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Monday, August 10, 2009


Surrounded by paper...and computer keyboards

We've all been there, looking for the magic bullet of writing. Even though I've studied writing and been a reader my entire life, I think: If only I write with this pen on that notebook, I'll have a best-selling novel. My desk overflows with the fun notebooks I've picked up, in my quest for the "right" one that will inspire me to tell a story. I purchase pens that I've seen other writers use. Perhaps I've been using the wrong tools, I tell myself.
I'm fascinated with how some of writers still take pen to paper, writing longhand until their thousand-page manuscript is finished. One successful novelist told me that he wrote while feeding his infant, legal pad and pen propped between baby and bottle. With three kids, I've never quite managed that, but I have dabbled. One writer told me of his use of index cards. Shortly thereafter, I am clearing out the office supply store of its stock of legal pads and index cards. Sketches and words flow over the notepads and stray pieces of paper. But the stories remain on the pages and my computer screen remains blank because, I think, the novelists haven't worked that way. They have sold his books while I have not.
Finally, it dawns on me that instead of basing my end result on what anyone else does, I need to embrace that the notepads and scraps of paper are a part of my process. I collect the notes I've made on one project or another and create a notebook for each novel idea. When the pieces of paper overwhelm or take over my desk, I then turn to my trusty keyboard. But before I get to that point, I doodle, sketch or write plot overviews in a funky notebook picked up in a SoHo paper shop are part of my craft.
The paper and notebooks I choose become a part of my storytelling process. The story of a small boy won't appear in my flowery notebook, which, instead contains the story skeleton about romance, love and longing. But neither of them seems to come alive with just a cursor blinking at me. They need the love and support of my taking the time to play in the beginning and embrace the organic nature of a story--including the notebook as a vehicle.
Now, as a separate issue, I need to work on that success thing, which won't take the pens or notebooks of anyone else. Just me.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, where she contemplates finding creativity in everyday places She is getting ready to dive into another fun fiction project, notebook in hand.

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Blogger Analisa said...

Ahh the utensils of writing. I do sometimes go the longhand version. I used it to write my character outlines. I was already 100 pages into my book,but need to ground the facts of their lives and wanted to have it someplace where i didn't have to turn on the computer. Most of the time I thought will come, as I step out the shower or on the bus and I need that little notebook to jot it down. Most comes out as my fingers run across the keys where they don't have to think just do.

9:16 AM  
Blogger nlindabrit said...

I love new notebooks, stationery, pens etc but the simple truth is, I am hopeless at writing longhand and fare better with my computer where my frequent editing is so much easier to achieve.

4:36 AM  

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