Monday, April 28, 2014

What Do I Need To Write

This is a cross post from the Wyrdsmiths blog, written in response to the question, "what do you need for writing?"

In the past, I would have said time and money. In many ways, they are the same. Money gives you the free time to write. Many writers find themselves in a bind. Because they aren’t making a living at writing, they need a day job; and the day job sucks their time, so they are not able to establish a writing career. This was my problem for many years. Though, to be honest, I have always written slowly and taken many breaks from writing—because I felt I had nothing to say at the moment, or because I couldn’t figure out what came next in a story, or because I was really interested in some other aspect of my life, such as my day job.

However, I was forcibly retired after the 2008 financial crash. After looking for work for a year and a half, I gave up and applied for Social Security. So now I have time and enough money to get by. SS is key, but I do make a little income from writing.

What do I need to write now?

A computer, a printer, paper, notebooks, pens, mechanical pencils, and erasers. Books and magazines also help. I subscribe to New Scientist. My sub to MIT’s Technology Review has lapsed. I need to think about renewing it. For the most part, the books I read are either nonfiction, often popular science, or science fiction and fantasy. Nonfiction provides information. Fiction by other writers provides inspiration.

I have a desk that is my at-home workspace, but it’s usually covered with paper. Either I work at the desktop computer in the living room, or I take my little netbook out to a coffee shop. I love to write in coffee shops. They are full of people working at computers. The staff leaves you alone. If I want to take a break, I can people watch or get myself something to eat or drink.

My favorite coffee shop plays good and interesting CDs: blues, folk music, French chanteurs ... At home, I listen to classical music on Minnesota Public Radio or put on a classical music CD.

I go back and forth between the computer and pen and paper. Often I begin on paper, then move to the computer. As I input what I’ve written on paper, I make changes and then continue the story on the computer. I always print out stories and revise on the hard copy. I can’t see mistakes on the computer.

What else do I need? Friends and writing groups. I belong to two groups: the Wyrdsmiths and an s.f. poetry group. Both provide support and criticism. At this point, I can’t imagine writing entirely on my own.

But I do still need time to myself, a lot of it, to write and read and think. I find walking the track at the gym is very helpful. I work out plot problems and even compose dialogue while walking. The track is usually quiet and almost empty. A walk by the river is less useful, since nature is distracting, and I have to watch out for other people.

That’s about it: time, money, equipment, reading material, a workspace, friends, and silence …

(Background music is okay. It counts as a kind of silence.)


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