Methods and Materials

Every writer has a favorite method of composing. Some sit in front of a computer screen. Others can only write with pen and paper. I even know a few who still use the good old electric typewriter now and then. Whatever method you choose, realize that how you write creates a mental framework for what you write. If you’re feeling stuck, you might try a new method and see what happens.

I know that when I’m first dreaming up a story or a scene, a blank word processing page paralyzes me, I become overwhelmed by the utter emptiness before me. Lined paper isn’t much better, since it calls forth memories of reaction essays and works cited pages from middle and elementary school.

I do my best dreaming in a big, unlined spiral bound book. It has a print of Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night, which inspires me when the words on the page start to look like individual daubs of paint that don’t make any clear picture. I’m not picky about my pens, though my favorite is a heavy Levenger ballpoint with my name engraved in it. I got it as a Christmas gift.

The unlined pages of my notebook allow me to write or sketch or just scribble as the mood takes me. Sometimes I draw maps to  keep the geography straight, or just create lists of character traits or ‘things in her pocket’ or other such details.

Eventually, I have dreamed enough, and it’s time to move to the lined notebook or computer to start the dirty work of actually writing the story.

I haven’t always worked with this method and these materials. It took a lot of trial and error for me to learn what worked with my writing, my mind and my moods. Because this is creative work, I have no idea if the method that works today will work tomorrow. I can only write while the writing’s good, and hope it’s still good when I read it over the next day.

And so, dear reader, I’d like to know about your methods and materials. If you have a minute, post a comment. Then, sit down, shut up and write something.


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