The most in-the-act-of writing I know is Prompt Writing. You take a phrase, a photo, a random word, anything, and use it as a prompt. You set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, put pen to paper and write until the timer dings. You let the prompt literally prompt your writing but let the writing take over and take you wherever it wants to go. What comes out is sometimes dull, but more often surprising and vivid.
In Nancy Peacock's monthly workshop last Saturday, I was given two photos, one of an old farmstead with a house, a barn, another building or two, clothes on a line, and straight plowed furrows. The other photo was of bright and dainty china tea cups and saucers. The prompt was to synthesize the two. Here, unedited, is what I wrote:
Don't break that tea cup. My daddy brought it back from Charleston when he went once. And don't break that one. He got it when he went to Atlanta. Don't know why he thought a tea cup was the thing to bring me but that's he did.
All right now, you can help me wash them all up, but you got to be careful. I got, I don't know, how many. One or two get broke over time. I'm not one to put a pretty thing away and never use it. I use one to break eggs in when I separate them for a cake. See, you don't want to pour the whites out straight in the beating bowl because you might get a speck of yolk in and then you can't ever get them to beat up fluffy. So you crack the egg, pour the white in a cup and when you know there's no yolk in it, you pour it into the bowl. One at the time. I can't tell you how many a cake's been saved by my doing that. The yolks--they don't matter. Just dump them in the batter bowl any old way.
What else do I use a tea cup for? There's tea drinking, ha ha. And this one with the pink inside--it's my sugar measuring cup. This one with the green and yellow sprigs--it's how I measure butter. This one, the red rimmed one, I mix up salt and pepper all together so when I reach for a pinch of one, I get both. Saves me all kinds of time. So you best be careful how you wash 'em. Turn 'em up on a tea towel by the sink to dry. Mother Naure's the best dish dryer. She never cracks or chips anything.
My daddy, he worked hard, he could plow the straightest furrow you ever saw and he put up the posts for the clothes line I'm still using. But even so, he had a little wanderlust in him and if he could find a reason to be gone a few days, he'd take it. Charleston, Atlanta, Richmond, even Miami Beach. Most anywhere the railroad went. Mama fussed. She didn't like it when he was gone but he always come home. He always brought her a length of fabric and a silver teaspoon. Me, he brought me a tea cup. He had an eye for something pretty. You can see that. He liked to stand on the proch when the sun was just down behind the trees and say, "Sister, aint' this a pretty place? I keep looking but I can't find nothing prettier." Oh I remember it so good, how he'd say that.
Lord, what did I do? Careless. I get thinking and recalling and I get careless. No, honey, don't worry. Get the broom and the dustpast. At least it wasn't one of the real useful ones. No crying over spilt milk. You know what I do with the broken ones? Toss 'em down the old privy.