What a Writer Needs

Packing for a roadtrip to Telluride CO for a poetry weekend. And I’m suffering my usual doubts and desires about packing. After many years of writing I know, sort of, what I need to get writing done. But traveling means that I can’t have it all. I cannot take along my office space or my favorite coffee shop despite my need for a place where I’m comfortable and not likely to be distracted or interrupted. So, scratch that for the next few days, although I’ll find a corner now and then. Being an early riser often means that I can write before fellow travelers are afoot.

Of course, I need my basic tools–plenty of paper and ink, a reliable, portable thing, in my case that’s an iPad and attached keyboard. Of course, I need time. When my children were young, writing time was late evening. Now my internal clock prefers early morning. I’ll just have to be flexible as a guest in someone’s home.

My real need is writing every day, yes, every day. And of course, I need readers and other writers. I need librarians. (This week, I tried to read The Library Book by Susan Orlean, an account of the horrific fire years ago at the Los Angeles Public Library. Had to set it aside before I finished because it’s just too hard to read with tears in my eyes.)

Every devoted writer needs what she needs–the sound of language, the sight of words lined up across the page, margin to margin, good ducklings after their mama. Most of all I need to keep writing, because as E. M. Forster said, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?” Hope you all have a good week. See you after I get home.

Keep the Pen Moving

If you could see my desk, you would think that I’m a shopaholic. Well, you might be right, given the three dozen or so pens in the holder. All the same kind, albeit with different colors of ink. These are what Natalie Goldberg calls “fast pens.” They are Pentel Energels, and they fit my hand well, and glide across most kinds of paper. They do not smear, even for lefties like my daughter. They are refillable and recyclable. So why do I have so many? I can’t quite figure that out, except that when they go on sale, I buy them. I keep three or four beside my reading chair and another couple in my tote bag. Just the thought of being without the right pen makes me slightly uneasy. No, I don’t need therapy for this, and meds wouldn’t help.

As my friend Bonnie says, it’s my way of treating myself. In addition to chocolate, I consider pens a great treat. I have a box of other pens that I’ve accumulated over the years and occasionally I dip into that on the rare chance that my fast pens don’t feel quite right on a new journal. All of which suggests that like any other artisan, I want the right tools for my trade. I want a generous supply of ink, paper and folders. I don’t have time to make do and redo. My pens, files, notepads and stickies are at hand, so I have no excuse not to get to work. Before I retired from my day job, a reporter’s notebook and a retractable ballpoint were essentials. Every day meant a new leaf, dated and full of the details I needed to keep my job running smoothly.

If you don’t yet know what your best writing tools are, give them some thought, experiment. A carpenter needs the right hammer and keeps it close by. A surgeon knows which clamps and scalpels work for her. I know that a pen is as essential as a keyboard for me. I do not apologize for being particular. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I packing a notebook and four pens to see me through a weekend in the mountains where there is no wifi. At nine thousand feet it’s just me and my pen.