It was one of those days when everything that could go wrong did. You know the kind of days I'm talking about--when the kids are sick with the stomach flu, the fridge dies, your last pair of pantyhose rips as you're putting it on to go to an important meeting, and the power goes out all in the space of 24 hours. In my case, the Internet crapped out, my eyeglass prescription changed suddenly and dramatically (this coupled with my long-time optometrist, Dr. K, announcing that he was retiring) and I got a sty in my left eye that further affected my vision. What's a writer to do when then the combined forces of the universe and the Web conspire against her?
I went back to basics and picked up pen and notepad. The two essential tools no writer should be without.
At first I wasn't sure I still had the knack. My early writings were all done longhand. It was easier than typing on the old manual typewriter I used to own that, in the current era, places me in the Pleistocene Era in terms of how long I've been at this game. Back then, I carried a notebook with me everywhere. I did some of my best writing while cooling my heels at the dentist's or doctor's offices, or at the bus stop waiting for my kids' school busses. My handheld "device" was one that never crapped out on me. If a pen ran out of ink, I'd find a new one. No recharging required.
By the time I moved to New York City in the 1980's, I had upgraded to a electric typewriter. Still, my pen and notebook went everywhere I did. I rode the subway a lot in those days - schlepping to and from Manhattan and Brooklyn where I lived with my two kids - and being as iPads hadn't been invented, I did a lot of my writing the old-fashioned way. That was when I was writing titles for the wildly popular Sweet Valley High series. I wrote 5 of the first 12 titles and missed more than one subway stop, I was so busy scribbling away, lost to the world.
I wrote whole chunks of my first adult novel, GARDEN OF LIES, longhand, whenever I couldn't be at my desk, and that book went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Maybe it was partly due to pen & ink?.
But that was then and this is now. It had been decades since I wrote more than grocery lists or well wishes in greeting cards, so I wasn't sure if this particular skill set was like riding a bicycle - as in you never forget how - or like my Spanish language skills which have grown rusty with time and disuse. The former, as it turns out. It was like riding a bike. The minute I put pen to paper, the ideas started to flow. I felt a renewed energy and forgot about my fuzzy eyesight. Before I knew it, I was halfway through my book outline.
Something else I remembered along the way: It's sometimes best not to have ease of editing like you do with a computer. I tend to overthink and can spend an hour snagged on a few paragraphs or a single page, polishing & perfecting. This is a bad habit I need to break, and one shared by other authors I know from talking to them. In penning longhand, I can leave all thoughts of editing aside and let a cross-out or note scribbled in the margin suffice.
These days, I travel as often by plane as by subway. Next trip I go on, I'm taking a pen & notebook so I can work in-flight without having to juggle for space for my laptop in Coach or worry about my battery running out of juice before I land. It'll give me a bit more room between the armrests. Now, if only I could create more legroom, all my problems would be solved.
Newsflash: The publication date for Book 2 of my Cypress Bay mystery series, SWIMSUIT BODY, has been set for June 7th. Only a little more than 3 months away! More details and links to come. Stay tuned.
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