What I found most inspiring from Shelley’s interview of Robin Queen was Robin’s discussion of her writing process. Robin made very clear that, for her, the most important barrier to get past is actually putting words on the page. That’s not to say she has no other prerequisites for writing. She mentioned that she does need to be–physically–in a certain place, i.e., not her office on campus, and that she prefers there be no sound, i.e., no pets around. However, the most crucial ritual for Robin is putting words to screen, even if the product, in its current state, is as she says “word salad.”
As a young, unpublished, relatively inexperienced writer, the above statement is very inspiring, especially coming from a writer who is both experienced and published. Coming into this talk, I expected to hear a lot of technical jargon about the writing process. I expected to hear about a thorough checklist for approaching any important writing. Instead, the advice that’s been instilled with me from Robin’s talk is simplistic and very human, but nonetheless, crucial: when writing, one needs to find flow. In other words, one needs to cut off from all distractions and simply let his or her thoughts pour out onto the page in a messy, beautiful quagmire.
I find it very discouraging when I stare at a blank screen trying to craft the perfect opening sentence and I just can’t find it; I keep typing then erasing single words at a time in hopes of finding the perfect syntax and diction on my first draft. What ends up happening is that I spend an hour working on one perfect sentence and, of course, I’m exhausted by that point. I don’t want to write anymore, but all I have is one line to show for my suffering. This leads to frustration and, eventually, I give up. In that same hour I spent toiling with a single sentence, I could have spilled out a few full pages of (albeit, rough) text, which I could later edit into something clear and meaningful. This latter, “word salad”/flow, drafting technique is really the only way an author could write an entire novel, but I think it is also important for writing shorter pieces (as I am akin to).
Robin mentioned an app she uses called “Write or Die.” This program uses negative reinforcement (in the form of an awful sound or by erasing what you’ve already written) to ensure that you keep writing–or at least don’t stop writing for more than 20 seconds. Though her mention of this app was quite anecdotal, I actually went right home and looked up the program before I forgot its name. Now, I have yet to try it out, but I am confident, the next time I’m approaching a new, lengthy writing endeavor, this app will do me some good.
The next time I write, I will search for flow and await the wonderful word salad it creates because, ultimately, this is the only way to flesh out who I really am and what I deeply feel.