Monday, July 6, 2009

Q: What do you NEED to write?

Maybe it’s a blue gel pen.*

Maybe it’s the window seat at your favorite café.

Maybe it’s college-ruled, high-grade notebook paper.**

Whatever it is that you NEED to write—a long, quiet period of uninterrupted silence, a never-ending cup of expensive coffee with Splenda and non-fat Irish cream, or an afternoon visit from the elusive muse—get over it.

In workshop a few years back, my professor asked the class to freewrite about our ideal writing scenario—what we needed to have a productive writing session, and as I began to write about fine-point, felt-tip, blue Pilot pens, I had an epiphany.

How many times had I searched the apartment frantically for suitable paper, driven to the 24-hour Fred Meyers for a $4.99 two-pack of my favorite pens, lit a cigarette, inhaled, exhaled, and only then began writing as the smoke clouded the area between me and my page?

These days, I can write with a blunt mini golf pencil on the back of my electric bill, because I decided all those needs were just excuses, high-concept procrastination that kept me from the most important activity—getting some of the AM/FM chaos to stop broadcasting in my head by committing it to paper.

Writing is enjoyable when you’re in the zone—when the morning is so quiet you can hear the pen scratching the paper—but some of the best writing occurs on a used post-it in a grocery line with a kid pulling on your arm and a cashier telling you to hurry it up.

Don’t wait until all the stars are aligned in the twelfth house of Virgo. Start writing NOW.

Do you have a self-imposed writing NEED? Share it with us in the comments, and then commit to writing without it in the future.

*One of mine.

**Another one of mine


  1. I need my laptop. I've written at the beach in a notebook, I've scribbled on scraps of paper by my bed and I've yanked copy paper out of my fax machine at work, but it's never ever the same as sitting at my laptop.

  2. Laptop. And a cup of flavored coffee always helps. I've learned to record my random thoughts and story ideas in my "voice notes" feature on my phone. So that's one of my lifelines too.