Five things a writer can’t do without

Do you write? Novels? Non-fiction? Grocery lists? Then you already know, there are things you as a writer can’t do without.

While I join the country in awaiting election results—I haven’t breathed in recent weeks—I decided to focus on gratitude as I write.

I thought of five things I count on everyday (and I’m not counting my very tired and worn-out laptop) that make my creative life easier.

To write INN BY THE LAKE, coming out in December—have you heard?—I spent lots of time poring over this map. And I already knew the area well/

1-Google maps. Where is my story set? I am always checking the locations of the places in my stories. How far away are they? How long would it take to get to Point B from Point A? By car? By horse? By boat? What if my Civil War heroine had to walk? I look for historic maps to help me imagine my characters in their own time and place but Google maps serves as a great resource.

2-TUL pens. My husband bought me a set of these for Christmas last year and I don’t think I’ll ever use another pen. They write smoothly and quickly. I’m a longtime reporter who scribbles notes very fast‚ if illegibly. So pens matter. These aren’t fancy. They’re from Office Depot. PS–That was not an ad. I get nothing for touting their excellence–except joy.

Of course, I use calendars for appointments, to schedule blog posts and Twitter campaigns but sometimes just knowing the day of the week makes a difference when I’m writing a story.

3-Calendar. Whether my story is happening in 2020 (oh, the misery!) or 1862 (oh, a different kind of misery!) I need to know the dates. When do things happen? What day of the week? What season? Is the moon full? Calendars are full of data that inform my story. They keep my timeline straight, usually, and help me sometimes they even affect the storyline. When I realized a chapter was happening in the middle of winter, I had to create a winter scene with biting wind and painfully frozen hands. It makes a difference.

Much as I like in-person writers’ meetings, I’ve had to make do with the virtual ones.

4-Other writers. I have my tribe that meets online every single morning. We usually write but sometimes we share personal updates or just say “Good morning” before heading into the rest of our day. I rely on several groups of writers for their advice about craft and dedication, including Writers in the Storm, Romance Writers of America and my local Maryland Romance Writers. These are some of the people who act as my mentors and guides, my cheerleaders and my fans. I hope I offer them as much advice and rah-rah spirit as they provide for me.

There’s treasure buried here. And the librarians have the maps to find it.

5-The library. Always have to give a shout-out to the knowledgeable librarians who can point me to the right resource, a great book, a reference item I never would have found on my own. Sure, the internet is great but it’s vast and sometimes unreliable. I use it a lot–it’s really my only choice until the libraries open up. But tomorrow I’m heading to the Maryland Center for History and Culture’s H. Furlong Baldwin Library and I can’t wait to get documents in my hands that I know will make all the difference in the Baltimore-based historical novel I’m working on.

That’s my list of five essential things. I wonder…what five things do you need in your creative life?

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