Flash Fiction: The curious cottage

This is the first piece of creative writing I have posted on here, yay! This is flash fiction meaning it is a very short story that still offers character and plot development. I really enjoyed writing this piece, I was inspired by thinking about fairy-tales and the idea of a house feeling magical even though it’s contents are rather ordinary.

The cottage opposite my house intrigued me. It’s five large white windows with paint peeling in all directions. The inhabitant had left the light on one night and I caught a glimpse of the interior, warm and wooden. Peering out from my bedroom window I could see a fireplace, in the corner of what I suppose is his living room. I sat and watched, painted my nails, picked them off, painted them again and watched the fire move rhythmically. I decided the figure looming inside was a male, old and rather short. A dwarf in a cottage. 

My hand led me towards the brass lion door knocker,  I tapped it assertively three times. The door was bright blue, the type you see in oil paintings, not glossy but rich. I pushed a piece of peeled paint back into place, considering for a moment why it hadn’t been dealt with. The door remained closed after a lengthy 5 minutes, my watch ticked mockingly. A grey cat strode along the fence surrounding the house, purring loudly. It dropped to my feet and pushed itself against my leg, I decided to leave. 

I made myself dinner and pondered whether the man was married, what his job was, how he bought the house, how much did he buy it for? Again I found myself at his front door, not being able to resist my curiosity. The cat now sat next to me, as if he too was waiting for the door to open. Knock, knock, knock, once again, and no reply. I felt a sudden sense of responsibility for the cat, it seemed hungry, I had to get it inside. I carefully made my way round the back of the house; there was no cat flap in sight.

The back door was surprisingly unlocked, and I let the cat wonder in first, curving round the door before it was fully open. The smell of fresh bread and tea enticed me, calling me in. I took a step inside, feeling like a naughty child. A stained window of vivid blues and greens caught the light and shone patterns throughout the room. I took a deep breath and began investigating. The kitchen cupboard, kettle crisps, porridge oats, honey, flour, cereal, chocolate chips, pasta and a packet of dried prunes. A bowl of fruit filled with oranges and pears, a single apple and an over ripened banana. Ready made packets of yeast and flour lay on the kitchen counter, I cleaned it up for him. A butter knife and a white dish lay next to a round loaf covered in a gingham cloth. Footsteps sounded from upstairs, I hurried out, across the street, back to the comfort of my windowsill. 

I hope you enjoyed that piece of flash fiction inspired by all things magical and mysterious. I am experimenting with a “stream of consciousness” type of writing which has been interesting- I think it helps the writers block many people struggle with and it provides some insight into what you really enjoy writing. Thank you for reading I appreciate any feedback which you can send to my instagram @caitlintgwriting.

How can I stay focused as a daydreamer?

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

-Socrates

Let’s picture a random day back in March. I’d wake up, and instead of getting out of bed, I’d go straight on TikTok. I know this sounds silly, but it was stealing all my time. Later in the day I would be making lunch, distracted by my phone. Instead of reading a book, I’d scroll through Instagram and procrastinate. Trust me, I’m not trying to act like I’m above my phone, I love it for how it keeps me connected and provides me with endless entertainment (evidently). However the way I pick it up is so mindless, and I really want to change that. I have a few different solutions that I’ve found to be helpful, including the Pomodoro Technique, listing practically everything and staying true to myself (I will explain more later).

How I use the Pomodoro Technique

More recently, I have been using the Pomodoro Technique for every day tasks. The Pomodoro Technique is a method anyone can use to improve their efficiency when studying. But how does it work? Surprisingly, It’s really simple and not as technical as it sounds. A timer, whether that’s on your phone, or the way this technique got its name- a Pomodoro (tomato) kitchen timer, is used to break work into 25 minute sections with 5 minute intervals/breaks. After four of these 25 minute sections, you can take a longer 30 minute break. This works wonders for getting revision done, I always felt accomplished and productive after using it. Finding myself feeling distracted and unfocused in my day-to-day life, I decided to try using it in new ways. For example, I was reading a book in lock-down that I wasn’t too sure on and I found it difficult to pick it up without getting distracted by my phone. I was determined to get through it, so I tried setting a timer on my phone for 25 minutes, luckily, it worked wonders. I got through the book quicker than I thought I could and I ended up really enjoying it.

This was amazing to me, as I find it difficult to stick with something when it isn’t inspiring me right from the get-go. As simple as it is, It’s a solution that works for me and my easily distracted brain. This has also led to my phone becoming more entertaining, as when I finally use it I have more to look at and I can reply to emails/my friends all at once.

Why I love post-it notes and to-do lists

The next solution is my absolute life-saver, I don’t think I could survive through life without it. Listing. Everything. I don’t mean just the odd shopping list or random number, I mean everything. To-do lists are a good start when it comes to practicality, especially when you find yourself battling distractions and zoning out all day. All I do is take a small notepad or post-it note, bullet-point what I need to get done, and follow it step by step. This could be as simple as: get up at nine, make breakfast, start work by ten, check emails etc. In my experience, doing this in the morning sets a clear intention for the day. Nothing too rigid or complicated, simply pointing yourself in the right direction instead of getting lost in a jumbled pile of tasks. Furthermore, listing things like important dates to remember, workout plans for the week, meal plans are also helpful. Having these on a post-it note and stuck to your wall is a bonus, they will stay in your vision and be a reminder of where your focus should be.

Now I know this won’t be for everyone, some people genuinely just prefer doing whatever task next springs to mind, and not thinking too far ahead. Whilst this is also a practical option, it might worth trying the alternative of listing and planning just to try it out. Especially if you find yourself jumping from task to task without completing anything.

How to listen to yourself and your needs

Lastly, I want to just think about the self. The self can be defined as how we view ourselves as a physical and emotional being. In philosophy, the general theory is that your identity is made up of what you believe in and what/who you identify with. So if we start to apply this to the question of ‘how do I stay focused as a person who is easily distracted?’ we can ask ourselves what it is that we focus on the most. For example, I love English Literature and reading, I find it significantly easier to concentrate on it than lets say, Maths. So I know that I am a person who struggles with Maths and Science, I can use this to my advantage. When faced with a task I find ‘boring’, I can think to myself- how can I made this task more relevant to my strengths? Let’s say I have to work out my rent and budgeting for this month, which includes a fair amount of maths. I can transform the task by integrating more writing. Remember, looking after yourself should always come first before any type of work. You wouldn’t let a car run until it runs out of fuel, you’d see it getting low and top it up. You should make sure to top yourself up this way, whether that’s taking a break by making a cup of tea, going on a walk or just watching tv.

There will always be tasks we come across in life that we don’t like or find difficult. Retreating to apps like TikTok and YouTube are easy solutions, they are familiar and comfortable. However with the correct mindset and techniques we can make a positive change for our lives. Like many people, I’m still striving to find that perfect work/play balance. Remember, nothing is fixed and change is always possible, even for someone as big a daydreamer as me.