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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Parenting Conversations (and more) as Nonlinear Fiction

I have written a few pieces now on nonlinear writing. And after a great meeting yesterday at Creative York, I came up with one more analogy.

Before I reveal that, I want to say that I write about nonlinear writing because most people hear the word “linear” assume something like “linear equations.” This causes some people to revert to feelings of abject horror from algebra class, and the bad feeling -- the feeling that ears must be covered by hands and feet must run for safety as fast as possible -- ensues.

I often feel awkward talking to people whose background is visual artistry because drawing, creating, and visual arts are not things I feel I do well. I don’t feel I can draw a reasonable stick figure with a stencil. I can produce something that I like and ruin it with one ill-timed swipe of a marker. I don’t have the control over my mouse required for advanced computer graphic art -- or beginner art beyond basic Paint or copy and paste functions, if I’m being totally forthcoming. And I generally am (totally forthcoming, full of TMI, and/or honest to a fault).  

I’m trying to remind myself that other people feel as inadequate about their ability to string sentences together as I am about creating an image. And yet we Facebook, email, text, and talk. And I try to put that in context with people when and where I interview.

Most people who talk -- see what I did there? -- are great storytellers. And there’s a very small baby-step between storytelling and writing. And I hope I did a good job conveying all that yesterday.

I think I did, because as I explained the community building games of Flash Fiction After Dark and the Four Favorites Game, the education director I met with got an even bigger smile on her face. “I could do that,” she said. “That could make me think positively of myself as a writer. And I’m not one.” (I’m paraphrasing, as I did not tape-record the session, but I think I’ve captured her feeling and intent.)

Here's another look at one sample of the FFAD game:

Anyway, I’m getting off track -- something that often happens to nonlinear writers and thinkers. I explained nonlinear writing as the kind that happens when you write what you are most passionate about, like a fight scene, and then write about what happens after the fight or what builds up to the fight.

And that got me to thinking that a lot of bloggers write in nonlinear fashion. Something about the day’s events or the topic du jour produces a stronger feeling, emotion, or reaction than other events of the day. Sometimes it’s a holiday -- like Columbus Day becoming Indigenous Peoples Day -- which unless people talk about it, will go ignored by most people. A federal and no-school holiday. Woo hoo! Unless no school means no free lunch or being home alone because parents have to work. But there I go getting off track again. How very nonlinear of me.

Perhaps the best description I have of nonlinear fiction is when a person’s kid comes home and responds to the question “how was school?” with “OK” or "Fine" OR “Nothing” OR a barrage of hard to follow commentary. Most parents try to suss out the important parts of the day -- and anything they need to be worrying about -- in patterns of nonlinear genius. The children usually fail to appreciate the Herculean efforts of those parents.

And when parents write about any of those experiences, it is typically in nonlinear fashion.
And we read it. We *get* it. And it's awesome.

Phyl Campbell is Author, Mother, Dreamer. She writes and conducts workshops on a variety of topics: Education, Women/Feminism/Equality, Book Reviews, and Writing. Her books are available on AmazonIf you'd like to see her speak at an upcoming function, contact her via her website or Facebook page.