Writing Tip: At the Beginning, Pen and Paper

When I used to teach classes to beginning writers, it was good.  It forced me to think back to the beginning to when I first put pen to paper.  The thing is, every time we sit down and face the blank page, it’s the same.  Every time we start a new piece of writing, we doubt that we can do it again.  A new voyage with no map.  As people say, it is like setting off towards the horizon, alone in a boat, and the only thing another person can do to help us, is to wave from the shore.

So when I used to teach a creative writing class, I had to tell them the story all over again and remember that this is the first time my students are hearing it.  I had to start at the very beginning.

First up, there’s the pen on the page.  You need this intimate relationship between the pen and the paper to get the flow of words happening.  A fountain pen is best because the ink flows quickly.  We think faster than we can write.  It needs to be a “fat” pen to avoid RSI.

Consider, too, your notebook.  It is important.  The pen and paper are your basic tools, your equipment, and they need to be with you at all times.  Choose a notebook that allows you plenty of space to write big and loose.  A plain cheap thick spiral notepad is good.

After that comes the typing up on the computer and printing out a hard copy.  It’s a right and left brain thing.  You engage the right side of the brain, the creative side, when you put pen to paper, then bring in the left side, the analytic side, when you look at the print out.  You can settle back comfortably with a drink (a cup of tea even) and read what you’ve written.  Then edit and rewrite.

Patrick White said that writing is really like shitting; and then, reading the letters of Pushkin a little later, he found Pushkin said exactly the same thing.  Writing is something you have to get out of you.

I hope this Writing Tip is helpful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

2 thoughts on “Writing Tip: At the Beginning, Pen and Paper

  1. I really like your post talking about the creative way we use and the ideas you bring to the process.
    Sadly pen and paper is losing out big time to computers. E.g. IPads and Laptops.
    Personally I still love the feel of using pen and a lovely notebook. Especially if I happen to write outside
    which happens often in summer.
    I- pad is my next favourite as it is so easy to bring with you to any favourite corner, and quickly ready if
    the words come visiting.
    The final work I do on my mainframe computer – just because. A good place to notice all mistakes one
    might have done.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, miriam. it’s hard to beat a fast flowing fountain pen moving across the page for a first ideas draft. after that i type up, print, edit and start the process again. i think there’s a special intimacy with the pen and the page. thanks for sharing your writing practice routine with me. the hardest part of writing is the discipline – bum on chair. you and i are both disciplined, whatever form it takes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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