Tools of the Trade

Every trade has its tools. I know this because I’ve seen people using them as they worked. I’ve seen mechanics turning wrenches, seen carpenters using saws. That’s right. I’ve been around.

So what are the tools of a writer’s trade?

Well back in the day, the tools of the trade were few and simple. Quill pen and parchment paper. If you want to go back even farther, you had chisels and stone. Even farther back, you had a pigment and oil mixture and cave walls. But today, the tools are far more complicated. You’d think they would’ve grown simpler over time, wouldn’t you? And I suppose the tools are simpler. That is, if you want to write with an ink pen and paper. A Bic ball point is more advanced than a quill pen. And a Mead 5 Subject is better than parchment paper. But no one writes that way these days. Well, okay. There are a few writers still holding onto that method. But not many.

I think I can safely speak for the majority of authors when I tell you the current tools of the trade. (I’ve become privy to this information via Facebook photos and tweets.)

First, you have to have a cat. I know. Cats don’t seem to be necessary to the writing process. In fact, they often hinder it. However, most writers have cats, and those cats can be found most any time perched on the lap or laptop of the writer as they do all they can to keep the words from spilling onto the page. They’re devious that way, but seem to be a vital part of it all.

Second, you definitely need a laptop. Or a desktop. Or a tablet. Just some sort of electronic device to speed this thing along. I mean, have you ever tried to write an 80,000 word novel by hand? I have. That’s why I have a laptop. Actually, I have 2 laptops, a desktop, and a tablet. And just in case all those things fail, I have a lot of pens and notebooks.

Which brings me to the third and fourth tools of the trade. A lot of pens and notebooks. I’ve noticed through internet conversations that it’s not just me that collects notebooks and ink pens. Apparently, nearly all writers do. We don’t know why. Most of us have laptops to write, so it doesn’t make sense that we keep an arsenal of ink and paper at our disposal. But we do. Maybe it’s because we know we have to get those words out of us, even if it means a raging case of carpal tunnel. Maybe we’re afraid that the apocalypse will come in the dead of night, taking with it our beloved electricity and rendering our laptops useless. How will we tell future generations our stories? All the cave walls have been taken, so that leaves pen and paper.

The fifth thing all writers need is a place for inspiration. Now I can’t tell you what this place is for other writers, but I can tell you where my place is. Just don’t steal it. I can’t have you draining my spot of ideas. Here it is. My bed. I know. An unlikely place, for sure. But every night when I lie down, no matter how tired I am, my brain comes alive. Thoughts and ideas whirl around with lightning speed. One brilliant idea after another. It’s no wonder it takes me forever to go to sleep. And if I wake in the middle of the night (as I so often do), it starts again. I’m often awake in the middle of the night for hours, thinking of new stories or elaborating on ones I’ve already thought of. It’s not just at night. If I go in there during the day and try to nap, same thing. It’s like a vortex for ideas. So stay off my bed. They’re mine!

There are other tools that writers use that I personally don’t deem necessary. Alcohol, index cards, lucky pajamas, whatever. To each his own.

So what are the tools of your trade?


About Kimberly A Bettes

I whittle away the minutes of my life by entertaining myself with various projects and people. One thing is certain. I'm never bored. I also write stuff and take pictures of things.

Posted on March 14, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Well Kimberly, let me just tell you that things have moved on in some writers households. For a start I’ve dispensed with the cat. He was appearing in all my books and even managed to worm his own blog out of me. When his fame exceeded my own it was time to part company. I suppose the fact that he was 18 and died helped a lot in my decision.
    Next are the ubiquitous notepads and pens, of which you can never have enough. I write all my books by hand and then make changes as I type them up onto my desktop.Yes, there is a laptop around but I like my desk, am comforted by my desk and feel a real writer at my desk. Plus there’s room here for an 8 pack of pepsi max which I just couldn’t get on my laptop no matter how I tried.
    Lastly there’s my supply of sweets. Midget Gems for the chewy problems and Cadbury’s Chocolate for the feelings of satisfaction that come at the end of a chapter. These days I concentrate on writing blogs not books so my chocolate intake has gone from chapter to paragraph but we all have to make sacrifices sometimes.
    It’s a hard life but I persevere.

    • Lol! You had me rolling! Thanks for the great comment. How could I forget the ever important chocolate? I have a cabinet’s supply at my disposal. And plenty of cold Pepsi in the fridge. As for the cat, well if mine gets too big for her britches, we’ll part ways too. Then I’ll hang up Missing Cat posters so no one will suspect I had anything to do with it. 🙂

  2. Essential? A notebook – always nearby, as vital as the primed camera to a photographer, and often as sadly inadequate. Then MS Word, without which I could not keep honing and changing to find the word which smiles at me, the sentence that paces itself and does not sprint towards the full stop. Next must be mood, which I celebrate – how can I write of sadness if I am not sad, or joy if I am not happy? After that, people; the world and its colours, the wind and its freedoms.

    I have a dog. A large dog. Her interventions are frequent and unwelcome, and almost always involve re-writes. The instruments are a PC (which I am using now) and a laptop which I will one day recover from the clutches of my wife.

    I am largely unsuccessful, which probably means you should not probe too deeply into my recipe. But I like it, and it keeps me insane.

    • Yes, Word has made my life so much easier. I used to stay up all night when I was a teenager writing my first novel. I’d clack away at the keys of an old typewriter trying to get it all out. And if I needed to go back and add something or take away something, well let’s just say it made for aggravation. It sure is simpler this way.

      My dog doesn’t interfere with my writing…much. He scratches to go out or to come in, but pretty much just sleeps. A neutering will do that to a feller.

      I agree with you on mood. I often listen to sad, slow music when I write. I can’t listen to fast or upbeat music because it’s hard to go to a dark place and write horror when your tapping your feet.

  3. I write in bed, too, but in the morning. I set my alarm for 530, kind of do directed dreaming for an hour or so, then write, in bed, on my alphasmart (with a book light clamped to it if there’s not enough light coming through the window). During that time, I can write almost without trying.

    The alphasmart is absolutely essential to my process, as it doesn’t blast light into my eyes to stop my dreaming.

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