Sunday, May 28, 2006


I owe some letters to some people out there. Not e-mail, not typed notes, but good old-fashioned pick-up-the-pen-and-hand-write correspondence. Once a month I make a habit of writing to someone I care for, no matter how long it takes. If I time it right with my meds I can write a reasonable-length letter in a day or two.

I also write in a personal journal almost every day. Sometimes my entries are very short and the hand writing sucks, and a few times I've had to use the Dragon to type my entries, which I tape to the page. When my hands were better I used to sketch pictures in my journal, pictures of ordinary things, flowers, the cats, my kids. Now I take photographs of those wonders and tape them in.

I still hand write research notes, some outlines and other things in my novel notebooks. I doodle when I'm on the phone talking to my agent or editor and draw labyrinths of brick walls. My caricatures aren't what they used to be, but sometimes I draw things in the books I sign for special friends, or friends who need a laugh.

I've made my own paper and ink, my own fountain pens, and bound my own journal pages into books. I design quite a few of my personal journals, and I've taken classes in how to dye paper and hand-make books. I still make chapbooks and poetry books and books of my photographs with hand-written captions. Sometimes I make my own bookmarks out of odd things.

With all our technology, electronic gadgets and wireless wonders, we've been made more efficient, more productive writers, and I'm not knocking that. I appreciate it a lot. But I do all this homemade, hand-written, artistic stuff because it reminds me of who I am. I'm not e-mail. I'm not a PDA. I'm not a laptop. I'm a writer. Writing is my living, but it's also my passion.

How do you stay in touch with the art of your writing?


  1. Anonymous3:53 AM

    I love the implements of the art. I love fine-quality pens when I can afford them, and beautiful papers. I've dabbled with calligraphy, and sketching and painting. I once caught myself literally DROOLING over the feeling of a thick, 100% rag art paper between my fingers.

    And I'll occasionally write letters from my character's heads--not specifically for the sake of the ms I'm working on, but as if I were them, and they were writing to me or a friend, writing about their thoughts, their feelings, how they perceive their world to be, and how they'd like it to be.
    Some of them have seemed eerily real.

  2. I avoid too much actual writing with pen and paper because of my carpal tunnel... ugh. Had my first release when I was 23, I think and I really am not ready for another one.

    One thing I have started doing, when I'm having a brain block and can't get the story to work out the way I want it, I start jotting notes down in a notebook, it could go this way if i did this, or that way if I did that... sooner or later I end up writing something down that will work. Usually when I'm not paying that much attention to what I'm writing.

    it's the one thing, other than putting the book on the back burner, that does help.

  3. I tell my children stories. You know, sit down on the floor cross-legged with them in front of you and tell the story with different voices for the characters, and the amount of acting out one can do while seated.

  4. Funny you should ask this today of all days when I posted to the blog what I plan to do.

    I've decided working other areas of my brain will develop my creativity for writing, so I'm planning to learn watercolor.

    I've recently learned yoga can help prevent carpal tunnel from developing (maybe even help reduce the symptoms after it has developed), so for, wrists, knees, and other body parts, I'm taking up some basic yoga to help keep me able to move freely longer--or with regard to the wrists and knees, enable me to move freely again. (Why I wasn't smart enough to do these things 20+ years ago, I'll never know, but I'm a stubborn one.)

  5. I'd say I write a book half longhand, half computer. First, I love love love pens and paper - love the feel of it, love filling up the pages. Also, I write left-handed but do the computer mouse stuff right handed, so working this way really gives both wrists a chance to rest if I alternate well enough :)

  6. Sometimes I really enjoy the tactile sense of handwriting, the flow of the ink, the graceful curve of the mark on the page...

    My problem is that my handwriting is really terrible, and when I'm writing my hand can't keep up, which means that it gets even worse.

    So I type. In some ways, the rippling click of the laptop keys fulfills the tactile requirement. And I can read the the end result.

  7. I love journaling and I go on these long hunts for unique ones. I tend to buy ahead so this way I have one on hand when I finish one. It never occurred to me to create my own journal, paper dying and all that you described.

