[Editorial] Whatever Keeps You Writing

I learnt a lesson in writing today. I learnt that many of us need certain tools to inspire our craft, certain ways of doing things, that we fall back to everytime we need to really write.

Yesterday I happened to catch a writing friend’s facebook post. Many of you will know her, and the fact that she’s just moved house this month, and as a municipal liason for NaNoWriMo is trying to write 50,000 words this month also. And in this last week of the marathon challenge, she’s just a little over half way there. Which doesn’t look extremely realistic, but any word count towards a project is the real bonus of taking part in any challenges like NaNo, so in my eyes she’s already a winner.

The posts she put up on Facebook showed her cat “helping” her with the writing, and her calculations that if she puts in 6000 words a day this week, she will actually “win” NaNo.

Everyone else on the FB post was commenting how cute the cat was. I noticed, however, that the cat was sitting on a notebook opened out, with hand-writing and a pen nib sitting on the bottom corner of it. A pen nib, as in one of those slow-writing ink pens that turn out writing and ink blotches concurrently — at the speed of a snail.

There she was, hand-writing her NaNoWriMo novel using an ink pen. And she could spit out 6000 words a day in that fashion.

Truly wow.

My initial thoughts were – ‘I’m dealing with a mad woman here’. But she’s not. It’s worked for her beforehand. I imagine moving house in the middle of NaNoWriMo has been more of a hindrance, particularly knowing the problems the UK has with having phone and internet connections moved over in a timely fashion.

And we won’t go into using social media at times when we should be writing, because I have this dawning realisation that we all write in our own way. And we all have differing ways to motivate ourselves, reward ourselves or discipline ourselves.

For her, hand-writing into a notebook using a classy pen is the way to go, obviously.

For me, it’s technology. I’m a proud geek. I love apps, software, playing on the computer with graphics creation.

In fact, the only thing that got me through a rough patch of NaNo in the first week was actually not writing at all – instead I totally redesigned all my mocked-up book covers. It was close enough in creativity and technical (moving mouse and wacom tablet pen) skills to get my creative writing mojo back.

Of course, my friend’s writing requirements also have cons or consequences. So do mine –  I can easily allow myself to get distracted with using a sexy new piece of software for prepping or controlling my writing, to the point where I do so much of my pre-writing (or get frustrated trying to) that I lose passion for actually writing the story itself. That’s happened many times.

In other words, because we turn to these methods or requirements so easily, because we love them, we can get stuck in them.

Having a tech fascination also can be expensive too – both in lucre and time spent on playing with it. And with any writing “thing we fall back on” I must also form disciplines around it that allow me to get on with the real matter at hand. Or unstick myself when it’s not working out.

My fixation with tech has it’s benefits, naturally, which must be weighed up from time to time too – my writing is securely backed up, so not so easily lost; and I can take my writing or prep or editing outside of the home.

The irony is – when you look at it that way, the most mobile way of writing (and cheaper) is my friend’s notebook and pen. She’s using a perhaps old-school but time-honoured writing technology too.

There’s a saying – “whatever floats your boat”. As we mature into our writing process (which I wrote about here) we also learn more about what we have to do to remain motivated.

Many of us have read with awe about the famous authors who wrote in the buff, or locked themselves away in a bath or in bed. (See my old April post R is for Rituals, which includes a free PDF download listing many of these odd rituals). I wouldn’t say that using technology for me is a writing ritual (or writual, as the BBC coined – see the above post), because I don’t always fall to using it, other than I’m a typer and write on a laptop primarily. But I am much more comfortable in using apps and software than scribbling into journals nowadays. If you took the tech away from me for a week – like I did when going on a family holiday, I would enjoy the opportunity to scribble in a notebook, and pick up and read some good books. My friend isn’t restricted to solely writing in a notebook either (hence her Facebook post).

My friend and I aren’t that extreme in writuals – what we do need is tools that make us comfortable and help us work through problems. For her, it’s obviously old-school. For me, I turn to digital versions of basically the same. We aren’t even that different between ourselves.

But what floats your boat? What must you do to keep writing? What are the pros, what are the cons? How are you dealing with both?

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