6 Things Every Writer Needs

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In a departure from my norm on family storytelling, I’ve decided to share something that I think is a pretty big deal in any sort of writing. Recently in my Writer’s Group, we brainstormed an invaluable list:

 6 Things Every Writer Needs

The beauty of this compilation is that we are a highly diverse group writing everything from CNF (Creative Non Fiction) to Poetry, to Screen Plays, to Educational Materials, Memoirs, and on and on. Our voices and styles are vastly different (some lyrical, some concise, some babbling…me) But we were able to distill our lists down to six key elements, and then to start holding each other accountable for creating our own perfect environment for productivity while honoring our chosen genre.  We meet every other week and do a check in with the group over how close we are to honoring and providing for our writerly needs. In short, this has made a huge difference for all of us!

Now a word of caution before you peruse the list…This is not open license for dilly dallying and lamenting that you simply cannot write because you’ve made no progress past numbers 1-3 (yet). The idea is to have a vision of your perfect writing situation and to mindfully work toward that as you keep chugging along with less than ideal circumstances.

Shall I pull out the JK Rowling card? She was a single mom, on welfare, who loaded the babies up in the stroller, went to the corner coffee house and started writing down this big story thing that was in her head. There was no MFA, no Macbook, no Scribner, no editor, blog platform or fan base. There were only stolen moments when the kids were lulled to sleep for their naps by fresh air and the soothing buggy ride along the bumpy sidewalk. It seems to have worked out well for her, wouldn’t you agree?

*So here it is* Pay Attention* It’s for your own good* Do it*

1. Tools  Readily usable, reliable, in good repair, comfortable tools. I waffle between the soothing sound of a pencil skipping across paper, and the ease of spellcheck on my super light weight laptop. I also cannot leave the house without my smart phone and portable full page scanner. I’m picky about my pencils too. They either have to be all black, old fashioned wood with pink eraser #2s or a Pentel 0.5 mechanical. Why? Couldn’t tell ya…they’re just comfortable and don’t annoy me when I’m writing.

2. Inspiration What starts a story out for you? Is it a conversation with a cousin? Seeing old photos? A daily prompt from a book or webpage you like? How about your journal, or the writings or possessions of a family member–an heirloom that you admire in a case, or use everyday. For some it’s a place, a date or an occasion. Others write methodically from a task list. They have a neat outline of what they want to say and can go down the list working one subject at a time and feeling a great deal of accomplishment. Some look for contests or open calls for submissions and can write inspired by the given topic. Maybe it’s something you notice on the ground, the funny title of a book, or a childhood memory. Pinpoint your inspirations and gather them up.

3.  Space Oh this is one that’s a bee in my bonnet. The beautiful red cabin above is my oasis, nestled in a meadow of wildflowers, just at the edge of the woodland, a bit disheveled..OK…there are buckets all around to catch the drips when it rains…it is my land of sweet creative repose. My mind unwinds into dazzling sentences and the prose created while there, though lightly written, is unnoticeably heavy in deeper meanings and rich detail.  Or, maybe that’s my dream sequence and this is a photo from Lady Grace (click on “red cabin” to see more of her fabulousness) that she let me borrow and drool over as I patter away on my Chromebook, from the love-seat, in my family room, with an obese Golden Retriever hogging more than his share! Yes, space is my bugaboo.  Right now some of my best writing is done on a legal pad balanced on my knee under the steering wheel as I’m headed down the highway.

A little hint here…if you’re ever behind a grey Volvo on I-65, give it room!

4.  Support I could have easily called this community, feedback or cheerleaders. Don’t cringe. I know most of us who write are rather solitary by nature. We were the kids in the family who could entertain ourselves. But let me say this–Do not try to write in a vacuum! I know it sounds like you’ll have your ideas stolen and dreams quashed, but sidestep your shyness/anxiety/fear and join some sort of group to support you as you write! It could be as simple as a local genealogy club, a critique group, or a class series on creative writing. The blogging community is a great place to look for help too. For women (sorry guys) there’s a great group I belong to called The Story Circle Network. Having fellow writers (not relatives) critique your work and help you along the way is the best thing you will ever do as a writer. Doesn’t matter what your talent or experience level is…do it!

5.  Organization and Techno Savvy  It’s just a fact of our modern lives that we are busy, connected, constantly interrupted and short on time. To be serious about writing, you have to value the writing you do. I keep print outs of all of my submitted pieces, including blog posts and guest posts I do in binders separated by what they are. Some are Chapters for my book, some are short stories and essays, I even occasionally pop out an accidental poem. I keep a note on the printed page of where they are out for review, what the status is, and what my publication rights are, and what I was paid for it/ when it was rejected.  I have a big wall calendar too where I note submission deadlines and when mine was sent and how (electronic or mailed). But most importantly, everything I write gets saved in multiple ways. I copy all the docs onto Word, Google Docs, Google Drive, Drop Box, WordPress, and onto flash drives, and of course slip a hard copy into my handy dandy 3 ring binders.

