.

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