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A Writer's Essentials: The Things I Cannot Do Without

Updated on March 18, 2010
dohn121 profile image

Dohn121 is a freelance writer who currently resides in the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York's famed Hudson Valley.

Robot-Inspired Flash Drive
Robot-Inspired Flash Drive

A Self-Testimonial

Over the years, a couple of people have asked me, "What does a writer need to write effectively on a daily basis?"  As most writers will tell you, WRITERS WRITE. Write well, write often, and write daily! The best way to do this is to write 500 words a day (hopefully those 500 words are polished). However, there are certain things that do aid me in my writing and in my pursuit of becoming published author. Now, I can't tell you what will work for you, but I can delve into what works for me. Your success may vary, so here goes...

Can you ever have enough pens?

I'll admit it, I really like stationary. I like using and buying highlighters to mark up my books and fine pens in order to write microscopic-sized notes in the margins. Why? Reference. I like to go back and see what I found previously, when writing a paper, a book review, or whenever I need an idea for a plot line. I usually find lots of parallels while reading a novel. Years ago, when trying to find the "perfect pen" for my needs, I stumbled across the Pilot Precise V7 Rolling Ball Pen and was instantly hooked. I'm sure you've seen these before. Just recently, I learned that author Natalie Goldberg, who wrote Writing Down the Bones swears by them. But she's not the reason why I've been using them for the better part of the last 15 years or so. I just find that they are easy and almost effortless to use, last a long time, and are somewhat affordable in comparison to some other pens out there on the commercial market. I usually buy them by the dozen, as it's the most cost-effective way to go about purchasing them. Having a bundle of legal pads lying around doesn't hurt either. I usually buy those in packs of twelve or so, as they are pretty cheap if you stick with the generic kind made by Office Depot or Staples.

It's said that such writers and artists including Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gough, Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway made use of Moleskines on a daily basis.
It's said that such writers and artists including Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gough, Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway made use of Moleskines on a daily basis.

Hemingway Had a Moleskine...

Moleskine (pron. mol-a-skeen’-a) is a popular brand of notebooks, planners, diaries, sketchbooks and albums manufactured by Moleskine Srl, an Italian company based in Milan. Moleskine notebooks are typically bound in oilcloth-covered cardboard, with an elastic band to hold the notebook closed, a sewn spine that allows it to lie flat when opened, cream colour paper, rounded corners, a ribbon bookmark, an expandable pocket inside the rear cover, all packed in a paper banderole.--Wikipedia

I take this little bad-boy with me wherever I go, especially on long walks. Sometimes at my public library or hangar-sized bookstore an idea will strike me and I'll scribble it down. The idea might come as a scene for a story or a line from a character. Either way, I'll record it in my Moleskine despite the fact I might not know just where it'll fit into my storyline. As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words," but to me, a single-sentence can spawn an entire novel if you can make connections in a story-web by ever-expanding scenes. One example of this is my story, The Absence of Aurora. At first, I just pictured a little girl being interrogated by two-bullish police officers, in which many questions surfaced: Why was she there? Where were her parents? What events led up to this scene? So from that, I was able to create an entire story by answering such questions rationally. The best thing to do is to not question any ideas you might have. Trust your instincts and scribble it down! Who knows, you just might have a bestseller one day just by doing so.

Keep a Journal

Writers Write, Right?

I've been keeping a journal for the last 15 years and it has paid off for me and not in the monetary sense (at least not yet). One of the books that was given to me and that was instrumental in my pursuit of becoming a writer was Dorothea Brande's, Becoming A Writer. In her book, she recommends that we all keep a daily journal and write in it every single day. After doing this everyday (including holidays, weekends, and in-climate weather) for six-weeks, you'll do it everyday for the rest of your days. Do this and some amazing things will happen. You'll discover that writing is now a part of you and a need that is crucial to your daily lifestyle and as important as eating and bathing. You'll wonder how your life was without doing so and will find that upon sitting down, your brain is prepared to write for you, believe it or not. Free-writing should not be a chore, but rather a freedom to vent. At least 15 minutes a day of journal writing will help to not only empty your mind of stress, but in time, help to find Your Voice. Writing long hand is the key. If you would like to know more about novel and journal writing, please read my hub titled, How to Write a Novel and Find the Voice Within.

