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?