great source of writing time for me -- an imposed finite bubble of singularity where the options for distraction are so limited that it's freeing. On liftoff, along with the funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, I also have a lightness, a sense of freedom from all the clutter of life on the ground. My mind is stripped bare and I'm left to focus on my very immediate environs. I try my best to utilize this space.
On this flight I was going through back issues of Poetry. In the October 2018 issue, the editors included a section titled "The View From Here" which is an occasional addition where people from different fields comment on their experience of poetry. While there were two fantastic essays from teens about how poetry has impacted them (do yourself a favor and read "Teenagers Are Not Exempt from Poetry" and "Smells like Teen Poetry" when you get a chance), Greg Pak's "Thanks, Poetry!" rang true to certain aspects I've been chewing on as they relate to flash fiction recently.
Enter my primary thesis of this month's post, dear readers: for me, the similarities between flash fiction and poetry are so intertwined that their creative processes are the same. Greg makes the point for me in a more coherent manner. Here, look:
- Just writing. Greg writes, "One of the hardest things for many writers and would-be writers is simply beginning the physical act of writing. But when I was a kid, poetry gave me permission to start writing instinctively, with almost nothing in my head. The stakes were low -- how much trouble could I get myself into in a single page of writing?"
- Love of language. "Poetry gave me permission to put words together in any way that felt true and sounded right -- or even just sounded interesting." Greg writes comics and says "Comics letterers play with type and punctuation and sizes and fonts, separating dialogue into balloons and captions, spacing them across the page in specific ways to create specific rhythms and emotions in a reader's mind and heart. If that's not poetry, I don't know what is."
- Concision. Greg mentions the old cliche: a good poem doesn't waste a single word. He casts reflection on the dubiousness of the word "waste" and I tend to agree. "Still, writing poetry as a teenager challenged me to explore a single idea in a concentrated way, building each element of the work toward a final effect."
- Heart. " . . . I learned that poetry was a safe place to express all of those confusing, painful, earnest emotions."
I am slowly working toward the idea of starting a novel, but it's going to take quite a while and I have a ton to learn and practice in the meantime. When gearing up for a big project, I'm reminded of the saying: "How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time." (I used this mantra to help me study for the national veterinary board exam.) If a novel is the elephant, let me cut my teeth on a few mice first.