The price of innovation…

by Mhairi Simpson on May 26, 2016

…is the risk of failure. Trying something new means taking the risk it’s going to fall flat and you’ll get laughed out of town.

Or, worse, no one will notice at all.

Old news to some, a new concept to others. I’m doing a lot of reading around personal development at the moment. Some personal issues came up in a big way recently.

There was a lot of crying.

It’s worth noting that a/I haven’t given up. And b/I have a lot of work to do. Yes, I know I’m being vague but there are some things even I won’t share with the general public. Not yet.

Maybe not ever.

We’ll see.


I have come to realise that I have been holding back on pretty much everything. The writing is a prime example. I’ve put some little flash fiction stories up here and have had some really nice feedback on them. It’s not getting the books written, though, is it?

No, it isn’t. (No, it isn’t.)

The thing is…I’m scared of novels. Writing them, I mean.

(I love reading them, obviously.)

But writing them is another beast entirely. Short stories are easy for me. It’s one of those things that, up until recently, I didn’t actually value that highly.

Okay, I didn’t value it at all. I was all, well, short stories, yeah, whatever, I can do those. But it’s not exactly a skill, is it?

A writer friend straightened me out on that point, quite forcefully. (She barely refrained from producing a hammer and crowbar.)

“Just because you find it easy, don’t devalue it. Everyone else finds it bloody difficult.” [I paraphrased that last part, but that was the gist of it.]

I actually started putting the flash fic up as a way of showing people the kind of thing I write. Pretty effective from that point of view. As a marketing ploy it would probably have been more effective if I’d actually included links to the stories I have for sale at the end of each post, but that’s another issue.

I’m scared to put my work in front of other people. Not just the books, but all of it.

Probably not a good start to a creative career. So I’m working on that. But first things first.

I’m scared of writing novels.

They’re big. They’re complex. They’re a PIG to edit because of the complexity. And everyone else seems to do them so well. Why do I even think I can compete?

This is where I need to innovate, to change myself, if nothing else. The work I’m doing now is not about considering myself better than other writers, nor even more skilled, talented, innovative or whatever else I might think I need to be.

I don’t even want to be as good as them.

I’m focussing on being enough. Good enough. Talented enough. Skilled enough. Innovative enough.

For me.

On realising that I am already enough, whether or not I write a bestseller or a hundred and five books which sink without trace. Whether or not I slim down into those pretty clothes I’m clinging on to or balloon to twenty-six stone. Whether I master another four languages or forget all the ones I’ve already learned.

I am enough.

Right now, this is my own personal path of innovation. I’m seeing if I can teach myself a new way of thinking, of considering myself and my achievements (or lack thereof).

To see if I can internalise the concept that I am already entirely worthy as a human being, regardless of what I may or may not achieve in my life.

I may fail. But I can always try again. And maybe, hopefully, that’s enough.


fic: A small red box

by Mhairi Simpson on May 23, 2016

There’s a small red box on the kitchen table. I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t there. Mum used to tell us not to touch it but she doesn’t anymore. She doesn’t have to.

It’s a pretty box, but quite simple. Flat, wood, carved with eight sides and lacquered red all over with a pattern in gold lines on it. Sometimes when Dad’s not well, Mum looks at it and it’s like she’s having an argument with herself. But whatever she’s thinking, she never does it.

It’s a Thursday evening in June and Dad’s out. We’re all watching the clock while playing Uno and as the minutes tick on we talk less. It gets to nine o’clock and Mum finally makes us go to bed. She’s been trying since eight but not terribly hard. But now she’s got The Look and Callum and I go up, get into our pyjamas and say our prayers and tell each other we’ll stay awake until Dad gets home.

We don’t, of course. We’re only ten.

I wake in the dark and I don’t know why. Then I hear it. A thud from the kitchen below and a muffled sob. I lie there, hoping I’m just dreaming.

“Izzy?” my brother whispers. “Carrots and cubes.”

It’s our password. To tell the other we’re not dreaming. Although I suppose dream-Callum would know the password too, but you don’t always think of these things when you’re ten.

I creep out of bed. There is the faintest line of light beneath the bedroom door and I’m nearly on it when a scream from below makes me jump. I tear open the door and race down the stairs. My brother is right behind me.

Dad is standing over Mum, his hand fisted in her hair to hold her head for his punches. She sees me and her terror is a live thing, twisting in the air between us. He turns and sees us.

“Get back to bed!” he roars. But he drops Mum, so I stay where I am. He’s not well, we all know he’s not well. There’s not much I can do about that. But if standing here keeps Mum safe, I’ll do it.

Callum eases into the room behind me. Our hands touch and he slides right as I slide left. It’s not something we’ve ever talked about but some things don’t have to be said to your twin. Dad comes towards us but now he has to pick a direction.

“No. Izzy.” Mum’s face begs me to leave, to take Callum and get away, but I won’t go and she knows it.

Dad picks me.

In two strides he’s across the tiny kitchen, but I’ve been playing tag in this kitchen for ten years and I slip away from him like grease on water.

His arms are longer than Callum’s, though, and he catches my hair and tugs me back. As my arms windmill, I catch the box with my right hand. Somehow my fingers close around it, although I nearly drop it again. We’re not supposed to touch it.

Dad yanks me back towards him. “I told you to go back to bed,” he says. “Why don’t you listen to me?”

He doesn’t want me to answer and there’s nothing I can say anyway. I’m looking at Mum as Dad’s other hand closes around my throat.

She’s got Callum, who’s trying to get away to help me. She’s saying something but I can’t hear the words. As my lungs begin to burn, I realise she’s not speaking. She’s mouthing. Something about the box.

I hit Dad in the eye with it and his face closes up and he squeezes harder. Then I see Mum’s hands twisting.

Everything’s fading but I bring my hands together beneath Dad’s arm and open the box.


The fire brigade say they’ve never seen anything like it. The house has burnt to the ground, but the houses to either side are untouched. Mum is fine, Callum too. My neck is sore but I’m okay. The paramedics gave us oxygen and sent us to the hospital for the night but a couple of days later we’re out and staying with Nan and Grandad.

Dad isn’t. They put him in a black bag and took him away.

I’ve still got that box. And somehow, we found another one. A fireman brought it out of the ashes, gave it to Mum. She looked at it and gave it to Callum, didn’t say a word, just held it out.

We’ve both got a dragon now.

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May 20, 2016

My new passport arrived today. I’ve had my own passport since I was three months old. Given how much I’ve travelled in my life, I never thought I’d be without a passport. I’ve lived in five countries on two continents – not terribly impressive by some standards but fairly unusual within the general homegrown British population […]

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fic: The lions are quiet tonight

May 19, 2016

Garin paused on his way to bed and looked up at the sky. Only Thispe was visible now, her golden light turning the sky indigo. He sent her a brief prayer. Born under her light, nearly thirty years ago, she was the one constant in his life, his birth goddess. He could rely on her. […]

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fic: The bricks are arguing again

May 18, 2016

Lily’s mother just gave her  The Look. “The bricks are not arguing,” she snapped. “Bricks don’t talk.” It used to be cute, her daughter’s insistence that the bricks were alive, each one with its own tiny fairy, like trees. Four years after moving in, with Lily approaching her eighth birthday, it was just creepy. Lily […]

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fic: Modern technology

May 17, 2016

There’s a mobile phone sitting on top of a notebook beside my computer. It’s not a smartphone. It’s an old Nokia, practically fossilised. One of those bricks you could run over with a tractor and it would still work. Not that this one has been run over with a tractor. It’s actually been treated pretty […]

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fic: Green, green, light in the tree

May 9, 2016

Green, green, light in the tree, What do you carry there that means so much to me? Robie turned away from the window. It was important to ignore the trees when they started singing. Terrible things could happen when a man ignored the warnings and went outside to hear the songs. They never came back, […]

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fic: Blade of the day

May 8, 2016

He’s chosen the scimitar today, a wide curve of death which glitters in the sunlight. That’s not really saying much, of course. Everything glitters here, even flesh. TRC352’s suns are merciless. They kill more people than even this man has, or ever will. This planet kills everyone in time. Which is why people are only […]

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fic: Goldenrod

May 7, 2016

Yellow shines bright on the acer in the corner. It’s a beacon for the dayfliers, a golden-green light in my garden, leading the faithful war-weary home. They come in from every corner of the land, homing in on golden leaves. Golden leaves for Goldenrod, is what they say. I say fighters deserve recompense. But there […]

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fic: Blood money

May 6, 2016

Technically I had to stop falling at some point, I thought. The end would come, Karis would tire of me, Xnan would find me, a mark would turn out to be a little smarter than I thought. Or I might just trip over my own feet and drown in the canal. Anything was possible. None […]

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