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Writing 101

I am convinced that what a person uses to write with is as important as where they write. As I’ve said before, I occasionally go out to write. Sitting at a restaurant table and being waited on (even if just for coffee) is conducive to my writing. I started doing these lone breakfast writing sessions 12 years ago when my sixth baby, Emily, was a little over a year old. I have continued them, off and on (off when I had babies who nursed and needed me close) since then. But I also write in the living room chair with a clipboard, on my bed, in the vehicle if I am waiting for someone, in offices when I have appointments… You get the idea. I can write wherever I am, but that sit-down restaurant session remains the most muse-worthy.

This morning it was the kitchen table. David, the cute in-house waiter, served me coffee while I spread my mess out on the table. I concentrated on writing a “short” for a magazine. “Shorts” are exactly what they sound like; short little pieces, usually in response to a magazine’s monthly question or for their tips, ideas or funny incident sections. My friend Lisa, who does not claim to be a writer, has often sold tips and ideas to parenting magazines. As the mother of seven children she had plenty of helpful tips, and a plethora of amusing parenting anecdotes.  Sometimes, writing a short piece helps get my brain lubricated. Other times it is all I have time for. This morning it was for lubrication. By completing something short, I was motivated and ready to work on one of my longer essays.

What  I write on has not changed in twenty years; it is a legal pad. It used to be that legal pads came in one color (canary yellow) and style, but now you can find them in a rainbow of colors. I prefer the muted tones.  Writing on purple paper reminds me too much of my teen years when bright colored notebooks were all the rage. I love paper of all kinds, as my drawers of stationery and paper can attest to, but for articles and essays, I use Staples office brand ivory-colored legal size pads. When they first introduced this brand a couple of years ago they offered $5 off coupons and David and I stocked up on 3-packs for $1 after coupons. When those are all gone, I will either use up the multi-colored 6-packs I got off a clearance shelf at Walmart, or invest in another quality pad. I believe I write better on paper that I love.  That is always my first bit of advice for aspiring writers; Find paper and pens you love to write with.

My pens this morning are my new favorite: PaperMate Pro Fit click pens, in blue. (not black) The pen just glides across the paper. I used to buy favorite pens in quantity, until I discovered that storing them for any length of time could adversely affect them. Once I opened a brand new package of PaperMate pens and was outraged that they either did not work or worked sporadically. I called the Papermate company and they asked me to send them the package. From the numbers on the package they were able to tell me that the pens were old, and had deteriorated. They warned me that storing pens in warmth (they’d been in a cupboard directly above that room’s heating vent) could ruin them.  In other words, it was my fault the pens didn’t work correctly. I’d had them in that cupboard for a year or more. They nicely replaced them, but since then I am careful not to store pens too long. These new pens have a little plastic nib on the end of them, which perhaps protects them further. Maybe I wasn’t the only one complaining. (I discovered the nib when I couldn’t get the new pen to work~duh)

Whether you write on legal pads or do your writing on a laptop at a coffee shop doesn’t really matter. I have read about famous authors who still sit at their old desk using a typewriter for rough drafts or others who write in cheap notebooks.  I think that whatever it is that makes you feel like a writer, helps you become a writer. Writing with a smooth pen on legal pad paper works for me. Finding out what works for you is the first step to becoming a writer.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Certified grief counselor and Senior Service librarian for the James Kennedy Public library. Popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing, couponing, utilizing your creativity in everyday life, and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015. Grief journal to be released in 2018.

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