No Pen, Will Travel

Hello SEers! Mae here to chat about what else—writing. We all have our favorite spots for composing. Mine include my den (especially in the winter because it has an electric fireplace), and sitting outside on the covered patio in warm weather. Occasionally, I might camp out at the kitchen table with my Mac or pack up and head to my local library where I’ve been known to peck away at keys for hours.

I used to take my Mac with me when my husband and I traveled. I had visions of possibly typing out a scene or two on my WIP in the evenings. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that just doesn’t happen, so now my laptop stays at home.

√But I’m a writer, and a writer always has to have a means of capturing inspiration. Even when I carted my Mac around, I kept a paper notebook handy. On trips when we drive instead of fly, hubby is the one behind the wheel. I always have a notebook open to for jotting down place names I find interesting. Streets, businesses, towns, or anything that catches my eye.

If I find one I like, I usually mix it up, so I’m not using an actual location. Old Alfred Road (real) might become Old Henry Lane (fictional). Snake Root Road (real) could become Toad Root Road (fictional). Town names also make great last names, and finally there are odd locations that scream to be remembered. Like an old cemetery I saw in Maine, smack against the side of the road. There was no entrance. You pulled onto the shoulder and opened your car door on headstones.

Let’s also not forget actual writing. If you’re the passenger in a car on a long-distance drive, chances are you might have time for scribbling a few scenes.

When we visited Maine, I realized to my utter horror, I hadn’t packed a notebook. Somehow, I didn’t miss it on the drive up, probably because I was too busy being the navigator, but once we arrived at our destination sans notebook, I was mortified. My husband didn’t get the issue at first. I had to explain that a writer never goes anywhere without a notebook. After that we made a special trip to the nearest store (a good 9-10 miles away) where I was able to pick up a steno pad. And boy did that thing get a workout. I used it to scribble copious notes for my last NaNoWriMo project.

After the notebook debacle, you’d think I’d be better prepared next time, right? But on a recent trip to the beach, I swapped my larger purse for a smaller one I use when we travel. I have minimal room but enough space for ID, cell phone, glasses, Kleenex, a comb and a pen. Guess what I forgot?

closeup of lined notebook with pen on topNo pen, will travel. So, we’re about a half hour into the trip, when I pull out my steno pad—because I learned my lesson in Maine—only to realize I hadn’t brought a pen. Duh! When we checked in at the hotel, guess what I asked for first? It’s amazing how something so simple—the desk clerk providing a pen—made me so happy. Only another writer would get that. We capture ideas like a dream catcher captures dreams.

What are some of the odd places you’ve scribbled notes because you’ve found yourself without a tablet? What happens when you have paper but no pen or pencil—because, guaranteed—you know that’s when inspiration will strike like a thunderbolt.

Maybe I need to start dictating on my cell phone. But when it comes to scribbling or brainstorming, I’m old school. Give me a pen and paper and I’m happy. What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Ready, set go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

 

 

89 thoughts on “No Pen, Will Travel

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    • Woohoo! I’m in total agreement with you. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. And I wish you happy and prolific scribbling on paper. Old school still rules, LOL!

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  2. Off hand I can’t remember the page number but there is a section in my first book that I wrote on the back of several receipts.

    It was a place in the novel that my editor and I were having trouble piecing together. One day I’m sitting in the van while my wife was in a store. All of a sudden I made the connection. I found an old pen, several receipts hidden under the seat and wrote away.

    I still have a good laugh whenever I read that page. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a cool story, Bryan! When inspiration strikes like that you have to make do with whatever is available. Good thing you had some receipts lying around. That is definitely a unique share, LOL!

