Or maybe just “really wants”. Do you have to listen to a certain style of music when writing a certain genre? Do you need a cup of coffee handy at all times?
When I was younger, I had to have black ink pens and college rule notebook paper kept in a three-ring binder. I still prefer writing that way, but if a writing opportunity arises, and I’ve forgotten my binder, I’ll write on anything.
A post on Damyanti Biswas’s site reminded me of this one I wrote a few years ago on handwriting. After two years of regularly blogging and meeting other writing deadlines, I still have to write almost all my first drafts by hand. With a pen. On paper. In cursive.
I’m still not sure why I hand write first drafts. I’ve tried to type straight out of my imagination, but unless it’s for something very short, like Monday Sparks, I feel stifled. The words come so painfully that I race back to paper. That blank screen is intimidating. It seems to demand that you fill it up NOW or go away.
Pen and paper seem more inviting, more personal. Maybe it’s because that’s how I started writing fiction, using any scrap of paper I could find in my books at school to while away boring classes. Paper also lets me see my progress more easily than a computer. If I only come up with one sentence after an hour, I may have five sheets of rejected ideas, revealing how I spent my time. I can go back and try to salvage some of those ideas if I want to. All those filled sheets are very reassuring to me. And seeing my writing in my own hand makes it truly mine.
Even with a major edit, I like to run off a story, sit down with a pen, and tackle it like a painting, crossing out, writing in, highlighting. Then I go back to the computer.
If your inspiration dries up, I recommend going old school and writing with a pen. Perhaps the fresh medium will bring fresh ideas. K.M Weiland has a post listing other benefits of writing longhand.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Even in this digital age, when writers can access the world from their couch, we still experience a lot of the problems and pleasures that writers did in the past . Whenever I get down about the pursuit of publishing, I turn to P.G. Wodehouse’s semi-autobiographical book, Over Seventy. It’s semi-autobiographical because Mr, Wodehouse was a humor writer and wasn’t about to let the truth interfere with a good story. From what I’ve learned about him, the basic facts in this book are true — where he went to school, how he got his first job writing, and so on. But the details may be highly fictionalized, such as the reason he was fired from a job in a bank.
Mr. Wodehouse was born in 1882, and his only ambition was to be a writer. So when he began to make a living as a writer in 1900, he did what writers do now. He tried to establish a platform. It wasn’t called that back then, but that’s what his efforts amounted to. He got a job writing articles in a newspaper while trying to sell short stories to pulp magazines. He added to this by writing occasionally for a humor column at the newspaper. Then he was selling humorous stories to well-known magazines. After he moved to New York City around 1909, he became a dramatic critic for Vanity Fair and wrote plays and lyrics for songs in musical comedies.
After all these years of work, he finally sold his first novel, in serialized form, to Saturday Evening Post. The Post was a huge step up because it was a “slick” magazine as opposed to a pulp one. I assume the word means it had shiny pages. Slick magazines were also more prestigious and paid better. When he died in 1975, he had published over ninety books and was working on a manuscript in his hospital bed.
Over Seventy has a lot of funny digressions, running from butlers to manners and the state of American TV in the 1950’s. But I especially like the chapter “My Methods, Such as They Are.” I am fascinated by an artistic person’s creative process, regardless of the art. Mr. Wodehouse wrote that the amount of work he got done in a day hung on “whether or not I put my feet up on” his desk. If he did, then he drifted off into the past. If he didn’t, he settled down to work.
Mr. Wodehouse was definitely a plotter. He always worked from a detailed scenario. This makes sense because his madcap plots were so complicated that I can see how he would have to work it all out before he started on the first draft. I love his quote about characters.
“Some writers will tell you that they just sit down and take pen in hand and let their characters carry on as they see fit. Not for me any procedure like that. I wouldn’t trust my characters an inch. If I sat back and let them take charge, heaven knows what the result would be.”
What stories have you read about writers or any artist and his or her creative process?
Inspiration for writing can hit at anytime, come from any source. Jen Turano mentioned in her interview that a goat solved a plot problem. While I was watching an old Disney movie with my kids, a portrait of a woman caught my imagination. That portrait has inspired a villain. What weird inspiration have you used in your writing?