I always believed I had a long lost twin. This belief stayed with me for many years. I wondered whether we were identical, or not. Was she somehow braver than me? Was she more confident? Or was it the other way around? Would I become fiercely protective of her? Eventually, after a series of synchronicities led me to explore my astrological chart, I learned my rising sign is Gemini (the twins). I still feel like there is something, or someone, missing from my life. The dreamworld seems much more vibrant, more authentic, than my day-to-day existence. I look forward to the witching hour when all the world is quiet and I can sink into the real world as I sleep.
And as we walked through the land of our dreams, we saw them happen, all at once, swirling in a distance among the trees and leaving chaotic prints on the fresh snow. All our visions becoming reality, all hopes coming true, and I wondered for a moment why they were dancing in circles like in a wild mockery, but then you just said go. So we kept going, one step after another, and the dreams were beckoning us in the shadow of the forest, everything we had ever wanted within our reach. I got angry, I started to talk, and I thought you’d hate every word I say; but you just smiled. And we kept going. The only sound heard was the crunching of snow under our feet.And as we walked through the land of our dreams, we saw them happen, all at once, swirling in a distance among the trees and leaving chaotic prints on the fresh snow. All our visions becoming reality, all hopes coming true, and I wondered for a moment why they were dancing in circles like in a wild mockery, but then you just said go. So we kept going, one step after another, and the dreams were beckoning us in the shadow of the forest, everything we had ever wanted within our reach. I got angry, I started to talk, and I thought you’d hate every word I say; but you just smiled. And we kept going. The only sound heard was the crunching of snow under our feet.
The Living Library; a flesh lexicon of thoughts and ideas, dreams and wishes, hopes and fears. Monsters divorced from the safety, the comfort, of the dusty depths beneath a child's bed. Dragons slain now revived in gruesome parody. The old made anew, the forgotten remembered. Books are not just fragile conjurings of paper and glue, they are historians.
She wandered the hills on shore, barefooted and hands trembling from the cold of icy rain. Her lips were chapped and her mouth held the taste of overwhelming iron. Blood.
Reaching her fingers to her lips she felt the warm blood trickle onto her hand, yet when she felt in her mouth with her tongue, there was no wound. There was a quivering sensation streaming through her arms; the only thing she understood and knew to pinpoint who she was, except from her name. Magical. Some sort of magic was going through her, and for each step she took she understood more of it, and even though she eventually understood the danger of feeling it quiver through her blood, she still had no memory of how she ended up here, or who she used to know. Where did she come from? Where did she belong? Only a round, thin silver plate the size of her thumb nail hanging from a chain around her neck, told her something of who she was as a person. Parna. She tasted the name on her lips until it felt like her own. Her voice sounded foreign, hollow and far away.
If you step into her forest with a quiet mind and an inner sense of wonder, the Lady of Hemlock may take a liking to you.🌲 But you'll never know if she's near or not, for her step is light and swift, and no shadow passes under her feet. Instead, the shadows of Hemlocks rest around her shoulders like a fine indigo cloak that blends her into her surroundings.
She has long ago taught the forest her ways. From her silence to her cunningness, the animals and trees listen and watch as she passes by at dusk. She collects fallen hemlock cones to thread through her hair and mushrooms for her nightly feast. A timid deer follows behind Lady Hemlock and the creature's frantic movements warn the Lady when humans are approaching too closely.
After the moon soars high in the veil of night, she returns to the sanctuary that she has created of the forest floor: a small hill that rose up, like yeast, from her hands, notably with three hemlocks that sprout from the grassy mound and envelop her into their thick shadows. Her hair is slightly damp to the touch but soft like sage leaves after spring rain, and her eyes are fierce and strong as they have long ago adjusted to the dark. They can cut through tangled foliage of night with clarity that has developed from her particular intuition that reveals the truths of the forest and its many mysteries
I can also reveal that February’s theme is Landscapes of the Soul, as was unanimously decided on my poll this week.
Keep an eye out on my Instagram posts and Stories for further prompts during February to help guide your imagination throughout this month of words.
In January I met with talking wolves, mysterious rebels and spoke with the spirits of winter. I saw the graves of giants, wrote enchantments and pondered the power of wishes.
The ‘My Month of Words’ prompt began simply as a way to keep my mind off my novel but I could not have envisioned just how liberating the process would be. It has been a joy to begin the year on such a whimsical, carefree note. Once I let go of the novel and trusted that a ‘writing holiday’ would do it the world of good, I’ve seen my writing grow in directions I could never have expected.
In the last few weeks have I settled into a new rhythm and felt my imagination unhook from its icy moorings at the edge of the sea to roam uncharted lands. This is the first time I’ve ever used prompts as a writer and I am surprised at how useful the process has been (and dismayed that I didn’t use them sooner!)
Here are three things I have particularly enjoyed about using a monthly prompt:
1. Habitual spontaneity
I’m a morning writer and my favourite way to start the day is by brewing a cup of tea, making porridge and retreating back to bed with my breakfast to write. Beginning the day with words sets the tone for the rest of my day; it means I am putting my writing first, before any other task.
The loss of this habit was non-negotiable, but prior to the New Year I felt the rigidity of my routine was impinging my ability to solve problems I was encountering in my writing.
I’ve therefore used the prompt as an opportunity to write something different every day while still keeping my morning writing habit. Be it telling a story from a previously unconsidered perspective, condensing a novel into a poem or penning flash fiction for an Instagram caption, I found that this ‘habitual spontaneity’ gave me a quiet sense of accomplishment. To twist a Lewis Carroll quote – sometimes I’d written as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
2. Permission to not finish
When working on my novel I often think about the end. Will I ever get there? And if I do will it be any good? What if I can’t do justice to the vision in my head?
But because this month my writing has simply been a response to a prompt I have written freely without returning to edit, without obsessing over character motives and settings or if there is a difference between what I have said and what I’m trying to say.
Now I allow sentences to meander nowhere, like footprints vanishing in the snow. I throw a sentence onto the page – it either sticks and grows or withers and is abandoned in favour of a more fruitful idea. Endings and beginnings are unimportant, it is the act of writing that matters.
3. A well of inspiration
When I began My Month of Words I felt afraid: life without my novel, the world and the characters I had created seemed lonely, directionless. I was at a loss as to my purpose. What was the point in this monthly prompt? Why waste precious time scribbling these short pieces and lines of poetry to no greater purpose? I should return to my novel, stop wasting time. Then a nightmarish thought struck me: what happens when my novel is finished? When there is no road back to that corner of my imagination? Maybe there is this one world and nothing else.
But as I began filling the pages of my notebook the fear gave way to freedom. Out of the half-formed ideas and unfinished sentences ideas glittered like unearthed treasure. An abundance of new paths to explore, half a lifetime’s worth of ideas. Now I have kernels for several novels or stories for when the time comes to tell a new tale.
And there is a fourth thing, the most wonderful of all:
I’ve been joined by other writers, creative souls who have inspired me with their depth of imagination and talent. I’m genuinely touched at the response this tag has received and my hope is that it will continue to grow and become a source of inspiration for writers and readers alike.
Throughout January my favourite way to spend a wintry Sunday afternoon has been to sit with a cup of tea and browse the My Month of Words of tag. I could lose a happy hour in the worlds you have created.
Below are my personal favourite responses to the tag. I’ve linked to each writer’s Instagram if you are curious to read more of their work.