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  3. Notepad on my phone. Seriously, my notepad is filled with hundreds of notes, most usually just saying something like ‘red car – fat tyres’ or something crazy that I have little chance deciphering months after writing it! But I do have some decent fleshed out ideas from weird times when inspiration hit and I didn’t have any other way or writing it down (like waiting at the doctor’s office – that’s the best place for inspiration)!
    Seriously, start using notepad!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Note to self: most everyone is using Notepad. Must start. 🙂

      Sounds like I really need to start making use of that app, Jess. Between you and so many others, it appears to be the go-to source to use.
      I take my Kindle when I go to the doctor’s office to pass the time. Maybe I need to start looking around for inspiration. I could see a red car with fat tires, LOL! Love your notes! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As a lot of my inspiration strikes while I am driving, I used to find myself having keep stopping in laybys to jot down notes, making me late to arrive at my next client. I solved this by never going anywhere these days without a Dictaphone – now I can simply vocalise my thoughts even when I’m driving! And for place names, I just snap a photo – technology wins in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make excellent use of technology. I get struck with ideas while driving as well, especially if it’s a longer drive. I’ve never thought about dictating while driving. I should probably give that a try. After all—good ideas always strike in the car, the shower, or at 3:00 AM in the middle of the night, LOL.
      And I love the idea about snapping a photo. I did do that with a lot of places in Maine, including that very odd cemetery I mentioned!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. A writer without pen and paper is like a writer without hands!! I so understand and we once had to make a trip to a store for a notebook as well. I panic at the thought of being without one or the other. I have two or three pens in each purse and a small notebook in every purse just in case. I have written many chapters while in the car or on a train, bus or plane. I seem to get my best ideas then. A great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You sound prepared, Darlene. Extra pens are also a great point, because I’ve already been in the situation where the one I was using ran out of ink. And what would we do without those stores when we’re sans notebook? I bet you’re like me and never forgot one again, LOL.
      Planes are also a great place for inspiration. I’ve done some writing on flights as well.
      So glad you enjoyed the article!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    How do you take notes or keep track of your writing ideas? Check out Mae Clair’s post on Store Empire today, and find out how she does it. An interesting and eye-opening post for me, for sure. Hope you’ll pass it along for others to ponder, thanks. And thanks to Mae for making me realize something I hadn’t even though about before. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I admit that I have dictated to my phone when I had no other means of capturing a thought, a line, a character’s name or story idea. But, like you, I always try to have at least a pocket-sized notebook and pen on hand at all times. I do all of my writing in my office. And I like complete quiet when I write. If I try to listen to music, I find the words to songs running through my head instead of storylines. Great post, Mae! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m the same way with music, Jan. If it’s instrumental, I’m okay, but anything with lyrics is way too distracting. And knowing your connection to music, I’m sure it’s even more so for you.
      I want to try using the dictation feature on my phone. And make better use of apps. Although I am a pen and paper person when it comes to brainstorming, I’ve been caught without either enough times to realize I need a backup, LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

      • LOL! I know a few people who are like that, Yvette. I don’t like to listen to my voice but I have gotten used to it over the years, so I can tough that part out. I need to play with the Notes app more. I haven’t been making use of it and it seems that a lot of others find it helpful!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Great post, Mae! I use a pen and a notebook to jot down ideas when and as the need strikes me. I find this seems to happen in the very early hours of the morning much of the time. I have to admit that deciphering what I’ve written is akin to reading hieroglyphics when the fog lifts and the sun rises. Sigh. I need absolute quiet when I write, with no distractions, which is a little difficult when a certain rescue kitten decides it likes playing with my pen and hiding it in the strangest of places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Between your “hieroglyphics” and your rescue kitten, you have me laughing, Soooz. You are clearly an early bird (or lark) who has a surge of creative energy in the morning. For the most part I am the same. But that cute little guy who likes playing with your pen has his own energy in the mornings, LOL.
      For the most part, I need quiet when I write, but I’m okay with instrumental music. Anything with lyrics spoils my “zone.” And forget TV. Just not going to happen, LOL.
      Happy writing!

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  9. I used to take my latop on vacations, too, Mae. I rarely do now, but my journal always goes with me. I would be lost without it. Yes, my pen would be my very first quest if I didn’t have one. In a pinch I’ve write myself an email with some passing ideas. If I don’t get it down right away it’s gone. Great subject xo

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My steno pad and pen(s) go with me everywhere (almost)… I have a tiny flip notepad and pencil tucked in my fanny pack–perfect when walking or hiking trails. By the way “Snake Root Road” is not far from us–we’ve cut across it many a time. Have a great weekend, Mae!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wow, you know Snake Root Road, Bette? That is so cool! And yes, I found that name in Maine, LOL. You’ve got some great roads and places up there. The cemetery smack against the side of the road still boggles my mind.
      I like that you take something with you when you walk or hike trails. That is one place I have never carried pen and paper, but after reading your comment, I may have to rethink that!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Good one, Mae. I always have a notebook handy. Most likely I have my Mac as well. The last scribble session took place at the airport. I was waiting for my sister and her flight was delayed. We had agreed to meet in baggage claim and I was deeply into a scene when she walked up to me. I didn’t even sense her presence. “You busy?” she asked. Damn near gave me a heart attack.

