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Writing Workshops

Sleep is for the Weak was one of the first UK blogs to host a popular, online, writing-based linky project. Prompts each week or every fortnight encouraged bloggers to explore new ways of writing and expressing themselves on their blogs and created a strong, diverse and creative community offering encouragement to both blogging newbies to have a go, and veteran bloggers to try something new.

Here are our past workshops and writing prompts:

Writing Workshop – Escape

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Writing, Writing Workshop | 2 comments

Writing Workshop – Escape

Howdy lovely people, so sorry this is late up. Having a really rough few days (again, bleugh) so I’m going to have to post the linky and come back and add my own contribution later in the week.

Thanks for taking part!


Leave your name and the URL to your post in the Linky below (the URL should be to your post not just to your blog) – it’ll be open til Sunday night so if you haven’t had chance to respond yet, then you’ve got plenty of time to join in. Don’t forget that anyone can take part! New prompts will be up this time next week, so I hope to see you back soon.

Writing Workshop Prompt – Escape

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in Writing Prompts, Writing Workshop | 3 comments

Writing Workshop Prompt – Escape

A new writing prompt for you. Sorry I didn’t manage one last week. Ready?

For anyone unfamiliar with my Writing Workshop, you can have a read all about it and browse old workshops here, or if you’re an old hand at this you can started.


Running away is our theme this week. You could tell me something you once ran away from, or find yourself often running from, or write about something you wish you could escape.

Or tell me what/where you wish you could run TO, what would be your sanctuary? Perhaps imagine yourself free of responsibility. Where would you go? What would you take? What would you do once you got there?

Make it about real life, or an alternative life, or make up a story, about yourself or an invented character. It’s completely up to you.


‘Picture Walking’ Writing Workshop Contribution – by @theghostshirt

Posted by on Feb 21, 2012 in Writing Workshop Contributions | 1 comment

‘Picture Walking’ Writing Workshop Contribution – by @theghostshirt

A contribution to this week’s Writing Workshop, by David, @theghostshirt

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali, 1951


His face, holds it a smile or frown?

What does he think as he looks down?

On fisher folk of old below

Their lives so simple, as we know

Perhaps a smile for plain sweat ‘n toil

Warm mirrored eyes for a mortal coil


But now, many torrid centuries on,

how does he feel as he looks on?

A frown, I reckon, these days he shows

As he looks down, on us below

We pollute the oceans and kill the fish

And those who profit are few, but rich


So, footstep followers or those who sneer

Love n’ compassion you must hold dear

Like fundamental scenes of fishing

A caring future needs more wishing

For if we lose the bonds that bind us

Then money and profit will only blind us


Perhaps his gaze pierces the dawn

A lost regard for days long gone.

Or perhaps he looks for a brighter future

where love and respect we all can nurture.

But whatever those sweeps of an artist’s brush

The simple bowed head brings a sense of hush.


Writing Workshop – Walk through the Wheat Field

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 in Art, Creative Writing, Writing, Writing Workshop | 2 comments

Writing Workshop – Walk through the Wheat Field

I fell asleep with my head on the open book, the day enveloping me like the kind of blanket that’s held down. Breathing slowing, vision hot, I fell some more. Down and IN.

It was the smell that woke me. The kind of earth that smells like death and life at the same time. Carbon-rich, thick and damp – I could feel it seeping though my jeans, the heels of my trainers half-sucked beneath.  I lay on my back, thick grass like ribbons in my hair, my hands instinctively reaching to my eyes to rub before realising my fingers were coated with the same mud, determined to reach every part of me. It was warm though, soft. There was the thought that if I kept my eyes closed and still I could let it take me, sink down until it covered my mouth and I was just as much death and life as it was. But the cries brought me to – caw-caw-caw; echoing from one pointed, open mouth to another.

Prising myself from the ground I sat up, face war-painted, knees instinctively drawn close as I took in where I was, gazing along the thick river of mud winding its way ahead of me. A sudden gust of wind woke the wheat, before now blind to my senses, but now pulled low and shaking itself in my eyes and ears like paper waved to make a point. And I thought of the Fox in The Little Prince, begging to be tamed, and how he begged the Prince to love him so that the golden wheat may finally speak to him, as it would always remind him of he who he loved the most. And I spoke to the wheat and the earth and begged it, do not make me special to you, do not tame me else I can never leave. Leave me free, please, my voice joining that of the crows circling above me with their cacophonous rancour, perhaps begging the exact same thing.


