How I Write

I write slowly. On purpose. With purpose. I write all my preliminary notes, jottings, and first draft in longhand on yellow lined paper with a fountain pen. Always. Writing with a fountain pen slows me down, which gives me the opportunity to think more as I write. What’s next? Is there a better way to say this? Sure, I want to let the words and ideas flow, but I tend to do some editing as I draft. And with a fountain pen, there there’s always a pause at the end of page, as I wait for the last line of words to dry before I flip the sheet to the other side.

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Writing with a fountain pen is also part of my ritual when I write. Selecting the pen I’ll use, as well as the color ink. For me, it’s so much more satisfying than using a Bic with its end pitted with teeth marks.

When I’ve written four or five pages of a nonfiction chapter, for example, I swivel my chair from my desk to my iMac and type the pages into Word, again editing a bit as I type. I need to put my draft into Word soon after I write a handful of pages because it makes it more likely that I’ll be able to read what I’d written. My penmanship is often unruly, so going to Word soon after I’ve written is critical.

And that’s the early part of the process for me: fountain pen on yellow pager to Word, then back to my fountain pen for my next short installment. Every time I type a page of my draft, I drag a slash of blue highlighter down the sheet, my signal that that pages is safely in Word.

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Of course, once all my pages are in Word, then the hard work begins: revising and rewriting, the part of the process that I like the least. But it really is what good writing is all about. So, I revise, reading with pen in hand—a ball point will do for this—looking for words that I can change or cut, sentences to streamline, paragraphs that belong in a different part of the chapter. Once I have made those changes in the doc, I print the chapter and give it time to rest in a folder—a day or two—then read it again, pen in hand, tweaking until the chapter becomes the best I can write. Then I’m back at my desk facing another blank yellow sheet, fountain pen in hand.