Writers’ Desert Island Tools
Let’s imagine you’re cast away on a tropic isle and are still consumed with a burning desire to write. What do you take with you when you leave that burning ship and strike out for the beach? OK, the island has broadband – yes, and shops, let’s not push the analogy too far. My real question is, what are your writing essentials?
Whenever I go to a new place, I get a notebook. They fill up quickly with undisciplined scrawl, bullet points, sketches, floor plans, one-liners, jokes, new words, offbeat ideas and character outlines. The most usable of these get transferred to an online file that eventually becomes the outline for the next book. I think visually so I often draw characters and buildings to get the feel of the spaces they occupy. They’re not as nice as Guillermo del Toro’s notebooks, which are works of art, but they’re just as useful.
The black Pentel pen is the most adaptable pen I’ve ever used. I’ve been nervously twisting the clips off these since I was a teen, and still always have one either behind my ear or in my jeans pocket. They make good drawing or writing pens. I used an Apple pencil for a while but their use didn’t become instinctive to me. Then I cracked the screen of my iPad and couldn’t use it at all after that, so I went back to the trusty Pentel.
And despite advances in tech I’ve always returned to notebooks, which survive everything while technologies change. Here’s one I filled up in 1968.
It sounds idiotic to point out that the other key writer’s tool is a camera because you need to remind yourself how streets or people look, but I’m amazed how few writers do this. Here’s a photo I took of the Peculiar Crime Unit’s real-life office building. This way I can picture then shops and people surrounding it. My version has another couple of floors and is more run-down.
And here’s the artwork produced by Keith Page, loosely based on a viewing of the above site before it was renovated. This sketch appeared in ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’. I don’t know if anyone noticed what I did with the two titles of the missing cases books, ‘London’s Glory’ and ‘England’s Finest’?
I’m a Mac man, so my other necessity is my MacBook Air, which I prefer for speed and lightness, although I manage to kill them in record time. I record certain street sounds, buskers, or bizarre conversations on my phone. The best recording I made is 45 minutes long and is my extremely erudite and highly strung taxi driver ranting in a traffic jam about the hunting and capture of British serial killers.
What other items should amateur or professional writers deem essential, apart from this?