6.  Accountability  Did I hear you mumble “Ouch!”? This is perhaps the biggest one of all…accountability. There’s an old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and I would add that the desk drawer is loaded with the empty pages we’ve never begun writing on! Writing can be quite self directed and introverted, and because of that…easily neglected. You must make it a priority in your day (you would be amazed at what you can get done in just 10 minutes with a kitchen timer ticking at you!). Accountability is also, across the board, mandatory in every one of the other 5 needs we’ve listed. You must set goals, share them with others, and be responsible for achieving them. Otherwise, your family history, your great american novel, your spy thriller, or your weight loss cook book will just pave the road…while you burn your favorite candle, sharpen those black pencils, and listen to Pandora.

Without “Accountability” I would loll around in my red cottage moving rain buckets and thinking about redecorating instead of tackling the book I’ve been assigned to review, the approaching column deadline, or the blog post I should care about. Let’s look at that cabin again ~ sigh…0171

Yep, I’m accountable to getting that too!

 

 

 

Author: Mom

I am a writer who just happens to love family trees. As the self proclaimed Family Historian and Writer in Residence at my house, I blog to others about family history writing. When I first began this journey, everyone was bored silly with my "family tree stuff." Once I started writing the stories down, everyone willingly joined in. Now the whole family pretty much participates! Imagine that ! Follow along, and you can gain a little family appreciation for all your hard nosed genealogical research while learning a little something about the craft of writing too.

55 thoughts on “6 Things Every Writer Needs”

  1. I’ve found that my inspirations come from those I hold dear, either in the distant past or ones I hold onto now. My first two books were memoirs inspired by my siblings and parents. God led me to begin writing and when I finished the two books, Little Heathens and Always a Little Heathen, I was finally aware of how blessed I had been growing up in the family I did. My third book, The Boat (yet to be published), my first attempt at fiction, was inspired by my two best friends from junior high and high school. We shared this dream of building a boat and sailing down the Mississippi River and on to the Caribbean. Although fiction, they, and events we shared growing up, are in the story. My fourth book, Lost Highway, was inspired by my father, my oldest son, and my nephew. It’s about a grandfather who realizes he’s dying, but sees in his troubled grandson himself at the same time in his life. In an effort to bond and assure his grandson he has a better future in front of him, the grandfather arranges for his grandson to go on a hunting trip with him and when they get rained out, they spend the entire day in an abandoned farmhouse; where the grandfather shares with his grandson his adventure of hitchhiking out to California at age seventeen and all the troubles he encountered along the way. A very poignant, heartwarming story that allows me to reminisce with each word I write. With a family like mine, I’ll never run out of things to write about.

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      1. It’s allowing me to tell much of my father’s story through the lens of fiction. I was fortunate to have him write some of it down for me before he died. He had a unique childhood and I believe people will find it interesting. The wonderful thing about fiction is that I’m able to take what he shared and build a story around it. Hitchhiking from Missouri to California back in 1952 wasn’t all that out of the ordinary, but today it seems so bizarre and unheard of.

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  2. Nice one Mom. Sound and sensible guidance. I would add in ‘Accountability’ being sure to credit material drawn from others writing. Keep it coming. Mike

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    1. Thanks Kathy! Yes, the old phone is circa 1933. It’s my beloved “Gramcracker” with her oldest, my dad seated on her lap. It’s probably my favorite pic ever 🙂

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      1. Kassie,

        Well, the two of you look so much alike. When my parents passed away, I found an old trunk with hundreds of old pictures that went back to the late 1800’s. I think the oldest was around 1870’s. I worked on the family tree and was able to have a picture of everyone in all the branches forward. Then I was able to follow the family back to Ireland mid 1700’s. I think it was one of the things I di that held me together after my parents died.

        Anyway, love that picture.

        Kathy

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    1. It’s a constant “thing.” When you aren’t doing an accountability check in~ it’s easy to have all of these 1-6 and then slowly let them leech away. Kind of like my beautiful dining room–if I don’t stay on it at least once a week, everyone turns it into a convenient dumping ground for jackets, kicked off shoes, unopened mail, stuff that needs to go back to Macys….

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  3. I’ve seen many lists about what writers need – yours is great! Individual, unique and everything you say is true! I’m picky when it comes to pens…love blue or black ink, but the point must be medium. They make my messy handwriting look neater!

