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Your Writer's Survival Kit


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When you head out to get writing done, where do you go? What do you take with you? What's your writers' survival kit?


Laptop computer

Blank journal

At least two pens (VisionElite)

Headphones and Discman, instrumental and pop for different textures(Portishead, Tom Waits, etc)

Some collection of contemporary photography from around the world, for inspiration

A book of great poetry (often Jane Hirschfield, William Stafford)

A book of inspiringly descriptive prose (Mervyn Peake, Jean Giono, Annie Dillard)



Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.


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If I'm cranking out a first draft, I keep it really simple. I don't try to create on a computer because I have to many years as a hacker behind me. I'll waste an enormous amount of time optimizing my system, checking e-mail, exploring software or surfing the internet writing descriptions of what I do to get creative work done. biggrin.gif

My kit:

1) a couple of pads of narrow-ruled paper (high quality/bright white with thick and stiff cardboard backing)

2) multi-color pack of Uni-ball Vision Elite pens (micro-point) so I can change the color of the ink when I get stuck and need to make a fresh start (changing ink color helps my brain move the problem that stopped creativity to my subconcious and then start "fresh" with a new approach)

3.) a couple of packs of gum (keeps me from getting hungry and distracted)

4.) a dictionary

5.) If I decide to take music, I take my iPod and play jazz... Lyrics distract me and jazz conveys moods and attitudes in a way that does not interfere with my creative process.

If I am having trouble creating something new (most of the time) I'll often go to a public place like a park, mall or coffee shop to stimulate my mind with the action around me. I don't know why it helps, but it does. I spend about 2 hours a week waiting on Sara while she is in rehearsal in various musical groups and I always try to use that time to be creative.

Sometimes it works very well.

Edited by TexasWill

"If the Christian subculture exists primarily to condemn the world, you can be sure that Jesus is not having any part of it." - John Fischer

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed." - Flannery O'Connor

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1. Computer (Microsoft Word)

2. The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale


Other books I refer to for either inspiration or reference purposes:

* Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed.

* The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant

* Nave's Topical Bible by Orville J. Nave

* The World Almanac

* All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer

* The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, et. al.

* The New Age Baby Name Book by Sue Browder

* Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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I work at home. The computer carries my music (almost always instrumental movie soundtracks, when I'm working) and my access to dictionaries and other online reference works; the only thing it's missing right now is a functioning printer, which is a shame, because I sometimes think better when I can print out a draft and pace back and forth while doodling revisions in the margins. Sometimes, just to put myself in a fresh frame of mind, I take the laptop over to the couch or to the bedroom, so I can stretch out, lie down, or do something OTHER than sit in a chair at a desk.

I also find it easier to start writing if I've had a Slurpee and a donut or some such thing -- even if it's fairly early in the day -- but to acquire those, I first have to shower, and sometimes I need to get my work done before I've had TIME to shower. OTOH, sometimes a shower is one of the things I feel I need to do to clear my mind, deadlines be darned. Balancing these things can be complicated.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I have the luxury of just being able to write when the inspiration (if it can be called that) strikes me...

For quite a few of us, the inspiration is an editor waiting on the piece, a signed contract, and a grave need for prompt payment. biggrin.gif

"If the Christian subculture exists primarily to condemn the world, you can be sure that Jesus is not having any part of it." - John Fischer

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed." - Flannery O'Connor

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I do most of my writing on my laptop. This can be a problem, since I have the same tendency as TexasWill toward computer-fiddling...

For a while I was using a windows program that I liked a lot -- that I can't remember the name of right, curse my ephasia -- it was novel-writing software but it didn't have any of those annoying "features" that claimed to write the book for you. What it *did* have were some useful organizational tools that were easily accessible -- basically, someone decided to write a word processor for novelists. My favorite feature was that it had a word count tool that monitored your word count *while you were writing*. It displayed on the lower-right corner of your screen. I have no idea why normal word processors don't do that, but I loved that feature...

Now I'm using Linux, so I'm using OpenOffice for everything. It's all right.

The Laptop also has my music collection on it. I have various playlists that I've customized for the stuff I'm actively working on.

Other than that, when I'm online I use dictionary.com for word definitions and a thesaurus, and when I'm not I just wing it.

It had a face like Robert Tilton's -- without the horns.

- Steve Taylor, "Cash Cow"

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I keep things pretty simple, my laptop, my spiral notebook I use for notes, and the binder that contains my work-in-progress. I have to make sure I don't forget the little things, like pens, and the power cord for my laptop. And my sunglasses in case I decide to sit on the patio of the coffee shop.

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If it's a real writing day when I don't have to, like, go to my day job: the sunny back room of my house, my laptop, the CD changer loaded up with 5 awesome CDs that I know well enough that they won't distract me, and a fresh pot of coffee.

If it's normal day (usually) and I've worked and come home and had dinner and watched ma stories: laptop, iTunes, comfy headphones, and I'm good to go. That could be on the bed, on the couch, at the table, at a coffee shop, the library, my writing office. Sadly, note that "my writing office" is last on the list. I rent an office for $105/month and can sometimes do creative work there, but usually I just end up taking care of business, editing, or planning. Count me among the geeks who are easily distracted by downloading cool software, reading message boards, and IMing with other writers who should also be working.

BTW - Baptist Death Ray - in Word you can go to Tools--->word count--->then check "show toolbar." The word count toolbar pops up, which you can leave floating or anchor it with your other toolbars. Then all you have to do is click "recount" to see your progress.

Sara Zarr

author, person.


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OpenOffice allows you to do that, too, but that's not "on the fly" -- in that other program, as soon as you typed a word and hit the space bar your word count would increase by 1..

It had a face like Robert Tilton's -- without the horns.

- Steve Taylor, "Cash Cow"

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Much of my writing is what I refer to as "meat and potatoes" work and is done both for work and extra-curricular projects. News releases, memos, letters, reports and analysis. My list of tools include:

- Organized thought and knowledge (this is the most difficult item on my list)

- Laptop (with the wireless turned off)

- Music (delivered by the big rig at home or from my iPod. Also, jazz or good instrumental for rhythm and propulsion, hopefully like the Bruce Cockburn album coming out next week)

- Fuel (dark, rich coffee or aromatic tea)

- And the ability to put aside my desire to turn out perfect prose so I can just get on with the job at hand.


who should be writing a news release about our hospital's new surgical suites

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