Over the next six weeks, I have to read three books about writing, the writing life, etc.
One of the books I have to read is a book I’ve probably read three or four times now. I always assign chapters from it it in writing workshops. It’s Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I learned about it in one of my first creative writing courses in college. It was an assigned text. Thanks, Jennifer Holley.
The other two are On Writing by Stephen King (about which I’ll admit to having doubts, though have heard excellent things from a variety of circles), and Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande, which was published in 1934 originally.
Brande’s book is refreshing so far (I’ve read the first two chapters) in that she does not believe that writing is a parcel of genius and good fortune, and that people can learn how to be writers with strict diets of discipline and practice. I appreciate that. And I agree.
And Twitter, which is the only social media that makes me smarter (thanks, everybody I follow), linked me to an interview with Toni Morrison in Paris Review by Elissa Schappell who is a literary author/powerhouse whose energy and commitment to the genre I admire greatly. Toni Morrison writes longhand with pencil on yellow legal pads to get a first draft. Then she types it all into the computer. Oh my.
Goldberg suggests writing with a pen that flows and in a cheap notebook, so you don’t limit your thinking with concern for the limited quantitiy of gilded pages in a fancy journal.
If I had all the money and time in the world, I would write exclusively in these, with the naked binding, so they lay flat and the soft, lined paper invites my sprawling thoughts. I’ve traditionally written with one of like three superfine Pilot products. But a British friend recently introduced me to this guy, who I’ll be ordering in bulk next month or so, because it’s sooo good.
But in practical land, I write with whatever’s nearby. I’ve filled more of these than I care to admit, unlined, in all manner of pen, marker, pencil, crayon, whatever. I like the variety of textures, the differences between the way it feels sliding across the page, the smudgability of the toothy paper. And the size, the 6″ x 9″ is essential for portability.
When I was a kid and through high school probably, I wrote in those composition notebooks. I remember they could be bought for 25¢ certain times of the year, and sometimes in three-packs with (true to the awesomeness of the 80s and early 90s) neon covers. My favorite was and is neon purple.
I also loved it when we could take home those yellow lined institutional pads at the end of the school year. That paper was toothy and felt great under a pencil. Late in grade school, they got green and started making them out of this shiny recycled paper that squeaked when you wrote on it with a pencil, really made for a pen. That pissed me off.
I do more of my writing than I should at the keyboard these days. It’s so efficient. I’m a fast typist.
But all this to say that each of us writers have our own pecularities about our preferred methods and materials.
And it doesn’t matter what yours are, just as long as you’re doing it. Writing. Whatever will inspire you to do the time is what you should use. Once you’ve got the discipline, then you can change it up. Or not. Whatever works for you.
So writerly peeps, what’s your way? Which is your favorite pen? Favorite notebook?