How To Write When There Are Others Around, Part IV — 1 More from Darcy Pattison

 Literature Blogs

In Darcy Pattison’s “Fiction Notes,” she addressed this very topic this week. There are too many other people to list who have also given suggestions. Gee. Sounds like a book idea! Wait. There are probably lots of books concerning how to write when there are others around.

One of Darcy’s suggestions is to use pen and paper. I do this so much — even journaling daily in marble notebooks — that I think about this suggestion about as much as I think about being a woman, i.e., it just is a part of me. So, thank you, Darcy, for rattling my brain a bit.

Not long after Hurricane Katrina struck, I headed south on a mission trip with PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance). For the first few days, I helped cut trees and drag branches to the roadside for later pickup and became spotty with gnat and mosquito bites. During our shade-and-drink breaks, I’d whip the small notebook and pen from my back jeans pocket, and write furiously until we started up again. Then, during the leaders meeting, the director of the camp asked if anyone had a writer in their group — to work on the website, write down stories, etc. My fearless leader’s hand shot up, indicating that I was the only one in the group of 90-some volunteers there at that time who was “a writer.” One man from NJ who’d worked with me and the trees that week, confessed he wondered why I hid behind tree trunks scribbling all the time.

The next day, I was left alone in the tent camp, except for my gnat and mosquito friends, staring at the computer. The wall-canvases were pulled to the poles so I could look over my lonely territory. I stared at the screen, tried to organize my notebook thoughts, feeling lonely and deserted and wondering how I could stand the pressure of being the lone writer, and what I would write about first, when who wandered into the shade of my tent, but the big honcho in charge of all PDA camps in the area. Interview time!

I had lots to share with him from my scribbles to bring him up to current speed of the camp, and he gave me lots more to write about, dealing with the camp’s short history.

Robert Louis Stevenson (one of my literary heros) always carried pencil and pad with him and scribbled away notes and snatched bits of conversation. Of course, this was pre-notebook (computer) days. But there are many times when technology is unavailable even today. So… keep those notebooks and journals and a couple of pens (in case one runs out of ink on you) handy.

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4 thoughts on “How To Write When There Are Others Around, Part IV — 1 More from Darcy Pattison

  1. I really like this bit of advice. It’s in those stolen moments when I get story ideas, develop plots, etc. I need to learn to write them down, rather than keep them in my head, where I may or may not remember them when I actually sit down to write at my computer.

    Of course, as many of these stolen moments happen when I’m driving, maybe that’s not a good idea, either…

  2. Yes, write them down before they disappear. No, don’t do it while you’re driving — UNLESS you live in West River South Dakota where the roads are straight for dozens of miles without a sign of another vehicle. Oh. Opps. I didn’t just encourage anyone to write while driving, did I? Bad, bad Sandy. Here in Michigan, there are so many people on the roads that I can’t do anything else but drive. Good thing, eh?

  3. The ONLY problem I seem to have with pen and paper is when I write things down on bits of paper, and then have to search for where I put those brilliant thoughts — i.e., when I’m not carrying my journal with me for some reason, like, when I’m motorcycling, or swimming, or hiking mosquito-infested Michigan forests and need both hands free to brush away the hungry little critters.

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