Monday, October 26, 2009

Countdown Day 5: Tools of the Trade

I've been a writer of some stripe since I could pick up a pencil and string words together. Perhaps before that: I recall distinctly being quite young, like 6 or so, and creating a picture book, only a couple pages long, called 'Cats at Work', mostly illustrating what my mother and father do at work all day. Cats in ties and cats in dresses vaccuuming. That was my first book.

Since then, I've become something of a kleptomaniac when it comes to nice pens. I'm not talking nice pens, like they cost $50 and have refills and fancy holders and such (although I do have a very nice wooden pen set given to me on the occasion of my bachelor's degree by my wonderful friend, Minda, and her amazing husband, Bill, two of the best friends a girl could ever ask for). I'm talking pens that leak just a little bit. Pens that have a good scent to the ink. Pens that feel good in the hand. Pens that write swiftly. And if you give me a pen to sign a form and it happens to fall into one of those categories, the odds of you getting it back are slim. Be forewarned.

I've also become a huge fan of paper in general. If you were to see my office, you would see I have nice journals, lots of those notebooks that go for 10 cents on sale during school supply season, multi-subject notebooks, strange odds and ends from Big Lots, loose leaf name it, I probably have it. It's actually becoming something of a problem.

My name is Toni. I'm addicted to office supplies. Don't get me started on labels, notecards, high lighters, folders, binders...we could be here all night.

Then there's some things that are tools that are more like habits I have developed. And one of them is a problem for national playwriting month: writing long hand. It's a habit I cultivated in college that has worked very well for me, even to this day, and even through my bout with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There's something more primal and immediate for me about writing long hand--the paper, the pen (this is where the smell of the ink comes in). It's the tactile experience of writing that keeps me going. I've tried to type first drafts, but it's harder for me. The inspiration doesn't come; it just isn't comfortable. Handwriting my drafts means I really have NO IDEA what my page count is until I actually type it up. Last year, I tried to type it up, without editing, as I went along. Perhaps this year I will wait until the very end to type it all up. We will see.

The other is something that some of my writer friends have marveled at my ability to do, and that's watching television and listening to music with words. When I was in college and I didn't have a television, I listened to a lot of music and downloaded tons of it from the internet (shhhh, don't tell anyone!). Stuart Davis, various 80s music, Duncan Sheik, ABBA--it's all in there somewhere in my college plays. Now, it's the music of Jonathan Coulton, They Might be Giants, Paul and Storm, but added to the soundtrack is television. Project Runway, Law and Order, The Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy are all involved.

I have to have some kind of noise going on because I have this part of my brain that doesn't want to do anything but freak out and get distracted by shiny things. I call it my monkey brain--because it simply goes ape. So without some kind of noise, and some kind of noise that I am familiar with and I don't have to pay that close of attention to--I'm good to go.

So I got my giant basket of pens, a stack of notebooks, and my family guy and futurama DVDs. I am armed with my weapons for NaPlWriMo.

Are you?


carmar76 said...

I'm not writing a play, but I am committing to writing a letter a day in November. You know I'm addicted to pens & paper & office supplies the same way you are - I think we each have a little to do w/ the other's obsession, all those weekends at the mall searching for those things in various forms. Remember the lipstick pens?? *laugh*

With all the computer work I do now days, I'm more comfortable typing than writing longhand, and I miss my writing. But I know I don't have the mindset to write fiction right now, so I'm going to write letters in November. By hand. I have stamps, I have paper, I will be buying some new pens this week. : )

Love ya!!

lindsay said...

I ADORE pens and paper. Sorry was that too loud? I exhibit at a lot of conferences where there are often free pens and it's become a wee bit of an obsession to gather the coolest pen. Because you can't write without the right pen, right?

There really is nothing like the feeling of creating long hand. I love my computer, and couldn't do at all without the internet, but all plays start with pen and paper for me....