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  • Rosemary Gemmell

Writing with Pen and Paper

I’ve long been a fan of writing with pen and paper when out and about and was even interviewed a couple of years ago by Tiger Pens! They kindly sent me the gift of one of their cartridge pens in return. Authors usually have a preferred way of getting the words down and this is mine.

When beginning a new novel, I write down the main characters’ names, ages and brief description in a notepad before going anywhere near the computer. I don’t plan anything about the actual story, preferring to let the characters take shape as they grow and interact with each other, but I'll jot down anything that occurs as I progress.

A pen and notebook are usually beside me when reading magazines in case I find anything of interest, or items to check out at a later date, and I also collect interesting quotes. With articles, I write down all the information necessary onto a notepad before shaping it into a finished piece on the computer.

I particularly love using a pen and paper in cafés or on trains. It’s so much more convenient to carry a notebook and a couple of pens around in a handbag rather than lugging around a laptop or tablet and it gives me a rest from electronic devices when outside. Pen and paper are more discreet and don’t attract the same attention as typing onto a laptop. I don’t have the Internet on my phone, by choice, as I spend enough time on social media and would be too easily distracted.

I’m increasingly convinced that writing in this way provides a more direct line to creativity. It amazes me how the writing flows more fluidly, as though the ideas in my head connect with getting the words onto the paper. Perhaps being out of the home environment adds to this feeling. I could be writing a shopping list, as far as anyone else is concerned! I usually prefer a fine ballpoint to a pencil, and at one time it had to be blue ink, but I’ve now adapted to black ink and can more or less use any decent pen.

I’ve always written poetry onto paper first as I think it’s one of most creative forms of writing and this allows me to experiment with different words and lines until I’m happy with it. The computer seems to form a kind of barrier to expression sometimes – but it’s fine for redrafting and typing out the finished result. An added bonus is that writing by hand seems to stop me procrastinating so much. No emails or social media calling to me.

Like most writers, I’m addicted to notebooks and have a good variety of sizes and styles – some for handbags, some for keeping a record of ideas, and yet another for listing submissions and acceptances. I fill copious pages of small notebooks when out and about and usually shove them in a drawer until I can enjoy going through them all to sort the ideas from the notes and references.

The recent lockdown has interrupted my café visits and train journeys but I love sitting with my pen and paper taking notes while reading magazines or watching TV. It might have slowed the progress of my latest novel but at least I’m still adding ideas and research notes!

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