..."With this drop of blood that's shed,
All your stories will be read.
Creativity's not in vain
With the power of your vein.
One must give to gain the glory
Of the prize - today's Top Story.
Red to be read, Red to be read..."
The writer slowly continued the incantation, letting their blood drop into the crucible from the pinprick made at the end of their finger. The metal receptacle shone in ripples from the candle light and its colours morphed - bronze, copper, steel - as the light hit its dimpled surface by degrees. Suspended above the flame on three chains which met at a hook, the crucible dangled and swayed as the sooty yellow heat tickled its underside, leaving a dark circle. The window was slightly ajar and the light, white curtains floated in the draught from the night. Gentle gusts pushed the voile inside as if to say, "Stay in there. It is safe in there," while the grasping backdraft of the night threatened to suck them out.
Resting on the desk was the writer's pad and pen, the basic tools of the writer's talent. These tools patiently waited for the red ink, the blood of their ruler; the pen eager to be drenched, to be held, to be dragged in ribbons across the page, its nib the wand that creates the magic. The paper lay prostrate, supine, open, lying white and pure, welcoming the etching and the scratching of the pen and knowing the keenness of its responsibility as keeper of the words - a sacred trust.
As the writer's blood grew hot, they, the writer, watched, hoping that this was the way to get what they wanted - to be noticed.
It was a vain attempt to give them the edge but they were running out of ideas. They watched every day as Top Stories were announced on the front page of the website where they posted their creations and they read these "esteemed" pieces with a combination of wonder and disbelief.
They did not understand. Some of these pieces were so well-crafted that they set a spark alight in the writer at the depth of description and the power of the imagination of the individual; verse that touched so deeply with its conjuring of shared emotion and its careful placement of words, chosen by that writer's hand, like gems from the rough to shine and dazzle; articles with honesty that hollowed you out, hitting you like the hammer on a piano string to resound a harmonious chord deep in your being, which could prompt tears if adroitly placed; humour that mined itself to your core to push through tickling your ribs to your very depths to propel an eruption of laughter to rumble your belly; poignant reflection that is thoughtful and provoking in its earnestness and insight, that offers a new perspective or view not envisioned before. Some would be impossible to emulate and were rightly deserving of the pedestal placing they had received.
These stories created awe and respect and curiosity and wonder and inspiration and all of those other good things of which humans are capable through the pursuance of artistic and creative process.
And then there were the others. The pretenders. The ones that have been chosen but for what reason? The writer would read through stories and be baffled.
Mistakes. Littered with mistakes. Error upon error upon error. Not just innocent typos but work which has been thrown together - unstructured and crumpled, like a pile of dirty washing.
Sentences that don't make sense, that have zero flow, that jar on the brain like a stone in the shoe, with punctuation that acts like mismanaged traffic lights.
Blandness, seeping off the page like platitudes, having the spark creation power of a damp match.
Poems that rankle with images that are pedestrian and language that stutters.
It is writing, yes, but from what source and with what in mind? Why has it been chosen? Has anyone read this before giving it Top Story? And if so, what was their thinking? The writer would love to know, to look inside the process of choosing, to understand because their comprehension at the randomness and arbitrary nature of the glory hunt is puzzling at best, frustrating at worst but never clear.
The writer sits with their head in their hands, trying to make sense of the confused nature of offerings that have been singled out. The writer does not like feeling like this.
They feel like they have been locked out of a secret society that they are desperate to join.
They feel like an eager puppy bounding towards you only to have you put your hand up to ward off their affectionate and enthusiastic display.
They feel like they are not part of the clique.
Is it that they are just not trendy enough?
The writer wonders on this daily, diligently reading the proffered material, wanting to trust the process of this place where they entrust their words, wanting it to have the same standards as them. Sometimes, they are on the same page, but often they are worlds apart.
They want to "get it" but they don't.
It is time for action. The blood is boiling and the pen is mighty. The writer is ready to try again, to express themselves once more, using the very fabric of their being to create, taking out what's precious to them and parading it for all to view.
They will hone and sculpt and paint using their words, placing them with precision and a deft touch, manoeuvring them by whispers to the niche where they fit snugly, making their part of the whole, and launch their crafted piece into the interactive world. They hope for applause, for validation but what does that mean?
They will not be defeated as they know that their words have value - they too have received Top Story glory - and they believe that this is because they are stories of worth. They want to believe that they resonated or touched or marvelled or smoothed or tickled or something! Some emotion, some appreciation, some kudos!
But they just don't know anymore.
This is fiction, yes, but the message is mine. I do find Top Story selection baffling and I do struggle to understand some of the choices. I am publishing this at the risk of sounding like a writing snob, but it is often my way to write about the things that are on my mind and why not publish it? I can't believe that I'm not alone in this. I am also aware that I am not perfect - I have published pieces with typos and will probably continue to do so with the best will in the world but I do try and check spelling and syntax so that it reads well. I also try to ensure that my writing flows and makes sense and think that I am reasonably successful in this. Perhaps you disagree.
I love it when I get a Top Story. I do. I got four in October which is unheard of for me and I am gratified, I am: for the recognition and mercenary though it may sound, the money. There is no better feeling than looking at my emails and seeing that I have been chosen.
But more and more, I am wondering exactly what this means.
So, at the risk of shooting myself in the proverbial foot, and as the Duke of Wellington may or may not have said, I will publish and be damned!
Thanks for stopping by. If you read this, please comment as I would love to interact with you especially on this topic as I think it is one that may resonate with other writers on this platform.
About the Creator
Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
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Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes