The story of Jenny’s world — honey-glazed, feather-soft, and in danger.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Jenny lived in a beautiful world.

As she walked the smokestack streets of England’s second city, she looked at peace. Men in suits would bump past, and homeless women in headscarves would thrust out paper cups, and groups of teens would shriek without reason, and she’d face it all with a dreamy smile. Contentment. Her eyes were big and bright, skipping over pink dresses in charity shop windows and hyacinths in buckets by the florist’s stand. She would stop to smell the doughnuts deep-frying the next street over. She smiled at pigeons.

Jenny’s world was gold and dewy. Everyone was…


This is your brain on poetry.

Liu, S., Erkkinen, M. G., Healey, M. L., Xu, Y., Swett, K. E., Chow, H. M., & Braun, A. R. (2015). Brain activity and connectivity during poetry composition: Toward a multidimensional model of the creative process. Human Brain Mapping, 36(9), 3351–3372.

This is your brain on poetry.

Specifically, this is how the average brain activates when we compose a poem.

This is one of my favourite images, and not just because I’m a geeky psychologist who thinks gazing at brain imaging counts as a good time.

This is particularly special because it shows more than just brain activation. This shows how a crude lump of cells, created purely to help us reproduce, can make something as complex and beautiful as poetry.

In your brain, clusters of neurons and synapses work together to perform specific functions. For example, a cluster at the…


Beware the fair-weather workers.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

The most boring job I ever had was counting paper.

It was part of an archiving project. Old paper files were to be scanned into a digital system, so the rooms devoted to sad, obsolete folders could hold something useful, like sad, obsolete employees. A team of skilled (read: so desperate for money that they’d be willing to do anything) administrators was assembled to scan, check and destroy the files.

My job was not even to scan the pages. That was a luxury; my best days were the days I got to leave my 9ft-by-6ft cupboard to stand at the…


Flash fiction

Photo by Nani Chavez on Unsplash

Take my hand, ropy and wrinkled as it is. Take it as a token of our depreciation.

Take it and hold it close to your birdcage chest; let me feel the sparrow sing within it. Take my wrist so my pulse can beat against yours, the gentle, sombre rhythm of a funeral march, an outro we compose together.

Take it even though the fingers are wet, and pretend you don't recognise the tears there. Don't take my tears. You've taken too many already.

Pretend my hand is as dry as old paper, like it has been for decades, so far…


Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

For many of us, writing is a hobby. For some, it’s an income. But as a student of psychology, my first question is, what is this doing to my brain?

It might seem like a stupid question, but looking back over my writing experience, there’s no doubt that writing has improved my mental health. When I put an anecdote on paper, I am forced to order my thoughts, and comb out the logic from the conclusion-jumping. When I present the story for an audience, I have to explain my reactions, evaluate my choices, and re-frame experiences positively, so that both…


Photo by Cassie Matias on Unsplash

When I write about dating, on Quora or elsewhere, I tend to get the same comment: I should be grateful, because it’s so much harder for men.

Men, the commenters claim, are naturally hindered in dating. Men do not get as much attention. Men are rarely approached, and have to do the asking-out themselves. Men never get compliments, and are less confident as a result. Men are not treated as kindly. Men are often rudely rejected, or accused of harassment.

I can’t really deny those things — it’s hard for me to appreciate the male experience when, y’know, I’m not…


“What did you get up to today?”

Michael, age 26, leaned back in his chair. It was a chair that suited him; the high leather back and plush armrests were designed with this dashing young man and his tweed jacket in mind. There was a crystal-cut glass of whiskey resting on his knee — Lagavulin, peaty, none of the cheap stuff. Sadly, he didn’t have a cigar, but he informed me that he had some Cubans in a box in his wardrobe if a cigar-worthy occasion arose.

“Today,” he said, “I thought about the difference between fear, terror, and horror.”


The Side Hustle is one of the biggest dangers to millennials’ mental health.

Too melodramatic? Maybe. But I don’t think it’s entirely without merit.

I first heard the term side hustle last year; I was idly browsing when, much like a drunk college girl stumbling into the arms of a sleazy stranger, I stumbled onto some self-improvement blogs. A side hustle, apparently, is a self-run business or money-making venture that you set up alongside your regular employment, probably online. The gist of the self-improvement article was: if you don’t have a side hustle, you should.

A few weeks later, while…


A few years ago, I travelled to Paris with friends. It was your standard teenage holiday, complete with Eiffel Tower selfies, getting in people’s way on the Metro, eating pain-au-chocolate in a Novotel foyer and thinking about how cultured we were.

On our second day, we made the trip to Versailles, the preserved palace of King Louis XIV. The queue to enter snakes through literal golden gates, and a huge courtyard paved like a chess board — there’s no doubt who’s the king. Decadence has you surrounded; three storeys of glass and marble and maroon brick, winking into the distance…

Emily Payton

Psychology student, line editor and aspiring storyteller. https://paytonwriting.wordpress.com

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