I write, mostly, to find things out. To see how characters react. To see how a situation pans out. To see how different the story in my head is to the actual story. And I write for fun. And money. And, sometimes, to feel better.
What do I write with? For the past few years it’s been a fountain pen for first drafts. A Pelikan. A black one with a gold nib at the moment and for the foreseeable. With brown ink inside it. Well, I say brown, it’s actually exactly not far from the colour of dried blood, but a bit prettier.
I used to have this idea that I’d use different pens and inks and things for different stories and characters and things. But that didn’t work because, mostly, I don’t have a clue who a story’s about or what’s going to happen before the story’s done (and changing ink colour can be a bugger – I think I’m a bit OCD about that: it CAN’T BE MIXED!) so now I use my one pen, with the ink I like. And, so far, that’s worked great.
Everything I write first draft (fiction, that is – this is being written straight onto a computer, as are blog posts and other such bits) goes into a Moleskine notebook. It can be a red or a black one but it has to have blank pages. Lined just won’t do. You see, I have to take over the page and I need nothing there before I start – blank canvas and all that. Plus, my writing’s far too messy to fit between lines.
And the Moleskine’s not a posing thing (neither is the pen, for that matter, they’re both tools, albeit pretty ones). It’s not there to make me look like a writer. I use them because they’re good, reliable and sturdy and because I know that the pages can handle ink.
I like how holding a pen feels. When it’s not being physically put to paper – when I’m thinking, it gives me something to fiddle with, to twiddle or to tap. When I am writing I don’t feel it – and I think that’s absolutely important because the less resistance between brain and paper there is the better. That means there are less things getting in the way.
But the pen and the notebooks are only for first drafts. Then they get typed up. I use a laptop which is on a cradle and a separate Cherry keyboard so my back doesn’t suffer any more than it needs to. And I think the typing up’s the most enjoyable part of the process – well I think it is for short fiction – because that’s where things change. I’m rarely satisfied with a first draft. I’ll know there’s work to do on it to make it okay or, sometimes, good. And it’s the space between the messy first draft and the Official Document where that change occurs – I edit and tweak a huge amount as I’m typing up – it’s as though, suddenly, it’s become a lot clearer. It’s that space that allows a story to grow.
Your last two questions are really difficult to answer. [tell me about when then connection between your writing self and your hand is strongest - what do you use to write with then? what satisfies you, the deepest you, the most?] The writing that satisfies me the most, I think, is good writing. And that’s not something I can see (because it’s not bloody there!!) while I’m writing, it’s something I can only see, if I’m lucky and if it is there, once I’ve finished. So that part’s actually properly detached from the creating part of things.
And I think that when the connection between my writing self and my hand is the strongest actually has more to do with my brain and chance than it does with my pen; that’s the part I mentioned before, the part when I don’t feel the pen, when things are just happening, when I’ve caught the wind. Must admit, I wish I’d catch the wind a little more often than I do!
Nik Perring is a short story writer, author and workshop leader. His short stories have been widely published in places including Smokelong Quarterly, 3 :AM, Ballista, Metazen, Espresso Fiction and Word Riot. He blogs here and his website's here.