When I moved away from home for the first time, my father gave me a toolkit. Hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc…he believed that these were essential items that no one, not even an eighteen year old girl living in a dorm room, could live without. He was right. When someone came down the hallway of the dorm, begging at every open door for a measuring tape, I had them covered.
I still have a few of those tools, but over the years, as I’ve spent endless hours at my computer, I’ve developed a toolkit of a different kind. My writing toolkit.
Most every writer has one, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes the things that go into a toolkit aren’t even permanent, but they’re just as important to the writing process as anything that gets carried around for years as a good luck charm.
For example, let me tell you what was in my toolkit in November when I was writing my book.
1) Tiny plastic princess crown. My friend Suzanne Lazear (whose first book will be published in August) gave me this a few years back; I don’t know why, but I write better when I’m wearing it.
2) Blue Writing Ninja. Again, a tiny toy that I got this year at the first NaNoWriMo write-in I attended. He sits on my laptop, kicking his tiny leg as if he’s keeping my thoughts in line while I write.
3) English breakfast tea with a touch of cream and half a package of sugar. My standing order at the coffee shop in Pasadena where I wrote a good chunk of the book. It’s got caffeine, but it’s not too sweet or heavy.
4) Music. While I love finding the perfect music for my projects, I was never able to write with music playing until this year when I started attending write-ins. I needed something to cover the muzak and the sound of people talking. What did I listen to writing this book? That’s another post for another day:)
5) Thesaurus. Self-explanatory. My WP program doesn’t have one built in, so I gotta do it the old-fashioned way.
6) Inspiring images. The wallpaper on my laptop always reflects some aspect of my current project. Unless I’m just in the mood to look at a really hot guy that day.
7) Vitamins. You can’t write if you’re sick, so I make sure that I chew my two gummies every day. What? They’re for adults!
8) Chris Baty’s “No Plot? No Problem!” For some reason, having this book nearby helped keep me going. There’s a lot of great advice and fun tips to keep the words flowing. (Getting to meet him at a Hollywood write-in and having him sign my copy of his book was one of the highlights of my year.)
9) A printed copy of the book. Megan Crane gave me this idea, to print out the previous day’s pages before the start of each writing day. Not to edit them or even read them, but just to see the physical manuscript grow. It’s unbelievably encouraging.
10) Write or Die. My friend Alison Diem introduced me to this software. You can find it at writeordie.com, and while you can use the online version for free, the downloaded version is only ten bucks and they will be some of the best ten bucks you will ever spend. This program helped me push out so many words in November; it forces you to meet a word goal within a time limit. If you stop writing, the screen turns red, annoying music plays, and eventually, the words you have written start erasing themselves. You have no choice but to write.
There is one thing in my toolkit that is so invaluable that I can’t even really count it on this list. It’s something I carried with me all month long, something I will hopefully never, ever lose.
The support of my family and friends, from my parents to my brother to my FB pals to my NaNoWriMo leader, Sara, to my fans on FF.net. Having people who love you and believe in you, who cheer you on every step of the way, is absolutely essential.
And I am so grateful to have that in my life.
Do you have a writing toolkit? What’s in yours?