One of my favorite memories of writing is a time when I sat outside Climenhaga Fine Arts Center on the Messiah College campus and wrote poems. I propped my back against a brick flower planter and sat in the springtime sun to write. I’m fairly certain I was following a prompt that Julia Kasdorf gave about writing a poem in the rhythm of a nursery rhyme. I have some memory of a hobby horse and singing the poem to myself, too. But mostly, it’s that warm day, the pen in my hand, the way contentment washed right down to the center of my bones.
I don’t write like that much anymore – too attached to my routines and my laptop, I guess. But that memory always reminds me of something: I only really need a few things to write.
1. A really nice, easy-flowing pen. I mostly use Uniball Vision Elites. They write smoothly and easily, and they give me those thicknesses of line that I used to try to get with the slightly-dulled edge of a pencil. (Because I’m so idiosyncratic about my pen choices, I recommend not getting pens for writers unless you know EXACTLY what we want.)
2. Paper with lines. I cannot write in a straight line, and it bugs the bejeezus out of me to see my words sloping down like a unsatisfactorily-whipped meringue. I prefer college-rule, but I’m okay with anything lined.
3. A notebook that stays open. I love all the gorgeous journals I see in stores, but I don’t use most of them for this one reason – they won’t lay flat on their own. Often, I’m writing with a book in one hand, or I’m sitting with a journal on my knee. So having to prop open the notebook at the same time I try to write becomes too much. So something with a soft spine is best.
4. A beverage, typically hot. A big mug of coffee or hot tea satisfies my desire to consume (which is something I should probably explore a bit) while mostly leaving my hands free to write. I will also enjoy a glass of ice-cold SWEET tea if we’re in the humid throes of summer.
5. Time alone. I need time by myself- to do the physical act of writing certainly – but I also need lots of space around that writing time when I’m alone. It’s not because I don’t like people, as some people commonly think about artists; it’s because I’m trying to ignore the world for a little bit so that I can find the words that so easily get drowned out. My job, my vocation in this world is to write, and so my best service to it is to step back and step away. Preferably for hours each day.
That day outside Climenhaga, I had all those things. And it was perfect.
You may have other things on your list – a type of notebook, a particular piece of software, a snack of choice. I’d love to hear about them. What do you need to be able to write well?
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