Books to Peruse

What's In Your Arsenal?

I love books and my doing so certainly helps me to become a better and more effective writer. I've collected every single book I bought while in college and for birthday and Christmas, I always tell members of my family to give me books or gift cards from Borders or Barnes & Noble's. To be honest, I don't think I'll ever have enough of them. If possible, I try to have two copies of the same books--one to mark up and one to treasure. My best advice to those who want to write better is to read, read, read. I recommend reading at least one book a week, which will of course equate to at least 50 books a year, obviously. For all intents and purposes, you should read whatever subject matter you plan to write. For instance, if your planning to write a biography one day, it should behoove you to read a ton of biographies. Not only will this help you to write your biography, but this will also help you to know your competition. And if buying books by the boatload is not in your budget, you should make use of your public library. I certainly do.  Another option would be to buy used books online.  One of my all-time favorite sites is  I've bought many books from them and usually pay no more than a dollar for each book.  In some cases, you can receive free shipping on your orders as vendors there are very competitive.

Desktop, Laptop, or Netbook Computer

Apple MacBook Pro
Apple MacBook Pro

Please click to enlarge

Portability is the key here.  A USB Flash Drive is certainly a great way to carry your work wherever you go.
Portability is the key here. A USB Flash Drive is certainly a great way to carry your work wherever you go.
This is a Lexmark E238 laser jet printer which I actually own.
This is a Lexmark E238 laser jet printer which I actually own.

Technology Essentials

I'm guessing that you have a computer, but I may be wrong and if I am, you do have at least access to one. It really is amazing how far we've come in portability in such a short amount of time. Granted, we are in the 21st century, but nowadays, we really could consequently write an entire novel with just our phones! For instance, I have a Samsung Intrepid smart phone which has Windows Mobile 6.5 so allows me to write and edit my novel wherever I go. In addition to this, I can also send my entire novel as an attachment to anyone in the world with an email address which was impossible only a five years ago due to memory-capacity restrictions. Having a computer nowadays is certainly a must.

Before treating myself to a monochrome laser jet printer (the one shown is actually the exact one I own) I fought with loading and aligning paper just right so it wouldn't jam while printing. This printer was an absolute blessing as it prints up to 60 pages per minute without any smudges. I bought this printer three years ago and I'm still using the same toner cartridge! It makes my editing work so much easier.

Although my complete written works are saved on CD-Rs and as attachments to a couple of my other email accounts across the web, I still rely on a USB Flash Drive like the one you see here disguised as a robot.  I like how they are portable and easy to access on-the-fly.  They are also very cheap too, as you can buy a 1-Gigabyte USB Flash Drive for under $10 almost anywhere.  It's simply a great way to store and transport not only your written works, but your music, photos, and videos as well.

Don't ever underestimate a good, comfy swivel chair like this one while writing...Geez, talk about being well-red!

No day begins without my dark friend...Black, no sugar, no cream, no joke.

While in college, my professors beat my brains about buying a hardbound College Dictionary. I still use one to this day.

Take a hike! Seriously, a nice walk will clear your mind and reset your creativity. Comfortable sneakers work best.

Mirror, mirror...What do I see? If a writer writes then a writer I must be! (Sorry, Seuss moment)

A Shiba Inu Puppy

Find Your Muse...

Now, I can't tell what works and what doesn't, because I don't know you. One of my favorite quotes from the Wachowski Brother's movie, The Matrix is, "Know thyself." Only you are aware of the fire that burns inside of you. Find whatever motivation it takes for you to write, whether it be a photograph of your better half, your kids, or you pet Shiba Inu pup. Mine is the girl in my avatar.  You can either hang a the picture up on your computer, place it inside a picture frame, or use it as a wallpaper for your monitor so to constantly remind you of why you write. I wrote a hub detailing the reason why I write titled, Why I Write: A Reflection. Your propensity to write should equate to your success as a writer. I'm not telling you that my way is the correct way by any means, rather, I'm simply sharing with you what works for me, so stay the course and follow your dreams! Thank you for reading me.

Good luck with your writing and don't ever quit!

Please Enjoy...LOUD


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