6 Comments

It Doesn’t Matter How You Write, Just That You Do.

from Flickr User Puuikibeach

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?

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6 comments on “It Doesn’t Matter How You Write, Just That You Do.

  1. I think it’s way interesting that you started this with a list of books about writing and that’s what I posted on my blog last night. :) The first part of Uncle Stevie’s book is biography, and I struggled to get through it, so you might just skip straight to the section on writing at the end. (Just a thought.)

    I love the Paris Review. Don’t wait for Twitter to send you there. :)

    Julia Cameron also suggests (nay, requires) writing in longhand (her Morning Pages). I know you already do and don’t need convincing, and I must say I wouldn’t have believed it until I tried it… but WOW. I worked through The Artist’s Way in a 13-week, facilitated class, committing to do Morning Pages for the duration of the class, and was astonished at what emerged.

    Good post!

    • Hey! I thought the same thing this morning when I read your post! There’s something to that kindred spirit thing, I think.

      Of course I am aware of The Paris Review, and don’t wait for twitter to send me there. It’s just cool when twitter does when I wouldn’t have made the time.

      Thanks for the tip on the SK book. Uncle Stevie, I love that.

  2. Depends on what I’m writing: fiction is always directly to the computer because I type faster than I write by hand, and my thoughts tend to just fly. If I try to write by hand, I’ll lose my train of thought. Poetry? Always, always long hand. I tend to savor each word before writing it down, even if it gets crossed out and replaced half a dozen times. 8-) Can I put a plug in for another great writing book? My Smoky’s Writer’s Workshop Combo Set is great for novice writers wishing to learn how to write a novel, and the second half of the book is great for any writer–366 writing prompts and exercises, one for every day of the year. End of blatant self promotion! 8-)

  3. April, I’m enjoying your blog! I just nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. Hope you’ll accept. See http://gerrygwilson.com/2012/05/11/the-writerly-life-is-blushing/. Enjoy!

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