Ian Hicken – Breaking rules?

In this showcase I want to feature three of my own short pieces of writing. In a world where the ratio of commercially successful writers to that of hobby writers is insignificant, and where convention is increasingly being challenged, I like to experiment with my writing. I like to push the boundaries and experiment with writing styles that the purists might think odd or not correct. It is unlikely that I will ever become a full-time successful writer, so why not do my own thing? The bottom line is that some people will be able to relate to it whilst others will not. I live in hope that some will.

One reason why I have taken the decision to feature these three pieces is to demonstrate to some of our members who are perhaps waiting in the wings, that writing is a personal journey. There are grammatical rules, but there are no rules when it comes to style or ideas. If you are hanging back and thinking your own style might not fit within convention, go for it. Rules are there to be broken.

This first short piece stemmed from the time I moved house and realised just how much ‘stuff’ we accumulate. It reflects my desire to downsize, use less and also not to be sucked in to the hype of commercialisation. I tried to inject a sense of rhythm and a feeling of being suffocated by the stuff we have.


Every drawer, cupboard, wardrobe, cabinet, box, chest and closet stuffed. Stuff; for wearing, for keeping (just in case); for the memories; for that one-time you just might need such stuff… Each room, garage, loft, basement, shed, house, and breath stuffed with possessions and dispossessions. Stuff you just don’t know what to do with, stuff that someone gave you, left you, lent you, bought you and brought you. Places for stuff, oddments and knick-knacks, odds and sods, this and that, the messy drawer or drawers.

Buy one, get one free, buy two for three, discounted and SALE, last chance offer, never to be repeated, must be worth buying, hunter and gatherer stockpiling for difficult times. Recycling, reuse, repair, re-possess, retain remnants, bits and bats, good tat and not so good tat feeding a swollen store to replenish and restock the burgeoning fortress. Build an extension, outgrow and upsize, pounds worth of stuff in the garage, and thousands sat out on the drive.

Buy now pay later, buy now pay nothing until the next generation is hooked, buy, buy, buy. Need more cash to buy more stuff. We need more space for stuff.

Stuff tidy and ordered, stuff ready for sorting, stuff to be actioned, stuff to be auctioned. Stuff stuffed into corners, under-stairs and upstairs, hard-pressed to remember where it is, what it is or when it was. Stuff made of memories, stuff recalled, stuff remembered, stuffed filed in the dusty out tray, getting higher and higher.

Buy on plastic, sign today for a 10% discount and 33% APR… Stuff on direct debit, stuff bought by loans, sign the agreement and sign for more stuff. Stuff papers in envelopes, in files and plastic pockets, boxes of papers, pamphlets, directories, free papers, instruction booklets, guarantees and insurance. Kept letters and postcards, greetings cards, notelets and lists, lists of stuff to buy. Pens, pencils, markers, rulers and rubbers, rubber bands, paper clips, staples, stapler, copier, printer, scanner, stuff in files and folders, stuff in piles.

Laptop and desktop, memory stick and external hard drives, MP3 and MP4, iPad and ipod, iphone and leads, plugs, power cords and cables. Technology stuffed into every conceivable bandwidth. DVD, CD, BBC, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Blue Ray, iPlayer, online and on TIVA, remodelling and reminding us of stuff we aspire to as well as the stuff we might…will need along the way. Stuff is successful. YouTube, Flikr, Facebook, Meebo, tweeting and twittering, SMS and Tuente, online, offline stuff. Streaming stuff.

Stuff to wear, stuff for summer stuff for winter, and stuff just in case you lose a few pounds. Best, second best and everyday stuff competes for space with stuff never worn, bought by mistake, bought as a present, bought for that one special occasion. Stuff to accessorize, decorate, adorn, garnish and embellish. Stuff in two colours, stuff combined with other stuff, stuff on hangers, rails, boxed, bagged, vacuumed and squashed. Create more space for more stuff.

Stuff to get for presents, presents become stuff, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and events, more paraphernalia… Happy stuff, sad stuff, joyful stuff, new home and moving stuff, new addition, RIP, pictures and postcards, letters and long-forgotten stuff. Gathering generations of stuff, old stuff, newer stuff, inheritance and interesting keepsakes kind of stuff. Stuff secreted from times gone by, stuff for the future, stuff for tomorrow, timeless stuff and ageless stuff. Stuff never talked about or mentioned.

Think about stuff, worry about stuff, forget certain stuff, lose stuff, find stuff, stuff about stuff, stuff generating stuff. Stuff causing trauma, stuff causing arguments, fights, disinheritance and despair, Stuff owned outright, stuff in joint names, stuff owned by the bank, stuff we never own and stuff we think we own. Reproducing stuff, interdependent stuff, stuff entwined into the fortress, stuffed and at bursting point. Security stuff, insecurity stuff, protected stuff, exposed stuff, show off with stuff, give stuff, take stuff, skip stuff and skip raiding stuff, sell stuff to buy stuff. Film and record stuff, photograph stuff, replay stuff, backup stuff, and keeping stuff safe.

Brighter, bigger, better, breakthrough technology stuff, the stuff bargains are made of, buy buy buy. Stuff is exhausting.

Time for little stuff, no time for the big stuff, find time for stuff, stuff becomes life. We could do with less. Living life with less is the new stuff…do we really need all this stuff?

This second piece, stems from when the ‘F’ key on my computer stopped functioning. I spent a few days trying to write not using the letter F. I decided to write this as a consequence.


The laptop is knackered. It all happened suddenly. The radio was on and Vanessa *eltz was standing in *or Jeremy Vine, she had just *inshed discussing the elderly being tasered by the police and it packed up by sticking and giving me a string of never-ending *s, **s.