    I sketch some but my other passion in life is photography. (Kind of a funny hobby for someone who has a vision disorder.) Over the years I've started using more digital photography and software. Not the same as working in a dark room but it's a whole lot cheaper. Grin.

  8. I wash dishes. Or wander around outside and observe nature — wind, clouds, sky, sunlight and shadows, birds, trees, moonlight and stars, and the dog chasing birds and patrolling the perimeters of the yard for intruders (turtles). Most of my life, I’ve lived in the Oklahoma boondocks — lots of natural wildness to observe and haunts to explore.

    Before computer, I wrote everything longhand. I confiscated my dad’s ancient typewriter. Wore it out. Then I had an electric typewriter. Wore it out, too. My first six novels I wrote longhand, after work (during work), after supper and dishes, after homework, evenings and every spare hour I could steal, beg or borrow — at the expense of something or someone else. I filled up more binders than I cared to count.

    After computer, I spent five years, evenings and weekends, typing all the longhand written novels from those binders into MS Word, editing and rewriting as I went and battling tarpel.

    I think, dream, and let Imagination work. Then I need to express it all and write it down. Writing makes me happy, grows me as a person.

    Rejection and trying to find an agent interested enough, sucks. Self-confidence flags, discouragement whispers, why have you wasted your life writing stories that no one wants to read and no editor in their right mind will want to buy or publish because it’s not genre enough, it’s not commercial enough, or it’s 250,000 words too long? Fear is a constant battle, such thoughts murderous.

    It has not stopped me yet. I will not give up. Now, back to the WIP and making my butt stick to the seat of the chair and working, instead of running off to shove a load of jeans into the washer or making that potato salad.

  9. Anonymous1:18 PM

    I love to write by hand too, Alison. I find that when I'm stuck, the words flow much easier for me in a notebook. When I transfer the draft into type I get the chance to do a layering edit as I input.


  10. I am always drawn to leather bound sketchbooks. I have always wanted one but never find the reason to pay for one. I love to sketch when I get the opportunity. I love art, writing is my own way for making up my lack of artistic ability. But every once in a while, words can only describe so much and I need to draw it out.

  11. I love to write notes with free pens. I mean FREE. Really free. My fav was one called The Jet Lag from this old smokey bar in Phoenix. It is long gone. Probably so is the bar. I loved one from this funeral services place that I used up. Currently I am stuck on one from my local mailbox store that is fat with flowers all over it. The whole design makes no sense for a mailbox store. My back up pens are a lime green one from Bad Ass Coffee Company in Hawaii and a see through yellow pen from Lawrence Livermore Labs. The pens inspire me and encourage my creativity. I think. If that is possible.

  12. Whether I handwrite or type often depends on what I'm writing. I tend to like to handwrite when I'm writing poetry, but type when I'm working on fiction or essays.

    Part of the reason is that I can type faster than I can write and I'm afraid I will forget or lose ideas if I slow down to handwrite them.

    When I write poetry, I tend to write more slowly and more deliberately--a better match for handwriting.

    An FYI--as a physical therapist, I often recommend fountain pens for patients with a history of CTS. It can help retrain the hand to use less pressure writing. With a fountain pen, if you press too hard it splays the nib and the ink won't flow.

  13. I often jot down notes on whatever is available. But what gets me in touch with my writing is reading a book by a writer I adore, or read an interview with them. It inspires me so much it reminds me of what I love about writing. It's the magic that happens when it's really flowing. It's the connection.

  14. What Steph said..........except I don't write left handed =)

  15. I haven't handwritten anything in twenty years. I'm not sure I know how to use one of those pen contraptions. The thing you have to click to make it work is just too complicated for me.

    Virtual pen and paper. That's the ticket.

  16. I generally use my laptop, but I always carry around a Moleskine journal. When I travel, I like to be able to take it out and write about what I'm seeing and experiencing, so that I can use it for material in later stories.

    I fell in love with Moleskine journals while backpacking in Thailand and Cambodia. They're small, slim, acid-free, and yet, you can fit alot onto the pages (think the journal equivalent of college-ruled). The best part about them is the pocket inside the back cover where you can insert all sorts of random tickets and notes.

    But I use them mainly to stop writers' block, to free flow ideas and draw out my scattered versions of outlines...


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