A Minority Approach to Writing, by E. Victoria Flynn

Note from Lisa: I am thrilled today to share a guest post by fellow Wisconsin author E. Victoria Flynn. Read more about her in the bio, below, and be sure to connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

A Minority Approach to Writing

by E. Victoria Flynn

Natalie Goldberg insists, “Keep the hand moving.” It’s her ultimate writing rule. Write nonsense, write color, write what is right in front of you, but don’t stop; don’t let the critic in.

This is the part I’m good at, typing alone at the dining room table with kids trampling above my head. It sounds like they’re moving furniture some days, what with the wooden train rattling across the floor. My lap top is open, my hands tap out fragments on their own. I type fastest staring at trees.

The beginning of the session takes place inside an old file titled, “NaNo Notes,”started in November of 2010. There are a lot of words in here, but very few of them transfer to anything sustainable. It is simply the texture of hands moving.

It seems nonsensical, writing anything to get to something, but my work often starts with a question,  What am I going to write? How am I going to say this? Who is this character? And ends with the golden ticket.

Think of “The Minority Report.”

There you see a scene, a mess of action and confusion. Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) sifts and sorts images. Stops. Pulls an image to the side. More images. Stop. Rewind. Hone in. Image match. Suspect decoded.

I feel like our brains work a lot like this. We’re a mess of detail and sense. We’re walking experience and emotion. The secret to writing, to harnessing our creativity, lies in moving the nonsense out of the way and nabbing the focus.

Meditation works for some.

I have to empty the gutters.

At some point between madcap clicks, a phrase comes down and sticks. It’s the line other lines follow, the adventuresome sentinel calling out the troops.

With that line, I start again—hand moving, clickity-clack. This time the focus is clear and I’m able to talk through the premise of the story, the character, the blog post, on the page.

Depending on the seriousness of the matter, or the length of the piece I’m working on, I may write the entire thing in this draft file before transferring it to its own page. Whenever I decide to cut and paste, there is no empty white space staring me down because there’s already a hook to keep me anchored.

Certainly, this method isn’t for everyone, but I dare you to give it a run. Lose yourself in everything you’re thinking, then choose a line that sings, and run again.

Now tell me, how does that feel?

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E. Victoria Flynn is a mother writer, NPR addict, coffee glutton, contributing author to The Dead Shoe Society.

10 thoughts on “A Minority Approach to Writing, by E. Victoria Flynn

  1. Thank you for hosting me today, Lisa. I’m so glad to find a home here. Lately I’ve been keeping in mind another wise phrase from Natalie Goldberg, “Make positive effort for the good.” It gets my hand moving when I worry the well has run dry. Good writing to you!

  2. I really, really need to try this, Victoria. I’m frugal to the extreme when I write, as if I’m actually wasting paper and ink if every word isn’t golden. Thank you for the prompt to loosen up.

  3. Well, this post is timely! I’m working on a new short story today, wondering where the heck I think it can go. Stop wondering and start typing, I suppose….

    PS. I love reading about your process!

    • Thanks, Christi. I remember you and I were talking about the “chaff” a while back. Well, here’s where it comes from. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where this takes you.

  4. I like to take photographs and share them on a photo-blog. Between taking picture and writing, I find that the writing part is the hardest. Sounds like this can help making the writing easier for me. Thank you Victoria and Lisa for sharing.

  5. I find I use the process again and again…like slipping in the side door. I’m so glad to find someone else who writes entire drafts this way and then cuts and pastes. Thank you for sharing and prodding me just when needed.

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