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  12. I also carry a notebook and pen around with me as well as two laptops in their backpack, two iphones and an iphone. I often write poems during boring admin work meetings as it helps keep me sane and I plot outlines during lunch hours and the odd coffee break. Hmmm! I sound a bit nutty, but I never claimed to be normal, did I?

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL. I think most writers are a little “off”. Robbie….although–wow!–you really carry a lot of stuff to make sure you have the capability to write whenever and wherever. I do some brainstorming on coffee breaks and lunch breaks, and admit there are times in meetings when it would be a nice distraction. I love how prepared you are!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I keep 3 x 5 cards and pens in my purse. We keep pens and 3×5 cards in our car, too. We like to go for Sunday rides when we’re antsy to get out of the house, and it’s surprising how many times I’m enjoying being a passenger and a fix comes for a writing bump I’ve reached. When your mind drifts, sometimes it finds great twists and turns for your story:) I know your pain, though. Every once in a while, my hubs uses the last card, and then I have to scramble to find something to write on, even if it’s my hand. For some reason, written notes work better for me than anything else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, Sunday drives! I used to love them when I was a kid. I think it’s very cool you still do them. That’s a great time for daydreaming and story inspiration. I like your idea of 3 x 5 cards. Those are easy to carry and store. And being married to a writer, your husband should know, NEVER use the last card, LOL.

      I’m also like you when it comes to notes and brainstorming—writing them down on paper works best for me. I think it goes back to when I was a kid and that’s how I started every story I wrote! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Some days I wonder how I ever got going on this book writing thing. While I’ve dreamed up stories all my life, I have never, ever carried a notebook with me to jot things down. I see something I want to write about (like a deserted cabin alongside a mountain road) and later I sit down at the computer and start. I have, on rare occasions, dictated a quick thought to my phone, like “Start CH 3 today,” but that’s it. It all happens when I sit down in front of that monitor. I see the story taking shape in my head and start typing. Later into the story, I might also type a What-If sheet as a bit of brainstorming on a plot point, but mostly, I just start telling the tale. (My handwriting has gotten so bad, I can barely read a grocery list, anyway.)

    I never thought about it before, but after reading the comments above, I now feel decidedly weird. But that’s how it is. It all happens at the computer, and I just start at the beginning and keep writing until I get to the end, with plenty of stops along the way for research on various topics, or for name searches. But no handwritten notes at all. Ever. Urk. Embarrassing. 😯

    Liked by 5 people

    • Whatever works for you is ideal, Marcia. Sitting in front of the monitor is what inspires your creativity. I wonder if that’s because you started writing later in life when you were already acclimated to a computer. When I first started crafting stories, it was with pen and paper at a very young age. I think that’s why I always go back to pen and paper when it comes to the brainstorming process. Just looking at a notebook in an office supply store gets me jazzed about story possibilities. I bet if I started on a PC, I’d probably feel differently. Do you think that could have anything to do with it?

      In the end, however, it’s whatever works for you and gets the story process flowing. I always love hearing how different authors work differently. It’s fascinating!

      I forgot to mention I hand write all my research notes too because I retain them better. Goes back to my school days, LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wrote poems on legal pads when I was five, and scribbled poetry on paper in high school, but only for myself. And even then, I never took notes. But you are right that I was well adapted to my computer and social media when I decided it was time to write a book for publication, so it was a natural thing for me. I’d been blogging for 14 or 15 years at that point, and used to writing posts for others to read, so I guess it makes sense. I still don’t jot down ideas or take notes anywhere, though. When I want to write, I sit at my desk and think about whatever idea struck me most recently. If it’s something I want for a book, I look for some inspiration photos, then just start typing.

