I’ve been writing ever since I first learned to form letters on a page. I went “pro” some 20 years ago and have learned much about my craft and self in the process. I know, for example, that I must have certain things in my life if I am to succeed. Let me share some of them with you.
1. A reason to write
I write because I have to, because the urge is almost physical in nature. I see a couple fighting in the supermarket, geese flying overhead as I walk, my daughter’s smile when she opens a new box of crayons and my heart and mind jump to attention. Together, they hatch a plan and before I know it, I’m at the keyboard.
With great purpose, I type away, even when I don’t always know where I am going. I trust the urge. Experience has shown that with time, I will understand why I am writing a particular piece and what audience it is to reach.
2. A buddy
Writing may be a solitary profession, but I have never gone it alone. I have had comrades in arms.
Not all of my buddies are writers; however, each is a creative soul who dares to craft a life that fits and flatters. We meet by phone and e-mail, and in person when time allows, to share successes and failures, strengths and insecurities. It is this sharing that makes me feel brave and able to proceed, even if with shaky knees.
3. A handy notebook
Just as I never leave home without my keys, I never leave without a notebook. It is my catcher’s mitt, and in it go all the ideas that fly by on a given day.
These ideas come at all hours and, often, in the most inconvenient of places (e.g., the dentist’s chair while getting my teeth cleaned, the supermarket while squeezing cantaloupes).
Once upon a time, I ignored their arrival. I know better now. From these musings have come great works, new directions, keen insights; a solid body of work.
4. A favorite pen
Pens, like people, vary. Some are long and thin, others short and stubby; some glide, others plod. I always choose the gliders.
I need a pen that can keep up with the pace of my thoughts, or at least do its best. I also need a pen whose company I enjoy. That’s why I almost always go for colored inks—bright reds, hot pinks, and deep purples. Their brightness cheers me and makes the writing more fun.
5. A flashlight
Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night because a writing idea demands immediate attention. Obnoxious creature that it may be, I acknowledge it nonetheless. It is the only way I can get back to sleep. If not, it will keep nudging me, or, worse, I will toss and turn, trying to think up ways to remember it in the morning.
I hate, however, having to turn on my lamp to make an entry in my trusty notebook. The light is too bright and wakes my husband as well. Too, I’ve found that these nighttime interlopers prefer darkness. It makes it easier for them to be seen, heard and understood.
And so, I reach for a small flashlight. The beam is a warm, soft yellow that gently shoves a bit of the darkness away. I take my notes (using my favorite pen, of course) and then turn off the light, able to return to sleep quickly and easily.
I don’t need fame or fortune, but I do need chocolate. To me, it’s oxygen, and I’ve been breathing it since childhood.
Often, when I write, I have some form of chocolate at my side—candy bars, malt balls, cookies, cake. I break each into small pieces so the interruptions are at a minimum. My fingers only have to leave the keyboard for a second or two to pop a morsel in my mouth and I’m back on task.
Chocolate may not be fuel for thought (and may do little for the waistline), but it fuels me. It makes every cell in my body smile and forget, if only for a brief moment, that there are deadlines to meet and dreams to straddle.
Beth Mende Conny, WriteDirections.com