Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 313

With a bit of luck, I’ll have started mentoring someone who’s never written poetry before. She emailed me today to say how good she thought yesterday’s poem was, and how easily I seemed to be able to put my thoughts into words, and that she never would be able to. I emailed back saying a couple of things:

a) me putting words together into poetry or prose form doesn’t come that easily (it can be quite a painful process sometimes; I didn’t email this, because I didn’t want to go on. The other thing I didn’t say is that it’s often the writing – not just mine – which looks the simplest and easiest is the hardest to write; a bit like the elegant swan on the surface and legs paddling like hell example that everyone always quotes about everything);

b) that actually anyone can write, especially those who already use words to earn a living (spoken or written, seling or just reporting), because I truly believe that. If we can speak we can write.

And so I sent her a poetry prompt. Naturally, she may not go for it. She is a very busy person, after all. That’s why I said with a bit of luck at the top of the post.

Don’t ask me why I like doing this mentoring thing so much. And before anyone gets any ideas, I do it for free, and it’s not a formalised thing – it’s just encouraging people to write and being supportive about it. For me, it’s important, because it is a kind of therapy, because it can be really cathartic for people who haven’t written before (and even for people who write regularly). I think some of the folk at my occasional writers’ workshops in Stradbroke found my sessions quite odd, because I never spent much time teaching technique or offering ponters on style, but rather on encouraging people to get their deepest feelings onto paper (and everything we did there was in long-hand, and I never did any of the exercises before, but did them at the same time as the students; it would be cheating otherwise). I think I like it because I like to see people grow, ultimately, just like I want all our children to be independent and their own people because of that independence.

One last thing on writing (which this post is turning into) – if you write for long enough in one sitting, you can discover landscapes of your soul you never knew existed, can go off in directions you never thought you would take. It’s a wonderful kind of freedom.



‘Not afterwards?’ he says, smirking.

Aggie doesn’t smile. ‘I’m not a whore. This is payment for killing not fucking.’ She’s suprised she doesn’t blush at the words. It frightens her, because it makes her wonder about what she might really ultimately be capable of doing.

The robot gets another phone out of his pocket. ‘Details,’ he says, and knows that single word has multiple meanings right here right now.

Aggie tells him. The sort code, the account number. She doesn’t think Valentine will try to cheat her. Not right now. And she knows what to do anyway. ‘And make sure it’s the full million.’ Her words are one hiss as they shelter from the wind against the tall glass of the terminal building.

He presses afew buttons, so quickly none but Aggie’s eyes would be able to follow him and work out exactly what he’s doing, what he’s typing, which characters he’s choosing with apparent nonchalance. He frowns, pushes a few more buttons whose location Aggie stores in that vast mind of hers, just as she stores the reflection of the screen in his eyes in the same place. She makes sure she doesn’t smile but continues to look angry and impatient. He blinks slowly and raises his head. ‘It’s done.’

‘I know.’

‘Aren’t you going to check?’

‘I’ll check later when I have a suitable phone,’ she says. ‘I don’t travel with a smartphone for obvious reasons.’

‘Me and him being the obvious reason, right?’ The robot suddenly looks weary, looks human, and sad. He closes his eyes and shakes his head.

‘Regretting being a robot?’

‘Oh, there’s nothing to regret. Without being a robot I’d just be an intangible electric impulse somewhere flying round a load of cables without a sense of touch. That makes this so much better.’ He reaches out, and touches her hand.

For some reason, although she pulls away, Aggie feels oddly moved by the gesture, and by the actual touch. How can Valentine have created something so real, so human to feel? SHe shakes her head, as much at herself as at him, as at Valentine. ‘Let’s go.’ SHe holds her hand out to him. ‘Might as well pretend.’

It’s the turn of Valentine’s robot to look surprised. He takes her hand almost too eagerly, and lets her lead him.

‘Why did you ask me which hotel when you knew there was one right there?’ Aggie says, and nods towards the hotel at most two minutes walk away.

‘I …’

Is he blushing? Can he blush?

‘I was just being stupid.’

‘A robot admitting stupidity?’ she says.

‘I didn’t expect…’

‘Really?’ For some obscure reason she squeezes his hand. Part of her feels sick and faithless, part of her fascinated and intrigued.

‘Why would I?’

‘The way you were acting on the plane.’

‘Things cha…’ He stumbles.

‘He can still hear you, you know.’ She sees the fight in his face, feels it in his fingers.

‘I … I know.’ He stops, not letting go of her hand, holding her back. ‘Just get us there.’ Through gritted teeth.

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