Write On Right Now!: Paper habits- Writing Prompts & Exercises to Get You Writing Now!

Write On Right Now!

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write. And that would be me. I've moved my journal about my writing life over to LiveJournal http://susanwrites.livejournal.com This blog will be filled with writing prompts and exercises so we can all write on right now! Please feel free to share your favorites.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paper habits

All my fiction and poetry starts with a pen and a piece of paper. All of it. I can't compose first draft fiction on the computer. After I have something to play with, something to type into the computer, then I can sometimes compose on it. But in the beginning it is just me, one of my favorite pens (cheap, medium point black ink) and usually a green steno pad. There is something about writing by hand that helps me bring fiction to life. As I listen to the character's voice in my head, my hand guides the pen across the page.

Non-fiction is something different. I don't know how to start non-fiction by hand. It is always composed on the computer from start to finish.

I'm not sure how these habits developed. Perhaps because I have written fiction and poetry the longest it is habit developed from childhood,a time that predates computers. Back then I used college ruled spiral notebooks, the 8-1/2 x 11 size, for anything. Now I'm picky about my notebooks, wanting them to be simple and the sort of thing that you wouldn't expect to write anything important in. I buy pretty ones with hard covers that stay blank because I'm afraid I have to write only pretty words to match the cover. I want a notebook that offers no pressure. I can put enough of that on myself without any help. Most of the time that means a steno pad but a few years ago I found the best notebook, so good that I still think about taking it down to the copy shop that made it and asking them to make me 100 more just like it. It was thin, maybe 40 pages at the most, a bit smaller than 5x7, spiral bound and soft cover. It was a throw-away sort of thing that the copying place made for advertising. It was perfect. It felt just right. I wrote a lot of poems for my last book in it and started a new book in the last few pages. There are a few blanks spots left in the center and I'm tempted to go back and write there but I know I'll get frustrated when I run out of room. I wish I knew what it was about it that seemed to bring the words out in me.

On my honeymoon I took, of course, a notebook with me "just in case" inspiration struck. It was the wrong tablet from the beginning because it was a fat steno pad, about 3 times as thick as the ones I usually used. I left it on the floor in the backseat of our rental car as we toodled around Hawaii. I had written a bit, a few pages. when a bottle of water spilled and soaked the bottom part of the pad. The top pages, the ones I had written on were fine. Actually all of the pad was fine once it dried but it didn't dry flat and the pages had that wavy, weird feel to them that paper does once it has been wet and then dried out. For reasons I don't understand I cried buckets over that stupid tablet that I knew I wouldn't use because the paper felt funny. It was my poor new husband's first introduction to the many adventures of living with a writer.

At work, in meetings, I find that the agenda pages are great for brainstorming my WIP. At my desk it is Post-it notes. In the car, when I forget a notebook,it might be the back of an envelope, napkins, and even once (to my husband's horror) the palm of my hand because I was afraid I would forget a great title. Every Friday night I have to dump out my bag that I carry back and forth to work and dig out all the scraps of paper that have words on them, then go find a notebook to put them in.

For years I thought I was doing "it" all wrong. "It" meaning writing. I was sure that a real writer was wonderfully organized, always wrote in a beautiful leather bound notebook or at the computer, and never had to worry about losing a gem of a phrase because they couldn't find the scrap of paper they wrote it on. But now I finally get it. I understand that this is all part of my personal process, the way that I gather words and ideas, play with them, compost them, and eventually, turn them into stories.

And I understand there is no right or wrong way to be a writer. There is only writing and not writing.

Write on, right now.


At Thursday, May 12, 2005, Blogger iTripped said...

Unlike you, I prefer to begin something on a computer. The disposable nature of the words on screen appeals to the editor inside me. (I swear, the backspace key is going to be the first one to wear out on my laptop.)

Having said that, I can also appreciate the utility of having a pen and notepad on the night stand, or in the car.

At Friday, May 13, 2005, Blogger Nelson said...

I'm with you on the pen and paper route except for rhyme for some strange reason.

At Friday, May 13, 2005, Blogger Susan Taylor Brown said...

I have friends who write with a towel over their computer screen just so they don't see the words and wake up their editor.

It's funny, isn't it, the different processes that appeal to different writers? I can't imagine writing an email exchange with pen and paper but when I do editor interviews via email, I send the thank you notes via paper and stamps.

I am a hazard with a pen and paper in the car when I am driving. I always end up hitting the horn and ticking off the car in front of me.

Maybe a need a license plate that says "lunatic writer" on board?

Write on, right now.


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