Our student is used to an analog method of communication. We have trained her to do this so well that when she is constrained by a computer she has invented her own writing technique and abbreviations: "R U gng 2 meet me @ hm?" She may doodle in the margins of her test papers and brainstorm with a bubble cloud.
This sort of creative thinking is very difficult on a computer, if for no other reason than because we are largely constrained by the limits of our software. I can't, for example, easily attach a simple stick figure to the side of this blog to illustrate a point. I could draw it, scan it, and attach the picture by adding a bunch of extra steps-- but on notebook paper I could just jot it down.
This limits the creativity of writing on the computer. Outside of specialized software, you can't develop a map for your fantasy fiction world, and it's difficult to brainstorm unless you use specific methods of doing so, such as stream of consciousness or word association methods.
I'm not discounting the usefulness of the computer to writers. You're here because you did some kind of search on the web for "writing" or "fiction" or something of the kind, and whether that search brought you directly here or by roundabout path you arrived, you're now reading this. (And thanks for visiting, by the way.) However, it is much harder than most people realize to engage in a creative process while sitting at the computer. Writing is not mere typing. Creative thinking is, as the word implies, the action of creating something where there is nothing. This is not easy to do.
Take non-fiction authoring, for contrast. Non-fiction is essentially nothing more than synthesizing information you've taken in from a myriad of sources and producing a synopsis or a rebuttal. While the actual writing may require some creativity in how you turn a phrase and how you present your argument, the facts rarely need to be reupholstered unless you're writing speeches for Obama and Pelosi, in which case you can pretty much write any "fact" you like with the understanding that they'll ignore it as soon as it becomes convenient to do so. (This makes twice that the "most transparent administration in history" has passed health care legislation against the wishes of 66% of the American people at midnight on a Saturday without having read the bill. Now do you understand why I am conservative?)
This is why I am going to advocate doing something unusual here. Periodically, even the best and most prolific authors get writer's block. Continuous creation is not easy. However, I'd like to remind you what you used to do, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.
Get a spiral notebook and a pen. I'm partial to the graph-paper composition books, which allow for easy doodling. The second link provides an interesting style of book for those of you working on illustrated books or doing storyboarding; it's a sheet with graph paper on the top, and college ruled note paper on the bottom.
For pens I prefer the pilot precise V5. Although I detest sharpening pencils, I don't like to write with mechanical pencils very much, so I use the pentech triangular pencils, which are much more comfortable than round or octagonal pencils for extended use. If I am going to use a mechanical pencil, it must be .5mm or smaller and have a twist out eraser, since revision is going to chew hell out of it. The pentel twist-erase QE415 is a good one for the money.
Now go find someplace you can write. Notice that I didn't say "someplace without distractions" or "someplace quiet." I specifically look for distractions when I'm writing, particularly by hand. I don't drink coffee, but I'll happily sit in a Starbucks for two hours watching life wander by. Most of Crossed Swords was written while sitting in a Shari's restaurant from 3am to 8am after working second shift. My notebooks are full of doodles and quick notes about passers-by who came in... like this description:
"Black man with a broken walk. Deerstalker cap pulled low over gray eyebrows. Dirty pants hanging from coat hanger hips. Flannel flaps from wire shoulders. Exhaustion echoes from his sighs, and his cough hurts me too."
There is nothing wrong with sitting at your computer and typing madly away, and if that's working for you then get down with your bad self. However, I think it's important to note that the best stories are about life and how we live it. If you're not somewhere that life is visible, then how can you write about it?
And if you're having trouble getting started, maybe all you need is to change your work space and try something a little different. Trust me, at 3am, the Waffle House is worth visiting for the entertainment value alone.
Virgins Slain, Dragons Rescued.
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