Mess (10 minute writing practice)


I often think life’s too busy to be tidy. Sometimes the accumulated clutter of my daily life does begin to get on my nerves. I like clear space around me. But the moment I get things tidied up I’m off to do something, normally in a rush, and somehow within a day things have started to accumulate.

A cup of tea. A toothbrush I’ve been meaning to take back to the bathroom. Paper. A pencil. A jumper. A drawing pin (need to be careful there!)

But I’m not writing about what really comes up when I think of mess. Which is emotional mess. The tear-streaked puffy-eyed tousle-haired mess of my miserable self this autumn, sometimes barely able to take two steps away from distraction without bursting into tears again. A hormonal mess of emotions. For a week every month. Far more humiliating than letting someone see the chaotic bedroom even at its untidiest.

I’ve emerged from that time with the triumph of new strength (and a much-more-stable hormonal balance), but looking back, its messiness is poignant and painful.

The books accumulating on the side of the bed where there was an ex-sized gap. Nobody would need to sleep there, so let the books pile up. I like sleeping with books. Messy, but companionable. (I’m keeping it tidy now… you never know…!)

I hate mess of the emotional kind. I like to see things clear and rational. And while I’m mostly on good terms with my emotions, I wish they’d not go oozing all over the place and getting me into trouble and tears. Still, they’re part of me, and life would be very dull without them.

Mess. Well, life is, mostly – the plans we laid ganging aft agley, our dreams that seemed like a guiding star which suddenly, as we approach them, reveal themselves as a whole galazy of confusing and tempting possibilities. But mess is interesting too. I don’t want my life to have the sterility of a magazine photoshoot house kept in arctic perfection.

My skin is a bit of a mess – old acne scars, chicken pox scars, that strange blodge the doctor told me was nothing to worry about. All fairly faint– I’m sure I notice them more than others do. The odd freckle. But then who’s to say that these are imperfections – or rather, who is to say that the airbrush perfection of cover photos is better than my face whose messiness tells a story.

A story I’m generally happy with, though not one that worked out quite to plan. With many messy loose ends and bits of emotional detritus. A lot of untold stories. But that sort of mess makes a life – and a face – and a story more interesting.


This is a 10 minute writing practice inspired by the regular topic posted at red ravine – this week’s topic was “mess”. The idea is to write without stopping or going back to edit your writing, and see what comes out.

(Images from an article called celebrities before and after photoshop at www.


7 responses to “Mess (10 minute writing practice)

  1. I enjoy seeing your mind move from the clutter outside of you to the emotions inside to your (the) face, and then finally, all tied back to telling a story. It’s a meandering that completely makes sense to me, yet one that would have been hard to describe in any way other than through this writing practice.

    I also want to say that the images fit the writing well. I find the untouched image (which I assume is the one that shows the freckles and uneven color in the face, as faces have in reality) is so much more interesting to look at, has so much more texture, than the touched-up version.

  2. It’s strange what comes out when you just let the pen loose on the page… it does have its own logic as long as you’re prepared to follow it where it wants to go.

    Oh, and yes, you’re absolutely right about the photoshopped images – the unaltered one is on the right, and I think far more interesting and attractive! I think she would also look a lot better without the heavy makeup…

  3. blissfromtheabyss

    Two ideas that really stuck out as I read this:

    “…emotional mess…Far more humiliating than letting someone see the chaotic bedroom even at its untidiest.”


    “The books accumulating on the side of the bed where there was an ex-sized gap…I like sleeping with books. Messy, but companionable.”

    They are like tasty little word morsels…so expressive and flavorful!

  4. Pingback: Mess « Treasures in the Abyss

  5. Thanks for sharing your Writing Practice with us. Emotions really do ooze all over the place. And at the same time, that’s where the energy is in our writing. We’ve got to go where the energy is.

    BTW, I can totally relate to the books filling the hole where an old lover used to be. It is not my situation now, but I was single for about 14 years. In that time, I did a ton of reading and had a line of books, separate little piles, running completely down the left side of my bed. And I never moved them off the bed at night.

    If I had to fill a hole for a while, I’m glad I did it with books and authors! Looking forward to more of your Writing Practices.

  6. Thanks for your comments QM. It’s interesting where WP’s take you – if you really try to listen to what you want to say without preconceptions, they do seem to lead off in interesting directions that are never quite where you expect them to go. Which can be messy, but it’s definitely a great way to tap into the energy of writing!

    As for the books in bed… I’m glad I’m not the only one 😉

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