Why Aren’t You Writing IV: Finding the Right Tools

Last time I talked about making the writing process fun.  This time let’s talk about the tools of the trade, and what to do if you have a hard time finding the right tool to get your words down.

If no access to writing materials is your problem, as always, be creative (because you’re a creative person, right?!), and as always, don’t be afraid to do most of your composition in your head. Although it’s great to have the latest and greatest in computers and software, that’s in no way necessary to produce a solid first draft.  A notepad and a pack of pens from the dollar store is all you need to get started.  As a funny (well, it’s funny now) example, one fine day in late October 2012 I had great plans to complete a number of job applications and also (because I always tell myself I’m going to do a lot more than I can or should) work on an academic article.  Then Superstorm Sandy knocked out all the power for miles in all directions.  Since I couldn’t use my computer, I spent the next few days huddled under a blanket, writing the first chapter for The Breathing Sea, the second installment in The Zemnian Series, by hand.  If I hadn’t had my computing abilities taken away from me, I might never have gotten started on it.

Similarly, I wrote the first few chapters of The Dreaming Land, the last installment in the series, on an iPad I got so that I could limp by while my computer was in the shop having its motherboard and hard drive replaced (hmmm.  Backing up your work should probably be a post topic).  If I had had access to a fully functioning computer, I might never have written either of those books.  Taking away my computer forced me out of my usual set of activities and caused me to cast around for other things to do.  It also made me realize that what I really wanted and needed to be doing was writing.

There’s also the fact that many people find writing by hand to be the best way to invoke the muse and invite inspiration to come visit them.  Many writers do their outlining and/or first draft by hand, so if you do have a computer but you’re not actually doing any writing on it, try writing on a notepad or, if that’s too intimidating, little scraps of paper.  The right way to write is the one that produces text.  You will need access to a computer at some point in order to create your publishable manuscript, but it’s not necessary for getting started.  If you need to, write by hand and then type up your writing later (a great way to edit, by the way).  If you don’t have and can’t get a computer, you may be able to get access to one via your school or public library.  Even prisons (at least in America) often have computer labs that the inmates can use.  So even under very difficult circumstances it is quite possible to produce at least a first draft, and often even an edited, publishable manuscript.  And if you’re free, healthy, and have a certain amount of leisure time and easy access to a computer, don’t let your luck and luxury get in your way.  Writing requires a drive, hunger, focus, and discipline that too much good fortune and free time can blunt into nothing.  If you’re a middle-class Westerner, your task may be to re-find that drive that less fortunate people already have built into their lives.

That’s all for this week, folks!  Next week we’ll talk about writing while dealing with illness or other physical impairments.

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