Eric Scot Tryon is a writer from Northern California. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Willow Springs, Monkeybicycle, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, trampset, Berkeley Fiction Review, Fictive Dream, Wisconsin Review, and many others. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. You can find more information at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.
What’s the best bit of craft advice you’ve been given?
“Butt in chair.” I feel sometimes we do and talk about all the things around writing (starting a blog, checking out new lit mags, connecting on Twitter, re-organizing our desktop folders, researching material for a new story, etc.), and while all those things are important, there is still no replacement for getting your butt in a chair and writing. So it’s the mantra that I remind myself the most. There are just too many distractions these days, so I’m constantly reminding myself to simplify it, to just get my butt in a chair and do nothing but write.
Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
Besides “butt in chair?” Because that would be #1. But #2 would be to not be results oriented. Don’t worry about how many words you wrote and don’t worry about submitting or trying to get published, and certainly don’t worry about what other writers are doing. Read a lot and write a lot, and you’ll find your voice. And I think finding your true voice is something we don’t talk about or emphasize enough.
Do you write from experience? From familial memory? From daydreams or fantasies?
Most of my stories start with a tiny seed of something I see or hear or read or feel. It could be a photo online, an overheard line of a stranger’s conversation, the way two people look at each other in line at the grocery story. But there’s something in these seeds that sparks an emotion or image in me and then I let it percolate and build and develop. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down at the computer and thought — okay, let’s come up with a story idea. The ideas always come when I’m not looking for them, when I’m not doing anything writerly. That reminds me of another bit of advice for new writers: always be observing, be eavesdropping, be stealing the tiny details of the world around you.
If you have a regular writing practice, what do you do to protect your writing time?
I believe a regular writing practice is hugely important. If we only wrote when we “found” time, no one would every write anything. We have to “make” time. To that end, for several years now, I have a dedicated Friday night write. Barring the occasional real-life obligation, I write every single Friday night from maybe 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. The biggest thing that makes that work is the unending support of my wife and daughter. They are behind me and my writing time 100%, and I cannot stress enough that that is everything.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I seek inspiration in reading, in movies, music, visual art, etc. Any time someone can create something that didn’t exist before and it can move me to laughter or tears or make me think or see or feel in a way that I never have before . . . damn, that’s inspiring. And to expand that idea further, I’m inspired by seeing people who are super passionate about whatever they’re into, whether it be cooking or music or sports, it can be anything really, but I love seeing someone throw themselves fully into something they love.
How do you honor silence, blank space, or simplicity in your writing?
Wow, that’s such a great question. And so many ways it can interpreted. I’m a huge believer in the idea that the simplest way to say something is usually the best. And for me this happens in the editing process. I love to cut! In the first draft I try not to edit myself at all, I just get the story down. But then in revision, I love to say — okay, what if I had to tell this same story in half the words. I don’t get technical about the word count, but I get in that mind frame. When you cut, you’re not only streamlining and tightening the language, but you’re creating tension. Readers might not know it, but they want to do some of the work. Oftentimes, what you leave or take out of a story is just as powerful as what you put in. It’s a delicate balance, a back-and-forth dance in the editing process that I thrive off of.
Picture this: you’ve just finished a long writing session and are between the world of the page and the reality around you. What’s one action you take to root yourself back in your non-writer identity? Maybe it’s making a cup of coffee or tea, perhaps it’s a walk with a loved one or pet, or even some time reading another writer’s work.
This is a great question because they really are two different worlds. And when I’m fully immersed in one, it’s amazing, I’m all in. But it’s hard to get out. And when I try to exist in both at the same time, I end up writing really bad stuff (and I’m probably not a very present husband and father). But to the question, one thing I do that undoubtedly helps me get out of my writerly head is watch awful reality TV with my daughter. No shame. Just binge The Bachelor with my daughter and we’ll be laughing and gasping and cringing for hours. And it helps me remember not to take myself too seriously.
What are you currently reading? Books, magazines, the back of the cereal box, CVS receipts . . . it all counts!
I’m always making my way though by TBR list, but instead of listing where I currently am there, I’d rather spotlight some of the amazing online lit mags that I read on a weekly basis. Aside from Longleaf, of course, there is so much incredible work being published at places like SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Fractured Lit, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Cheap Pop, Milk Candy Review, Split Lip, trampset, Ghost Parachute, Maudlin House, Okay Donkey, Cease Cows, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, etc., and for every lit mag I mentioned, there are probably 2–3 I didn’t mention but are just as good.
Any good news you’d like us to include with this interview? This is the space to let us know where else our readers can connect with you and celebrate/support your creative work.
I do have work coming out in the near future from The Los Angeles Review, Pithead Chapel, The San Franciscan, and an anthology called Parenting Stories Gone Speculative. All that kind of fun stuff can be found on my site www.ericscottryon.com. I am also the founding editor of the flash fiction lit mag Flash Frog (www.flash-frog.com), and I’m blown away by the quality of work being sent in, so I’d love for people to check out what’s going on there.