Writing Workshop Prompt – Picture Walking

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 in Writing, Writing Prompts, Writing Workshop | 1 comment

Writing Workshop Prompt – Picture Walking

This week’s writing prompt! Fancy a go?

For anyone unfamiliar with my Writing Workshop, you can have a read all about it and browse old workshops here, or if you’re an old hand at this you can started.


 I’ve been studying perspective and composition in my degree this last couple of weeks, learning to ‘walk around’ drawings and paintings to work out why they’ve been put together that way.

This is what I want you to do this week too, but in words. Take a photo, or use a painting or drawing, and use words to take us on a journey past its flat surface and IN. You could make up a story about what’s really hidden behind paint marks on a canvas, or use a photo of a scene from your own life, or your past to tell us something about yourself or the people and things depicted.


‘Second’ Writing Workshop Contribution – by @theghostshirt

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Writing Workshop Contributions | 1 comment

A contribution to this week’s Writing Workshop, by David.



The mist swirled at the break of dawn.  Somewhere, beyond the veil cast by the trees around the clearing, a cockerel crowed once, then a second time, chest puffed out, its wattle vibrating like a red warning on this, the most final of days….for someone.

How it had come to this was truly beyond me, but here I was, ready to ensure an outcome.

The looks between them bred their own kind of venom.  Like vipers cursing each other at the apothecaries store as they were milked for their poison.  And oh, what an apothecary she was!  Tall and brunette, with fire in her hips and that light taste of pomegranate on her lips, she was to be worshiped.  And now was the reckoning.  One snake would coil forever at her feet.  One snake to lick her soft flesh with a forked tongue of her making.

The cockerel crowed once more.

I held up the pistol box and slowly opened its lid.  My friend, my comrade, my brother in arms, he didn’t look at me.  His gaze was on the fine barrelled pistol, weighted and crafted for his hand.  It lay nestled in the box’s velvet lining, one single leaden shot already loaded.  With my counterpart, the other second, I had already checked the twin pistol.  It was being displayed now, mere yards from us on the other side of the clearing.  It was like a fantasy mirror before us blighted with stupidity and male pride.  A pistol in an identical box, one with an identical pearl handle, crafted by the same gunsmith that had made arms for their family for decades

The glove, that modern day gauntlet, it had been thrown down last week.  At the end of a long night of chase and counter chase.  The dancing had been sublime and the costumes fanciful and pearl studied, with crinoline and lace, enough to entrap the most pious of priest.  My friend and his brother had been alive to the drama of their sibling rivalry, like two cuckoos forced to share the same nest.  She had smiled.  Thin lips, wandering eyes and that whiplash of a smile, blinding them both with its star crossed sting, dazzling enough for all our eyes.

The hammer cocked, and with steely determination he trod the yards to meet the approach of his brother, for this, the most secret of duels.

The pact had been solemnly made.  Nobody, bar those present would know the identity of the victor.  To slay your own blood is taboo.  It was agreed, when the protocol of the duel was decided, that the vanquisher would lead their life without any stain on their name.  The dead would take their killers name to the grave and as seconds, officers and gentlemen our silence was beyond question.

No matter their history and blood ties, the duellists were strangers now.  Strangers ready to end one another’s lives in a ritual of aristocratic folly.   They met.  Eyes empty and hollow, as if brotherhood no longer existed except as a martyr for personal honour.   They were soldiers and death was now their only fraternal calling.

‘Turn.  Back to back. Then on my word, advance, 5 paces gentleman,’ the other second cried.

Such was the wrath that they felt for one another, that an easy ten paces was the agreed distance, one pace for every five years of their lives.  They both knew it was a short, and certain to produce a victor.

Back to back.

They started as they had been in the womb together, when one would be first born, my friend, the stronger, the other, born second the weaker but more cunning.  Their birth, after hours of labour and subsequent septicaemia, had almost killed their mother.  The medical men had saved her life, but not her womb.  They were the last of the line.


First pace.

When they were five they had fallen ill together.  Scarlet fever had struck them both, they had been lucky to survive.  Their fevers had burned, and then broken, each at the same time.  The doctors had been amazed, their father overjoyed.  To lose both sons would have meant no succession.  My friend, first born, he would inherit, the second born, he was merely the safe guard.

