Friday, February 21, 2020

The Powerful Process of Simply Writing

Sometimes, dedication comes at a cost. To help promote books, writing, and literacy, I support my local library by holding a seat on the Board of Trustees. However, occasionally this creates a schedule conflict, and the Board comes first. So, the other day, my Library Board responsibilities meant I missed the opportunity to participate in a fifteen-minute flash-fiction session at a different library. For anyone who wants to discover things about their writing process, I highly recommend these.

They are very simple events. People get out their paper and pencil (or pen), are given a writing prompt, and for the next fifteen minutes, they write the first story that enters their head. Usually this is a narrative exercise, because it forces more creativity, but different groups do it different ways. Some allow people to use their laptops (I prefer to physically write for reasons I will explain later), other groups offer the prompts in advance. The point is, for the next quarter-hour, it's all about the writing.

The results of these endeavors can be wild and varied, and most of the creations are awkward little creations. Sometimes someone really knocks it out of the park, and often someone creates the kernel of a future story. To me, those parts aren't as important as the process part. We often discover a lot about ourselves when we enter into a process that frees us of self-consciousness and lets us focus on that one thing we want to do - write.

This is a bit of a giveaway about my age, but I learned proper typing technique in 1980 on an IBM Selectric in General Business in junior high. Before that, it was all about paper and pencil, learning print and cursive, and constantly stretching out my aching hand after every page of writing. My father found an old electric typewriter and gave it to me in high school for homework. Eventually, I learned typing on a keyboard, but writing was still my hardwired experience. Long before I learned that ASDFGHJKL; was the home row, my hands were writing down ideas, thoughts, love notes to girlfriends, ideas in my journal, and yes, poems and stories.

Writing in my mot natural form involves paper and pen. Now, I fully admit that I wrote my first novel on a laptop, and all subsequent manuscripts are courtesy of Microsoft Word. However, there is still a labor to that flow at times. I will be typing a narrative and that annoying red line will appear where I spelled something wrong. Now I'm thinking about that, and it breaks my pace. Other 21st-century interruptions hit as well, and I have to break my process to become the tech support guy. For a writer, it's annoying to not be writing.

This is why I enjoy flash-fiction sessions. For those fifteen minutes, technology, formatting, and all the technological invasions drift away, and I am that sixth-grader with the crude penmanship, writing that note to my secret crush (and we will leave her name out of this). I am relieved of all distractions and now let the feeling of that pencil in my fingertips wash away everything but my connection to the written word. I am more of a writer in that moment because I am no longer anything else. No tech support, no thoughts about keeping my fingers on the home row. I am just a writer, and for that time, I reconnect with exactly who I want to be in that moment.

Maybe flash fiction isn't your thing. Maybe you are younger than me (like the majority of people in the USA), and you connect better through a keyboard. The point is, every now and then, distill your process and spend some time writing with the purest process you can get; free of distractions, obligations, or preconceived notions of what you want to write. Wash away everything else, and give yourself that bit of time to remind yourself what it feels like to just be a writer.

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