When you’re ready to create do you put pen to paper, fingers to a keyboard or tell your story to a little black recording box? I have done, and continue to do, all three and more. Each method of writing offers me something different.
A pen and paper can be very satisfying. Marking up a sheet of my journal and creating something that I can physically hold gives me a great sense of accomplishment. However, sometimes a pencil is less intimidating to me than a pen. When I find myself uncertain of an idea or a character I often pick up a pencil telling myself it isn’t permanent so I may as well write and see where the idea takes me.
A voice recorder is a tool I don’t use very frequently, as I find myself judging the story too much when I can hear it out loud. However there are two benefits to a voice recorder for writing. The first is that a voice recorder prevents writing and revision simultaneously. You can not go back and revise a recording; you just create and move forward. Writing and editing are separate processes; doing both at the same time will hurt your creativity and productivity. Writing with a voice recorder prevents me from falling into the editing while writing trap. The second benefit of voice recorders is that they can be used while driving (as long as you turn them on before you begin your trip). A long drive can be a daunting voyage or if we choose to make it so, a gift of time.
Finally we come to the writing medium that I use most frequently, the keyboard. I used to believe the benefits of writing on a computer were limited to speed. (I can type much faster than I can write, and typing is much less likely to give me a hand cramp in the middle of an important scene.) But, in October an acquaintance introduced me to a writing tool that has improved my organization and productivity by orders of magnitude.
The tool I use now on my laptop, desktop and iPad is Scrivener. No longer do I look at a giant word file, unsure where to start. Now I open my project, choose a section and create. Scrivener allows me to drag sections of work around, and save ‘snapshots’ of previous versions giving me the freedom to experiment and then revert to an older version at any time.
I can’t tell you Scrivener is the best product on the market (having never tried any of the competitors), but I can tell you that using writing software is a step I wish I had taken years ago.
Sometimes when I feel blocked in my writing I pick up a different tool; one that doesn’t have the association of pressure or my normal creative process. The following exercise is designed to help break your block, I hope you enjoy it.
Have you hit a block in your writing process? If staring at an empty page or a blank screen keeping you from creating try changing your tool. If you normally write on the computer pick up a pen, or better yet a crayon. If you normally write on white paper, try something with a little colour, or a lot of colour. With your new tool in hand dedicate yourself to filling a single sheet of paper on both sides with the story of that new tool. What does it feel like? What does the tool remind you of? As you tell the story of your tool let it evolve; allow the association of the tool to bring new ideas to your mind and the page. You may end up with the beginning of a great story. You may end up with two pages of Prussian Blue letters that smell like wax. Either way you will have warmed up your mind and broken your block. Good luck!