At the time I’m writing this — which is not the same time I’ll be typing it out or posting it — I’m that cliche, a writer in a coffeeshop. There’s others here doing the same thing, I think, but they’re all on laptops. I’m using something a bit more retro. Pen. Paper.
It’s not that I don’t sometimes write on the computer. But the keyboard’s for quick-flowing writing, writing that’s fast and furious because I know what I’m doing at the moment. Pen on paper makes me slow down, forces me to consider things like sentence structure, allows me to look at the words and how they’re put together. Later I’ll transcribe what I’ve written, and the process of typing it in acts as a preliminary editing pass.
I write in large sketch pads, because I like the space to draw arrows and circles and make marginal notes. I used to write in Moleskin notebooks, but nowadays they just don’t seem large enough for novel-sized thinking. I save them for lecture notes, or lists, or personal journaling.
I always have liked writing with cheap fountain pens, but they’re harder to find than they used to be, and I have a bad habit of losing more expensive ones. So it’s ball-point today, which moves reasonably quickly, but lacks a fountain pen’s rapid grace.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s a prelude to passing along the best writing advice I ever got. Are you ready? You might want to write this down if you’re still figuring out your own process.
It’s this: what other writers do doesn’t matter. Syne Mitchell told my CW class: “Figure out what works for you. And do it. Lots.” And I’m repeating it because that is seriously good advice. You don’t need to write two thousand words a day like Stephen King. You don’t have to write in silence, or with only classical musical playing, or while sticking your head in a Victrola after downing a bottle of cheap red wine. What you need to do is experiment and find what gets you writing, and keeps you writing. If someone tells you, “X is the only way to write,” kick them in the figurative nuts and go elsewhere.