I am not about to win any awards for being the best self-starter and writing the most books in a year. I thrive in a classroom setting, with due dates and a final grade at the end of the semester to keep me moving forward. Writing is not one of those pursuits that so neatly fits in a classroom setting, especially if you're DIYing your Writing Life and not going to school for it.
While this is a drawback for my personality, this is also part of the appeal: we can write anywhere. But, the discipline of writing is the hard part. I have to beg, borrow, and barter to get myself to write. Some evenings I side-eye the dirty dishes in the sink the entire time, but there are times writing wins in the end.
Here are my best writing tools:
1. Pens and Notebooks
My favorite pens are Bic Round Stic pens, black ink. They write great, don't leave ink blots on the paper, and they're affordable. For a little bit there, I thought they were fading out because I couldn't find them at Walmart. Fortunately, Target sells them. A couple years ago I finally bought myself a pen case for the pens and highlighters, sharpies, and the occasional pencil I carry with me. It makes it easier to switch my pens from bag to backpack.
My notebook of choice for years has been the good old fashioned marbled composition notebooks. Lately though, I've fallen hard for Moleskine. They're smaller than comp books; they fit in my bag and are easier to carry around. The downside is that one of my coworker once asked me if I was writing in my diary, so there's that.
My notebook is a catchall. I've always been a faster writer than typist, so it makes sense for me to start with pen and paper instead of the screen. I write quotes from books I'm reading or blog posts I've read. I used it to take notes on the Writing Intensive I participated in recently. Most potential blog posts start on the pages of my notebook. Writing prompts go in it as well. Podcast notes, article notes, story research, DnD character notes, the notes for this article are in my notebook.
I'm learning not to compartmentalize each subject that I want to write about into separate notebooks--one for blogging, fiction, journaling, research, etc... That way, it's too many notebooks. This way, I have everything in one place and when I'm ready to delve deeper into a story idea, then I will transition over to a new notebook for that project.
A notebook tip, via a favorite writer on a favorite creativity podcast: she leaves the first couple pages blank to be The Table of Contents. I've adapted my current Moleskine notebook to accommodate this and it's way easier to find my writings with a Table of Contents, especially when I'm transferring the piece from journal to Word or my blog.
2. Notes App and Voice App
I love Notes. It's come so far since my iPhone 4S days. The font can be changed and words can be italicized, bolded, and underlined now, which makes my heart happy when I'm typing up a list of book titles. My notes are a collection of lists and quotes, story ideas, pictures, character names, notes about movies, TV shows, books, songs, etc... But the best part: I've written a couple blog posts in the car at night time using this app.
Voice Memos is perfect for when I'm driving and need to process a thought. I turn on the Voice Memo app and talk out loud in my car. My husband and I used it once on a car ride to talk about music, since I've been thinking I want to write a story with music at its core, and once when we acted out a scene from one of my short stories and I wanted to capture what we said about the scene and the characters.
3. Ink and Grace's very own Writing Practice Planning Worksheet*
I'm due for another date with this worksheet since seasons change and life looks differently than it did last summer. So I'm currently not on a strict writing plan, but the unique thing about the Writing Practice Plan is that it divides writing into four different categories: gathering, creating, reflecting, and sharing. And to this day, I divide writing into these different categories. The best part is, if I'm not creating something new each day, chances are I've still spent time in one of these other areas.
*I solemnly swear that Ashly did not ask me to put this in here. It's just a really great writing tool.
4. Laptop and Word.
I know, I know, Microsoft Office Word. Everyone's over it, but it's what I know. I have not made time to learn Scrivener yet, and a part of me doesn't want to switch writing tools because it's not the tool that matters: actually writing words matters. So, I use Word.
I make the transition from notebook to Word once I feel I've got an idea or once I've actually started writing the story or article or blog post. I'll type the whole thing up from beginning to wherever I stopped in my notebook. It's more time consuming this way, but as I mentioned in #1, I'm a faster writer than I am a typist and I think better if I handwrite first.
5. Index Cards
I think it was Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird that gave me the idea to carry index cards in my pocket. I recently stuck a small stack in a front pocket of my purse for easy grabbing. That's how I remembered the name of a road I saw out of the corner of my eye when I was driving home from my sister's house a few years ago; I wrote it on an index card. That's how I remember what songs to look up that play on the radio. It's way more convenient than unlocking the iPhone and finding the correct app.
Also, index cards come in handy when I'm writing stories. I put a scene idea, usually one sentence, on each card and then if I want to see the entire story arc, I just lay the cards out and get a better visual of the story's timeline and if anything plot-wise is missing or needs to be switched around.
6. Writing Dates
This one isn't new. I've always known that I will actually write if it's on my calendar. My writing dates usually happen in the morning before work or, on Saturday mornings, when the laundry is going. I'm starting to regularly write in the mornings. At the time of writing this, I'm a week out of Hannah Brencher's Spring Intensive. She challenged us to put our writing dates on our calendars, and I'm now 8 for 8 (I've written seven mornings in a row!). I'm a better person for having taken the time to write for 20-30 minutes before leaving for my day job.
And there you have it: my list of writing tools. As I came to the end of writing this article, I kept wanting to add things (Books! A specific project! Word Crawls! NaNoWriMo! Trackers!), but for as long and inconsistently as I've been writing, these are the tools that I've just gravitated towards and for some reason, they're working more and more each day.
I would love to hear your thoughts on my use of Word and all about your favorite pens and notebooks. What are some of your best writing tools?
Meet the Author...
Tracy Erler is a writer in her late-20s. She loves her husband, three cats, and story in all forms. Contemporary YA is her jam. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Divergent, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and if i stay are her "Always" stories. (Thanks, Snape, for that one.) She works at a day program for adults with special needs, but writing is her first love. You can find her at home, in her second favorite coffee shop because her first favorite doesn't exist yet, a DnD campaign, a good book,and mostly on Instagram--except on the weekends, because life is much more fun being enjoyed in real life instead of through a screen.