Second pace.

Aged ten their mother died in a tragic accident.  It had been the boy’s first true glimpse of death.   The Reaper’s hand had turned slowly into a fist, to grab and shake them both with a sense of their own mortality.   Perhaps it was then that the true rivalry began.  One day their father would die, and only one would inherit.

Third pace.

Aged fifteen they had fought one another for the first time.  My friend was the victor but only by the slimmest of margins and it was he who carried the scar above his eye as reminder of his brother’s fury.  The rock had almost cost him his sight.  The drawing of that first blood had fuelled their rivalry for years to come.

Fourth pace.

Aged twenty, and then came the parting of ways.  My friend took to the horse and the charge of the cavalry.  His brother sought out the sea as a Captain in the making.  Every conquest and battle was merely a further tale of heroism, each trying to outshine the other son.

Fifth pace.

When they were twenty five they had met her, the apothecary.  Both were smitten.  But the Captain won out.  In secret he proposed, before he left for a ten month voyage.  She accepted.

Oh, but she played them well.  My friend she’d married whilst his brother was at sea.  She loved the lure of his wealth more than him.  And so, the Captain’s homecoming had been a stormy affair.  Home to the discovery of his brother’s prize…the woman he loved.  The duel would right this wrong.  His brother dead she would be his, his brother dead he would also inherit.

‘Turn,’ the voice called out.

Neither knew about the life that stirred inside the apothecary’s womb, her belly just beginning to swell with the presence of an unborn.  She knew well that she was with child, as did I.  She would produce an heir, who would stand, one day to inherit a fortune, with both land and title.  Blood will out, but succession can easily be controlled by those who seek to manipulate such things.  She knew her frail father-in-law would not last long, not after the death of his precious son.

Two pistols were raised.


Two shots blasted out.

My friend slumped.  His knees buckled.  Crumpled he lay by my feet, life seeping away through the gaping wound to his head.  It seemed odd to look down at him dying so rapidly.  We had fought side by side so often, and he had always seemed, like me, beyond harm.  Indeed we looked slightly alike and could have passed for brothers.  For a fleeting moment I caught sight of my own death, prostrate at my feet.

His twin brother, the Captain, he stood unharmed.   His arms fell to hang by his side, limp and helpless.  The enormity of his deed had finally struck him.  As the look of anguish passed across his tortured face the third shot blasted out.

My pistol smoked in my hand.  I didn’t miss.  The ball of lead ripped into the Captain’s heart and he fell backwards to the ground, dead.

Two gentlemen’s corpses, lying in a cold clearing, sometime after dawn, ten paces apart, duelling pistols in hand and two fatal wounds.  Such evidence spoke for itself.  It was a tragic outcome, no victor, simply two dead duellists and a faint sense that honour had somehow been restored, no suspicion on anyone else.

From somewhere through the veil of trees she came slowly, a bag of gold coins in one hand and a smile on her lips.  The apothecary approached the other second and passed him the velvet bag containing his price.  The cockerel crowed once again as he slipped away through the veil of trees.

The two brothers lay dead, ten paces apart.  She didn’t give her dead fiancé as much as a second glance.  She crossed the recently trodden ground.  Ten paces; then passed the body of her dead husband.  She walked toward me, my child in her womb and the sweet taste of pomegranate on her lips.

With forked tongue I kissed the back of her hand and coiled myself around her feet.


Writing Workshop – A Second Chapter

Posted by on Feb 6, 2012 in Creative Writing, Writing, Writing Workshop | 19 comments

Writing Workshop – A Second Chapter

For my writing workshop this week, I set the prompt ‘second’, and I thought that today I would share with you an except of the second chapter of a story that I’ve started working on again, after putting it down for a while. There seems to be a fair bit of interest in my writing at the moment which I need to make the most of, so I’m hoping to get this good enough for submission this year, if I can. 

I’m not going to tell you as single thing about what it’s about, what came before or what might come after and it’s just a first draft, but  I hope you enjoy it. 


“I slept then, deep. No memory, even, of finding a seat, only the repetitive lull of the train bending its way through the miles as I was pulled under.

I did not dream. I slept the sleep of something dead with no capacity left to rearrange fractured thoughts into pictures, if that is what dreaming is, I have never been sure. Although, actually, no, I did not feel dead, numb as I was. Perhaps, the sleep I slept was more like that of something brand-new, without yet sensory impressions to give shape to those fleeting cognitive flashes. Yes, it was more like that.

