Friday, 5 July 2013

Talismans, Tokens and Tool belts

by Taryn Blackthorne

I’ve talked about how to squeeze in writing time in other blog posts, talked about what I’ve put in my tool box over the years (get your mind out of the gutter, Nikki), but what I haven’t ever put down is what I need to actually DO THE WORK. I guess this would be what I need in my tool belt. I’d be interested in what other people have in their tool belts as well, so please sound off in the comments!
1. Pen. Sounds obvious, but given that I’m a quirky writer (or person, whichever you prefer), it has to be a certain KIND of pen. My current obsession is a Bic soft feel retractable pen that I can only find in packs of four at Wal-Mart in sporadic intervals. I stock up when I can. They are cheap. They are plentiful. They are retractable so I am not frantically looking for the tops I spit out earlier after nearly choke on them. Yes, this really happened. No, I will not relive the details here for you. I will say it was in public, there were cute, available men there and not one of them gave me the Heimlich.
2. Notebook. Again, obvious, but I have to say it. They must be spirals (So I do not feel shame about butchering it as I skip ahead a few pages from my current outline to start a list about what I have to research while I rip out sheets to write character motivations and bits of dialogue I have floating around in my head or snippets of conversation I’ve overheard in the café I’m writing in) and they have to be full sized. Except when they aren’t. I know, I make no sense.
3. Computer. Given the first two, you may wonder about this one. I can type faster than I can write it out by hand. Yes, I felt the need to say that and no I do not use the hunt-and-peck method. Generally I write all my drafts on computer. But sometimes it just gets stuck and a pen and paper get things going again.  Then I have to type it in. Sometimes the computer stays in the bag; sometimes it’s all that I’m working on. Regardless, it’s my writer’s Blankie and I have to have it nearby.
4. Music. Picked this trick up when I was studying for my exams in high school. Music, for me, replicates the feelings that the characters are feeling. So of course I have specific rules for the type of acceptable writing music I must have. It must have no lyrics, it must be a steady enough beat that I can turn up my iPod and block out background conversations and it must be longer than eight minutes in length. Last night I was writing to a mash up from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack, but I had 45 minute running program by the Chemical Brothers on standby if that ever failed me (let us not discuss the Christmas Carols for Cranky Writer Witch playlist that I use in cases of EXTREME NEED ONLY).
5. Water. Except when I want tea, coffee, juice, iced coffee, lemonade, milkshakes or smoothies. Because it’s important to stay hydrated and I’m in this writing gig for the long haul.
Give me those five things, and I can write anywhere, any time. So what’s in your tool belt? Nikki, stop it. 

Taryn's birth as a Pen Monkey... She hooked her fifth grade teacher with a cliff hanger ending to a chapter and was thus sentenced to her 6th grade teacher because 'she wanted the writers'. It was the first time she had a moniker that didn't involve 'fat kid' and she embraced it for all she was worth. She swore vengeance by pen, absorbed novels like others did candy bars, and waited for the day when she'd moved from writer to author.

You can find her at: Website-


  1. Taryn, you know I'm all about the stationery. I order my pens online because I can't get them in stores anymore.

    Notebooks.File folders.Binders. All colour coordinated to go with each story. It's easier to find what I want that way.

    I also need the windows open, the fan on and the curtains fluttering in the breeze. Yes, even in winter (maybe I'm imagining that I'm at my cottage in the Canary Islands?)

  2. I had a friend in Northern Alberta who slept with the window open at least an inch all year round. It got down to -60.

    I'm invited to your cottage in the Canary Islands some day, right?

  3. Despite being nomadic in location, when I write I am also picky about pen, notepad, music, etc. It's all about the system which places you in the right frame of mind.

    And I propose a RWAC retreat in the Canary Islands. :D

  4. I need a "nice place" to write which generally means away from anyone who is tempted to read over my shoulder when I'm writing. I'm reasonably picky about pens and I've used spirals but I also like plain old scribblers just for writing (my kids seem to come home with unused ones every year from school). But for my planning - with pictures and character sketches and notes and what not? That notebook needs to speak to my very soul.

    And I'm officially in for the Canary Islands retreat. :)
    Anne, make it happen.

  5. I will try to keep it clean .. :)

    Oddly enough, my list is very much like yours. I need specific pens and a coil notebook with a pretty cover is my kryptonite. I also need music, although I'm okay with lyrics ... I change it up a lot ... but there's a lot of Coldplay, City & Colour and Bahamas goin' on right now.

    Great post Taryn!!

  6. About the same, except I like silence. Or a blur of background sound. If I need to block noise anything Baroque will do.

  7. Sounds like a good list to me!