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Thursday, October 20, 2011


Tools to Cook Up a Story

Think about something other than writing for a moment. (It's okay to take your mind away for just a minute...NaNoWriMo doesn't start for another week or so!)

Then think about what tools you use to do that "something."

Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, that's my something. I like to prepare fresh meals for my family every day. (Lately I have been trying to spend more time in the gym and less time in the kitchen...but, my luck my run out on that as the holidays near!)
Some of our shiny kitchen tools.

In my kitchen, thanks to a husband who knows how to cook, I have many cooking tools at my disposal. (see photo) Anyone for a mandoline? Or ramekins? These tools provide an entryway for me to prepare a range of foods: quick cold lunches to deluxe hot dinners, complex Asian meals to simple hamburgers.

I look around my kitchen and I know I can conquer just about any recipe thrown my way.

So, now, let's turn our focus back to writing. When I consider my writing, I often think of it as just my computer (and all that extends from it) and me. But in reality, my writing tools surround me wherever I am. I find comfort and support in them to continue my writing.

Here are my top five "tools"...again, not counting the computer and the Internet:
  1. A piece of paper and a pen. You never know when an idea will strike, so be prepared and carry something around to write on, should the muse visit. I have dozens of old notebooks that I will dip into to re-discover ideas and may work now (even if they didn't work then). I feel under dressed without a notebook and pen.
  2. Bookcases and the hundreds of writing books and magazines they contain. Most writers I know surround themselves with either great books to read or great books and magazines on writing. Many utilize both.
  3. Family and friends. Just like the greatest chefs collaborate with the cooks in their kitchen, many writers find the community of friends and family to be a great asset. Just last week, I was at a writers meeting and one writer was discussing a story that another writer helped her re-focus--what a great asset friends, family and other writers can be.
  4. A hot beverage. I'm a tea drinker and I can't remember the last time I sat down to write without having a cup nearby. (I used to insist on a particular cup, but that's another story.)
  5. Music and noise. While I'm an instrumental/wordless music fan when I write, I find myself mining the lyrics of songs (when I'm driving) and searching for a nugget of a story in the songwriters words. Noises that surround me sometimes become the entryway for a story.
Those are some of my writing "tools" that I rely on regularly to cook up my stories or articles. With them, no matter what I want to cook up and write, my tools help focus me and provide me the support I need to get things written...and on the page. Any recipe that is thrown at me, I find a way in using my tools.

What are your favorite tools? How do they help you?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina. She loves to blog, but these days seems to only find time for tweets--follow her at @Eliz_Humphrey.

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Anonymous Shelley Munro said...

I nodded my way through your list since those are all items that I consider necessary to a successful day of writing. One item that I would add is a good dictionary/thesaurus. I'm always referring to my dictionary.

1:14 AM  
Blogger Patricia Anne McGoldrick said...

Like the fundamentals of this list!
For me, I find that "going for a walk" in the neighbourhood works well.
Also, I am fortunate to have a deck overlooking a backyard of trees and birds and the odd 4-legged creature or two. The interactions of this natural environment have provided inspiration for a lot of poems & stories. It is one of my favourite writing spots--great for cloud-watching!

8:01 AM  
Blogger Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I loved your creative way of relating writing to cooking. Sometimes we forget that writing is, in many ways no different from other life activities. We just need to gather our tools and do it. Very nicely done.

11:32 AM  
Blogger BECKY said...

If I had such a list, it would be amazingly close to yours! Makes me feel as if I'm doing SOMETHING right! :)

9:09 PM  

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