Accessories of the Damned
My MacBook is four years old, and I bought it refurbished. When you see it, there's no doubt this laptop has been put through the wringer. It smells of coffee and cigarette smoke. There's grit between the keys. The edges are cracked. It's not pretty but it gets the job done.
I mention this not because I'm trying to wax poetic about my computer. (Although given a chance I'd do just that.) Instead, I bring it up because I often hear new writers talking about the shiny new MacBook Air or the iPad they bought in preparation for writing their first novel. They'll also talk about the office they spent hundreds of dollars redecorating so they had the right environment in which to woo their muses. Others buy every book on writing ever written. They read all of them before they've ever written a word. They also usually get so freaked out that they never try.
In short, they're feathering their nests before they've even got eggs to lay.
The truth is that writing, despite publishing's current high tech revolution, is now and always has been a low tech endeavor. Got a pen? A crayon? A cocktail napkin? A paper bag? You're golden. Obviously this is a bit of an understatement because when it comes time to try and get something published you'll really appreciate the convenience of a good word processor and email. But do you really need to sink two grand on the latest laptop to write that novel?
The answer, of course, is no. When you're starting out, all those writerly totems are really just procrastination. They're a masquerade. You can't accessorize your way into being a writer. You think, hey, Hemingway used Moleskines--maybe there's something magical about that paper that will make me brilliant too. Sorry but no. Writing isn't magic. It's damned hard work.
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway said to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
That's a lot of wasted, expensive Moleskine pages.
Sure, professional writers do tend to have odd little predilections or preferences, little rituals that help them get in the right headspace for work. These comforts make enduring the word marathons easier. I, for example, prefer blue medium point pens and wide-ruled legal pads when I'm brainstorming. But if they're not available, I can't just throw my hands up and retire to my fainting couch. I have work to do.
My point is that if you want to write, just write. Putting off starting because you think you need the latest gadget or because you can't afford that writing seminar yet or because ZOMG Waterman ran out of the refill on your pen--it's all bullshit. You can buy all the tweed jackets with leather elbow patches you like. You can smoke cigars and drink whisky and whore around like your heroes, but until you use those experiences as fodder for your story, you're not a writer. Writers write. Period.
So, no, I won't be shelling out the money for a new Macbook anytime soon. This one is perfectly fine, thanks. And my office? It's nice, but I prefer sitting at my dining room table because I'm closer to the coffee pot.
A couple of weeks ago, Vicki Petterson said something that stuck with me. "Have you written today? Then you're a writer."
Well? Have you?