I woke to the feeling of being shaken, and wondered, briefly, confused, if perhaps I had passed out on the station platform after all, and whether everything that had come after it had been the dream, that perhaps I would come round to find myself still sitting there, still with that choice to make. But no: my nose working quicker than my brain, and the smell of upholstery and coffee and the stale, air conditioned air that comes with many shared hours in a train carriage with a few dozen strangers, quickly convinced me otherwise, and I looked up into the oval, white-downed face of the ticket officer as he roused me to state we had reached my destination, and that the train service was terminating here.

Here. I was here. Christ, had a slept that long? (more…)

Writing Workshop Prompts: Second

Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 in Writing, Writing Prompts, Writing Workshop | 1 comment

Writing Workshop Prompts: Second

Hello there. Part of the reason this blog exists is to encourage my own and others’ writing and in all my distraction getting stuck into my art degree last year I managed to forget that a little. I feel strangely guilty, like the blog’s lost its way a little, and that’s no good.

So, *best commitment face*, let’s get back to it. New writing prompts every other Monday, with a chance to share your work on the Monday in between. It turns out 2012 is going to be unexpectedly full of writing for me and I’m going to really need the practice – I figure I might as well take you along for the ride. And for any of you that started the new year pledging to do more creative writing, or for those that just enjoy the excuse, hopefully our fortnightly prompts will give you a focus and a reason to sit down and try something new. You don’t need to be a writer, or even consider yourself any good. It can be a couple of hundred words or a longer piece – the important thing is just to have a go.

For anyone unfamiliar with my Writing Workshop, you can have a read all about it and browse old workshops here, or if you’re an old hand at this you can started.


 I wrote about January at the weekend and how the first month of the year is often my wash-out month, my false start, so with us moving into a more optimistic second month I thought that could be our prompt this week – second.

Write about a second something, a second anything. Does it come with the disappointment of not being a first? Or is second somehow better, without the pressure and expectation that comes with a first something?  Write about yourself, an experience, something in your life, or in your past, write descriptive prose or poetry, or, (and I’d really like to see some more fiction on here), dream up a story with ‘second’ as the theme. It’s absolutely up to you how you interpret it.


Writing Workshop – The girl and the jam jars

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in Creative Writing, Writing, Writing Workshop | 7 comments

Writing Workshop – The girl and the jam jars

She sat in front of two jam jars, one smelling faintly of pickled onions and the other so old she couldn’t even remember what had been in it. With looped lines she wrote two labels and stuck them on, one on each: Missing and Found. And then she sat with the pen in the end of her mouth and thought hard.

With a sigh, it was easy to write the first one, her hand moving to fetch a slip of paper she had cut, writing in careful, neat capital letters, folding the paper to drop it into the Missing jar. Best to get that one out the way, and no need to dwell, was there really. Those thoughts had been thought before. She could bury it under other things missing, to help forget about it for a while. And after all, she doubted that particular aspect of her life would be missing for that long. “You’re just in there temporarily, okay?” she said aloud, reaching for another slip of paper. Right, what else was missing? She prodded the word in her head, but found it unbudging. Words sometimes like to take on the character of resistant old toads, she had found, so she shrugged, fair enough, we’ll come back to that one then. (more…)

Writing Workshop Prompts – Missing

Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 in Writing, Writing Prompts, Writing Workshop | 1 comment

Writing Workshop Prompts – Missing

I wrote a post on Sunday that seems to have touched a nerve a bit. And not just with single people, it seems, which just goes to show that a sense of missing something is something a lot of us have hanging over us sometimes.

So I thought maybe that’s what we could write about this week.

(For anyone unfamiliar with my Writing Workshop, have a read all about it and browse old workshops here, or if you’re an old hand at this you can started.)


This week the theme is simply missing.

You can interpret this however you like. What is leaving a bit of a hole in your life at the moment? What do you feel is missing? How long have you been carrying this around and what do you think will fix it? Can it be fixed? Is it something emotional, physical, material? Can you even pin it down?

Don’t limit yourself to personal writing if you don’t want to – you could try creating an imaginary character to explore the theme, or write MISSING on a big sheet of paper, seeing what associations it brings, scribbling them down and then writing more on one of the things the word conjures up for you.