Despite great e**ort on my part, prodding and poking, banging and shouting, e**ing and blinding I realised that it was *lippin gone *or good.

I did contemplate alternative options such as replacing the * with eph, ehph, ph or ph but that would have only served to add conphusion to the situation. I know the human brain is very adaptable but I certainly didn’t phancy phaphphing about trying to decipher cryptic phonetics even if other pholks enjoyed the challenge.

I wondered iph ‘iph’ looked better than i* or i* iph worked better, in the end I settled *or *.

I wondered i* I could substitute * *or Semaphore Foxtrot.svg the semaphore *or the letter * or maybe even use .._.. Oops, that does’t quite work at the end of a sentence does it.._..? I *igured that using   Semaphore Foxtrot.svg might just be a bit toSemaphore Foxtrot.svg lambouyant. Semaphore Foxtrot.svgancy, opening an email and Semaphore Foxtrot.svginding Semaphore Foxtrot.svgelicitationsSemaphore Foxtrot.svgrom your best  Semaphore Foxtrot.svgriend,  using semaphore, using Semaphore Foxtrot.svglags instead of *s Semaphore Foxtrot.svglies in the Semaphore Foxtrot.svgace oSemaphore Foxtrot.svg progress.

My *riend *rank suggested that I might try ⠋ as his eyesight was *ailing and he  *oolishly had signed up *or an online braille course *rom a .com in *inland. Little did he know that it was actually a *lipping *illipino called *elix *rom *rance *reelancing *or a *ake dot com trying to *leece *olk le*t, right and centre but apart *rom *rank, it seemed most people had seen through their scam.

Φ, now there’s a thought, the Greek symbol phi came *rom an idea put forward *rom my *riend *ulup in Athens but with the ever burgeoning problems over *inancial bailouts and *ailure to secure a *oolproo* plan made me think twice as their *uture in Europe is *ascinatingly **ickle given the depth of *eeling and *inancial *ailings.

I wondered if I could get around the problem by never using * again. I could boycott *, banish it once and *or all.

I lay in bed thinking about what my world would be like i* I never used * again. Could I cope? How would my li*e pan out?

*uck it, buy a new one.

The third piece came to me whilst observing my ageing parents. Witnessing their physical and cognitive decline (as comes to us all), it struck me how with the passing years, confidence and strength is sapped, leaving us increasingly vulnerable. I attempted a more poetic style, something I am not used to using.

When you are young and in love

When you are young and in love, life is not so serious. When you are young and in love, problems are easily resolved and solutions easier to find, there are two hearts and two minds ready to face the challenge, when you are young and in love.

When you are young and in love, it is difficult to imagine that in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 years your time will pass so quickly that it will seem like only yesterday, time didn’t matter. It is difficult to comprehend that laughter lines on faces will become wrinkles, that the habits which protect you, expose you to danger. Routine will embed itself into your soul.

When you are young and in love, a walk arm in arm down a blossoming country lane is a great distance from supporting each other or walking alone.

When you are young and in love your dreams are possible and fears remain remote it is difficult to imagine that your dreams will rarely breathe, that fear will suffocate you and that peace is a last gasp.

When you are young and in love, your heart is strong, and your breath is deep. As your years pass your heart beats faster for a different reason and breath becomes precious.
When you are young and in love having money to spend and money in the bank is one less worry. It is hard to imagine that in the years to come having money in the bank is as equally worrying as having none.

When you are young and in love, taking a wrong turn or walking a different path is something to remember and savour, not something to torment you and that you punish yourself for.

When you are young and in love, you stride out together and dance till dawn. It is hard to imagine that as the years pass, your strides become small steps, and you lie awake until dawn wondering if you ever danced at all.

When you are young and in love, your plans for a family are a blueprint for life and as your years pass, the moments spent with children and grandchildren are more important than your own time or needs and the blueprint is gradually washed away by the tears you shed.

When you are young and in love, you laugh and have fun, you sometimes forget that as the years advance your ability to laugh, love, live and let go is effortless if you are given the chance or allow yourself to shine.

When you are young and in love, it is hard to imagine that the years become months, that the months become days, that hours become minutes and that minutes become seconds. It is hard to imagine being old when you are young and in love.

I have several blogs where I publish my writing and music. Some are private (not ready to reveal my work to the world) whilst others are open. You can check out some of my work here:

Small Tales and Tittle Tattle

Published by Ian

Music maker and story teller.

7 thoughts on “Ian Hicken – Breaking rules?

  1. Hi Ian. Enjoyed reading these! Certainly very experimental – the first and last ones are nearer poetry than storytelling I would say. The first one reflects the dangers of hoarding in the language you use – accumulating piles of words. The second one reminded me of Stephen King’s Misery where he’s forced to write on a keyboard with letters missing. A good idea to show the range of topics that can be covered in writing.


    1. Thanks Colin, I am never sure where the boundaries are for poetry and story-telling but perhaps that is a good thing. I am not familiar with Stephen King’s work so shall look that one up.


  2. Hi Ian, except the stuffed turkey for Thanksgiving there is everything imaginable in your almost scary presentation of present day lifestyle.
    The reader feels hard pressed to deny
    that the description fits his own home but finally has to surrender.

    Notwithstanding the above comment I’d like to thank you for the heirlooms and keepsakes that you graciously offered us and which we enjoy using and looking at.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi , I thought I’d written a comment but can’t find it! First 2 stories ingenious and funny although first is bang on which all of us have felt at some time.
    3rd a bit sad for my taste!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really related to ‘Stuff’ Ian. Loved it. How could you think of it all??
    Then there is the other stuff that always needs to suddenly be done when one doesn’t want to do a chore!!


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