Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Guest Post by Derek Flynn: Poetry In Motion

Derek is stopping by today to talk about his writing process and to make me terribly jealous - read on to see why! Ellen

Virginia Woolf said that to write, one must have a room of one’s own (Granted, she was referring solely to women, but I like to think of it as a unisex quote). I have a room of my own, but I often find that, to write, I need to leave the room.

I don’t know how many other writers find this, but there’s something about movement that gets the creative juices flowing. When I’m out walking, I find that I start to write in my head in a stream of consciousness way. I carry an MP3 player with me which has a microphone and a record function (or if I don’t have that, I just use my phone). It’s a very different way of writing. There’s no editing involved as there might be when I’m sitting at my PC. In that situation, I might tend to stop and look back over what I’ve written. I can’t do that when I’m walking. There’s no way of looking back over what I’ve written. I have to keep moving forward. There’s also little time for pausing. If I stop for too long, I’ll forget where I was. So, there’s no time to go off goggling how accurate my description of 16th century headgear is (only to wind up, two hours later, looking at Lady Gaga in a Philip Tracy hat).

But I’m lucky. This is where I go to walk when I want to write:

It’s a long stretch of beach so when the tide is out, you can really get a stride going, and that’s when I find the words will start to flow. If the tide is in, I like to sit on the rocks and listen to the sound of the waves as I dictate. One particular day, I was so enthralled by the sights and the sounds that I sat there for about an hour. In the end, I texted my wife – half-jokingly – to tell her she needed to come down and physically remove me from the beach.

Now, of course, all of this is not without its disadvantages. The most obvious being – “Why is that man talking to himself?” Okay, I’m not actually talking to myself, I’m talking into an MP3 player, but to some people this amounts to the same thing. But, as I said, it’s a long stretch of beach and if you walk down far enough, you can usually get away from the madding crowd. It looks like this:

(In the wintertime, when it’s dull and grey and there’s a mist hanging over the water, it looks like some kind of alien landscape.)

Imagine sitting in this exact location, no one around but birds, waves and serenity. I’ve heard many writers talk about the myriad of different ways they come about their inspiration. For me, all I need is this lonely stretch of beach and the sound of the ocean.
And my MP3 player.

(Oh, and the title is slightly misleading because I don’t write poetry. But it was the only clever thing I could think of. Sue me.)

Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician. He has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Philosophy. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: and on Twitter, he can be found here:!/derekf03


  1. I wish I lived close to that beach!! I love the idea of walking and tape recording the story as I go along the way. But right now it is hot hot hot here and I go to the gym to work out. Soon the weather will cool off and I'll be able to use this method.

    Thanks for sharing your method and your pictures!

  2. I love coming up with ideas while I'm walking to and from the train, or to the shop. Music helps, a lot. My mind just starts creating images I can use.

  3. What a beautiful place to write. These days when I see people walking and talking to themselves, I always assume they're writers :)

  4. A long walk, or even a long drive with the car radio turned off works for me. Walking a borrowed dog can help. Often, though, I get the most detailed ideas when I'm trying to sleep.
    I'm not a big fan of the sound of my own voice, so I usually rely on a notebook to take down the idea. I'm less likely to disturb my wife's sleep that way, too.
    Thanks for sharing your process.

  5. Wow, Derek, no wonder your writing is so pure!I walk in the woods and words come to me unbidden (or so it seems) I don't write them down or record them instead I race to my laptop, close my eyes, and write what I see.


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