Paper & Quill

In the past few days I’ve had a few people asking me, “Why do you write?”. Whether this is because I’m bad at it or just because they genuinely wish to know what would motivate me to put pen to paper so to speak. It’s a good question. There are so many people out there writing and publishing these days that I don’t think anyone would consider writing to make a load of money or to become famous. Authors are never going to be rock stars. Sure, there are a handful of famous authors out there that are knocking on the door of rock-star status (with rock-star bank balances to match). For the majority of us, we will never reach such heights.

So, why write? Not for the money. There really isn’t any.

I write because I can’t draw or paint. I write because of the feelings my words conjure within me when I read back through a scene. I have ever been frustrated at my inability to put onto paper the images I can see within my head. Perhaps that is why I love photography so much for I am unhindered by my lack of skill with pencil or brush. When I write I can finally bring to life something that exists only within myself. I can only imagine that it is the same feeling that the artist gets when painting on canvas, or the sculptor when shaping stone, or the musician when putting notes to emotion and song.

Ultimately, I suppose I write because I want to. I write for myself. If someone else enjoys something that I’ve written then that’s really great, but it isn’t the be all and end all. If someone doesn’t enjoy it then I don’t lose any sleep over it. We all have different tastes (I hate pistachio).

I do listen to criticism, but I don’t let it overwhelm me. Criticism for me is like being able to put on another pair of glasses and see what I created in a different light. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t, but I always take something from it.

The other question I’ve had lately is, “How do you write?”, as in, “What do you use to write?”.

A pen or pencil… some paper…

Well, not always these days, but up until probably 2005 I wrote almost everything with either pen or pencil and scrapbooks. Since then I have mostly used a computer or tablet (and having used old palmtops in the past I don’t see the issue of typing for a long time on a tablet), but I still jot quite a few things down in my old notebook.

Some old notebooks

I sometimes wonder if perhaps we are no longer ‘writers’ in this age? We rarely write letters to anyone anymore (although I am fortunate to have a friend that sends me handwritten letters from time to time). Perhaps ‘typists’ or ‘thumbists’ would be a better phrase? In generations to come will we have to explain what The Beatles meant with their song, “Paperback Writer”? Will we just say something like, “Oh, it’s like someone who types ebooks”? Probably it will be something entirely different.

I think it’s interesting how we create apps that replicate typewriters and pens. It’s almost like we long to return to an older medium and yet are ensnared in the web that binds us to the ease and efficiency of electronic devices. We all surrender to it in time.

So, what do I use? These days, I do all of my writing using iA Writer (not the pro version). I have it on a few devices so if I come up with an idea or scene while I’m on a subway or waiting in a laundrette I can get it down before I forget it. Then I can just upload whenever I have WiFi access and sync it. I like iA Writer basically because it’s plain and simple. It does what it says on the tin.

I write each chapter individually. I start with the beginning and then I write the ending. I then begin to build the chapters in-between, starting with those that are very prominent in my mind or that I have a great idea for. When I have everything down, I save and backup on two different drives (even though it’s floating somewhere in a cloud). I then drop everything into Scrivener.

Scrivener is a lifesaver for me. I have so many notes and bits of text that Scrivener allows me to store it all in the Research folder and have everything on hand. It’s basically an electronic version of my old scrapbooks. Anyway, once my text is in Scrivener I can focus on editing and organising, again, without the hassle of formatting.

Formatting only comes into the equation when I have everything done (including my covers and artwork) and I’m ready to compile/publish to different formats. That’s it really. I only use those two applications as they let me focus on writing and nothing more. I don’t even need to worry about saving as they do that for me (although I still backup my Scrivener files and backups every now and then – it’s never crashed, but better safe than sorry).

I should probably mention that I use a Mac (I use one primarily because of the photographic and design software that I use). I only mention this because I know the Windows version of Scrivener is not as fully-featured. I’m not pushing these apps or Mac (I get nothing from it). Everyone has their own preference for what they use.

Over the years, I’ve tried quite a lot of things in an attempt to find an easily portable replacement for my scrapbooks. Travelling around a lot means you accumulate all sorts of bits and pieces (aka: treasure) and scraps of paper can weigh A LOT when in bulk (and have a suicidal tendency to get wet or lost). All I can say is that there is no software, computer, or tablet that will make you a better writer, but they will make your life as a writer easier.

And yet, despite all of this, I still enjoy writing with pen, paper… and the prerequisite glass of single malt!

The rabbit of secrets kept


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