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    1. Donna I’m a Lefty, I think that’s why I like pencil so much more! It washes off easily after hours of dragging my hand across the page :).
      I love this list too. It was fun listening to everyone describing the same things over and over in different ways. There are 7 of us in this group, and we average about 4 in attendance per meet up. We all check in via email with each other frequently though and try hard to keep everyone working at their goals. Some of us have full time high demand jobs, some are retired, a couple write full time, and about half are just beginning to write. We are the ultimate eclectic group I think–Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher,Retired, Writer, Adoption Consultant, and Me!

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  4. Love your list … I am writing a family history and it is always helpful when I get a small … or large … jolt of “Let’s get going!” For me, I have the tools (mostly, but I am always searching for more photos, stories, etc. about the family, which is a never ending quest … the space … and I am fairly organized, although others might not agree. Support I have as well. What keeps me going is inspiration … which I get from posts like this and cousins who now consider me the “family archives guru.” And what you call “accountability” I call “stick-to-it-ness.” When I need to find info I keep going until I exhaust the universe … then realign my schedule and get back to basics. Thanks so much for the nudge! Bob

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    1. Consider yourself Nudged Bob! It’s so easy to get distracted by all this stuff. I love the story writing though, because it gives me a way to turn off the frustration when I find myself in a blind alley. I don’t feel like I’ve given up…I’ve just changed channels for a while. And, I’ve also found that writing about the ones I can’t find, has served to get me a bit farther when another relative reads it and says…Oh! Well, I can solve that one for you…doors open when tales are told!

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  5. Good tools. Thanks, mom. 🙂 I presently lead a writers group sponsored by my church as a way to build relationships, make connection with other writers and encourage and support one another. It has been good for me, getting me away from my desktop and writing long enough to share some of my own, or listen to others what they are writing.

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      1. Yes. I think it is a camaraderie type experience to connect that way with ones who share the same passion in writing. The support and encouragement is essential I think to a writer.

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      2. Joyce you are right! I cannot tell you what a difference groups have made in my writing! You learn SO much from each other…even beginners. No, I take that back…MOSTLY from beginners! They take you back to the questions and problems you wrestled as a beginner and they remind you of the fulfilling journey it’s been to become a confident wordsmith 🙂

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  6. I just found your blog this morning and I love your name, Maybe Someone Should Write That Down. It cracked me up!

    I started a family stories blog about nine months ago as a way to make sure that the stories and facts I know and photos I have make it to future generations.It’s hard to get my family interested, but they’ll thank me some day!

    You have a great blog. Keep it up!

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    1. Dearest Mulberry~
      Start asking around the family about a controversial topic…that’ll get their attention!! For years, and I mean YEARS the generation above mine “kind of” knew the real family name, but didn’t really know how to spell it or how to really say it! When the last of the sibling set (my Grandfather) passed, his wife–my step grandma who I had always adored–finally let the cat out of the bag. Before then, everyone was so stonewalled, they gave up.

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  7. So helpful. I had a creative writing teacher named Mrs. Lartz call the space thing querencia. I guess it was a poetic use of the term though because I found it only used in context of bull-fighting. It makes sense though.

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    1. Dommy,
      I think Mrs Lartz was on to something~ at times, especially with kids, a cellphone, and the normal distractions of life, I feel like a Matador trying to defend my creative quirencia/space 🙂

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  8. What a fabulous list. Accountability is a particularly difficult one because, in my experience (maybe other people have found this not to be true–I hope), when you assign others to be the ones to report to, they start to fray under the “pressure.” If your group came up with some good ways to do this, I’d love to hear! Sharing on my Writer Site Facebook page because I am techno savvy. hahahahha (not)

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    1. Ha! I wish there was a magical formula for how we did it…the truth is not real glam! We had a pretty quiet meeting a few weeks ago, and decided to just start blurting out our dream scenario for writing. Then I got the job of distilling it all down into broad categories. It was a pretty enlightening exercise born from the need to fill an hour without resorting to idle chatter. It was one of those happy accidents. And, we were amazed at how we were all saying basically the same stuff !

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    1. Thanks for letting me borrow the dream! All of your photos have such beauty! I especially like the water droplets and the crazy array of mushrooms you find. It’s like you live in Hobbit-ville or Munchkin Land or some sort of enchanted place ❤

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      1. Thank you. I’ve just recently figured out that if I only pay attention when I’m going on my walks, it is almost like living in Hobbit-ville. But not so fairytale-like I’m afraid. It is the beautiful nature of Norway ❤

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