Recipe for a writer

To fashion oneself into a writer, first assemble your tools.

Pens – I am extremely fussy about pens and haven’t found one I really like in about three years. I like black bic medium biros with the pointy lids. I like strong, bold, penstrokes – not the anaemic writing you get from many biros now. I sometimes write with those felt-tippy ones but they mean everything I have including the cream sofa is now covered in Rorschach-style blots.  People often give me fancy pens for gifts and they instantly run out and I can never manage to find the right refill. My pens also seem to burst on me suspiciously often, unleashing gallons of ink (how does it all fit in?) at inopportune moments (such as in a job interview). If anyone can find me a nice, strong, non-leaking pen, please help.

Notebooks – I like something thick, side spiral-bound, A5, with a sturdy cover and binding, wide ruled lines, ideally a pocket in the cover to shove stuff in, and an elastic band round the whole thing. Got that? I like Paperchase ones best (feel free to send me some for free, Paperchase bods). I worked out I write about 150 words to a page in one of these, so that gives me a good indication of word count when I’m at the early writing stages.

Computer – if you commute like me you need the lightest one you can get. Mine weighs less than a bag of sugar but I still have chronic back and shoulder pain, maybe because I carry round skip-like handbags with four books, hairbrush, deodorant, purse, laptop, notebook, diary…etc. If the laptop’s your home computer too get an external mouse. For the moment I seem to have sidestepped serious RSI by doing this.  Don’t rely on your computer alone for storage because they can and do die on you, so you need…

Memory sticks – at least four thousand, just to be sure. Back your work onto all of them to avoid that late-night waking-in-a-sweaty-handed-screaming-terror that you’ve lost the lot. This has happened to me several times when laptops died or memory sticks failed. It does happen. And you won’t like it. You can get online storage ones but I couldn’t figure out how to use it and accidentally backed up an older version and lost a week’s work and threw a wobbly at my poor boyfriend who thought it would make a nice gift (sorry).

Then take everyone you’ve ever met, everywhere you’ve been in reality and dreams, that annoying sound your work colleague used to make in the back of their throat, the smell of the mimeograph machine in your primary school, snip in ideas from every book you ever loved.

Simmer for several years in a sweat of fear, sweat, tears, and tantrums and serve on a bed of crumpled inkstained paper.

Makes approximately one writer.

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