Anxiety in Story

The writing process ought to be unveiled more openly, so I’ll be blogging the insights and tips I discover in classes, workshops, books, essays and on my own, here on my website. Please comment or send me your questions:

Recently, I scribbled an anxiety in story warm-up for Garrett Cook’s online writing workshop, which is under all this rambling.

The actual assignment is to turn in a short story showcasing anxiety. The warm-up is not the assignment but was a way for me to quickly implement literary devices Garrett shared: hyper-mindfully observe everything that could go wrong while executing a mundane task. Use repetition. Think of malignant action as a choreographed dance.

I have an idea in my mind for where the story will go, but wanted to practice these techniques with something innocuous I won’t care about later, so it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t write an award-winning short in the first shot.

I made a snack, sat down on a beanbag and put my pen to play. I didn’t fret on POV, grammar, e-priming or any of the rules. In fact, I broke one of the strongest rules and opted for the dreaded second-person narrative. Crazily enough, for this practice run, it actually worked. I hope reading it will lessen your fear of the blank page and inspire you to explore channeling anxiety into story.

An Exercise in Anxiety

You cut a pear at the kitchen counter. You can almost taste its sweetness as you slice each piece. Craving. Cutting. You slip the knife around the curves. Effortless on autopilot. Dazed, until you slice off the tip of your middle finger. A worm crawls out of the pear core and injects itself in your wound. You drop the knife and it stabs your foot that’s now anchored to the linoleum. The pain burns up your leg, and the worm chases through your body after it. Craving. Cutting. The blood gushes from your middle finger all over the counter. You lose so much blood that you faint. When you collapse, the knife rips a hole in your foot. The worm enters your coma nightmare. Craving. Cutting. It’s human sized and appears to be your doctor. The worm inserts a scalpel into your finger stump to restart the bleeding. The worm’s tongue protrudes and drips putrid slime. Craving. Cutting. Throwing your consciousness into a back alley dumpster where bullies left you for dead. The worm’s tongue morphs into another worm. It wiggles its way into the bloody finger stump of your dream body. Craving. Cutting. You convulse on the linoleum when the medics show. They plop you on a gurney and haul you down the driveway. Halfway there, your body explodes into a million worms. The medics slip on the writhing mess and worms enter their every orifice. Craving. Cutting. In minutes, they’re devoured. Nothing left except an empty ambulance.

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