Amelia Gray gave a reading at University of La Verne in 2013. She told our class that she wrote her collection AM/PM by writing one story each morning and night for two months. That she’d been dealing with heartbreak is captured in each of her character’s relationships, with each other and with themselves. The boy I was semi-seeing in the class used the Q&A section of the reading to hit on her. She signed my book saying that I asked “great Qs!” and I tweeted about it immediately and she liked my tweet and then I tweeted about that. I include all this because it was one of my first fan-girl interactions with an author, and I think it’s important to harness those moments. (I didn’t yet realize that the professor of this class would end up one of my all time favorite authors, personality-wise and fiction-wise. I didn’t know a lot of things yet.)
I’d read the collection once in high school. It was lent to me by my best friend that I was desperate to please and I loved it, sure, but the form was so new to me that I didn’t really know what to do with it. Reading it again in that 2013 fiction class burst forth something new in me. It was the accessible kind of fiction that I needed then because it was something I could actually see myself writing. I was also going through heartbreak at the time (read: I got dumped WHILE reading this and had to write a piece emulating it while trying to piece myself together) and was heartened by this beautiful beast Gray had made of her pain. In a way, it was like permission to remain in pieces and really dwell in the spaces between. My final project in the class was a 17 page “collection” that was absolutely dripping in cliché 20-year-old angst. It was terrible. Like, actually. But it was still the first fiction writing I’d ever felt proud of.
I find that there is something very bolstering about flash fiction. It comes together quickly and more organically and seems to require less manipulation on behalf of the writer. It’s also usually the only thing I write that ever feels finished. And despite the multitude of hours and agony a longer form story takes, it’s the flash fic that I’ve written in a whirlwind fever dream that is always better received. Last year, I sent my mentor half of a story that I had ached over all month and a short piece that I had more or less vomited onto the page and she told me that the short one was maybe one of the best pieces she’d seen from me so far.
I think this happens for a lot of reasons, but mostly I think it comes from how easy it is to be intentional when you sit down to write something so small and know exactly what you’re trying to say. At that point, the words tend to just come. Weird ones, usually, and more flowery language than I usually allow in a first draft. The specific word choice in flash is a little more important than in a longer piece because there’s less room for error, but it’s also a very freeing and experimental canvas. You can try things without worrying about how much time you’ll waste. There’s also something to be said for pumping out a draft of something in one sitting. I think all writers need that sometimes.
So, I’m gonna try a little something. I’m going to write a piece of flash/microfic/prose poem/whatever it feels like each day of April and see where that takes me. Maybe nowhere! But if even a handful of those flash pieces are useable, I will consider that time well spent.
I’ll be sharing some inspo for this on my bookstagram account @tabithatypes. Try it with me! If you think it would help you, feel free to play around with constraints of word counts or subject matter. There are no rules, here. Just show up and put some words on the page. They could end up your favorite flash piece or the start of something bigger! Or they can just be steps along the way to more productive writing habit. Be sure to use #flashfloodapril so we can all follow along.