        Once again, it’s been brought home that we are each very different in how we write, why we write, what we write, and where we write it, down to the implements we prefer to use. An eye-opening post, Mae! And now I’m not feeling quite like such a dolt. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very interesting. So you did use paper and pencil, but not in the way I may have expected. I think we discussed in my post on learning that you are not necessarily a reading/writing learner. I think you were audio or visual, which kind of factors into this too. You look for inspiration photos (visual), and when you’re ready to go, you’re off.

        Whereas I have to write things down. Isn’t it cool how different writers work, and also how our learning style factors into what we do. Great discussion, Marcia!

        Liked by 1 person

      • PS, Mae, I am 50-50 on the visual/verbal thing. I learn either way, comprehend just fine from reading instructions, looking at pictures, or being told. When I was a kid or in high school, paper was all you had. If you wrote, that’s what you used, though it was your choice between pen and typewriter. I used typewriter by high school, pens and pencils before. But note taking, idea jotting down, etc, seems to be something I’m not real interested in. I see something that I think is interesting and just go home and fire up the computer. If I have to look up numbers or dates (which I HATE & can’t remember for anyhing), I’ll type those up (or cut and paste from Google) & file the doc in a folder on my computer. I will confess that as I get older, the memory is not as good as it was even 5 or 6 years ago, so the day may come when notes will factor more and more into my process. I have no problem with using them if I need ’em. 😀 Whatever works, as we know!

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      • I’ve found that the older I get the harder it becomes retaining information (or learning new information), which is discouraging. I’ve always been academically inclined and to see a change in how I retain and learn is just—-BLECH! I still do fine, but it’s an eyeopener learning about this aging thing. Which is why I use brain training apps and other daily exercises for daily stimulation. Although, when it comes to writing things down and learning, I’m still pretty much the same.

        Very cool that you are in the 50/50 realm on visual/audio learning. I’m definitely stuck in the writing/learning camp, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it is for me, Michele. It was ingrained in me from a young age, and still remains with me today despite a lot of technological advances that could make it otherwise. I have to echo Spock from Star Trek—“Fascinating!”

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  15. I always have a few sheets of paper in all my purses, and I make sure all my purses have pens in them. I keep a few pens in my car and my husbands. I have used a napkin, old menus, scraps of paper I have shoved in my car door, and my cell phone. I also stuffed a notebook into the pouch in the back seat of my car. Like all writers, if we see something, we need to write it down.

    Nice post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You sound like you are definitely covered for writing no matter where you are. I love the idea of keeping a notebook in the pouch in the back seat of your car. I’m going to have to do that. Thanks for a great idea!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Glad you liked that. It has come in handy so many times. Pens are also one of those things that you should check too. I do notice they don’t work if you don’t use them often. I went to the dollar store and got a package of mechanical pencils and put them in my purses and cars too. Just in case. You never know.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mechanical pencils are a good idea. I used to have a pen in my car, but I noticed that it wouldn’t write half the time when the weather was really cold. Either that, or maybe it was because I didn’t use it enough. Now I just keep them in my purse (which is always in my car with me). Of course, I need to have paper handy to write with, LOL!

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  16. I use my phone for ideas, phrases, or anything else that comes to mind. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of notes for one of my books. Somehow my phone info and hubby’s merged, even though his phone is through his work. He didn’t know what the note was and deleted it – which also deleted it from my phone. Have no idea how that’s possible. I researched how to find it, but nothing worked. Our phones are still merged, but he’s been warned not to delete anything again.

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    • Losing all those notes must have been horrible, Teri. I’ve had that happen with my computer, but never with my phone—although I don’t use my phone for much other than lists, like character names. Good thing you put your hubby on notice for the future!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. I try to always have a notebook and a pencil within reach. Don’t like working in pen because I never know when I have to change stuff around. Location is the harder part. I tend to work best in my room, but that’s where a lot of distractions are such as the TV and, especially in the winter, the bed. Never being comfortable working in public because I keep expecting interruptions, it’s really the best I’ve got.

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    • That’s interesting that you write in pencil, Charles. I’m a pen person, but you’re right that it does make for messy notes. I’m always crossing something out or scribbling something extra in the margins. I actually love writing in the library (I think it’s the atmosphere), but I’m not as prolific when I camp out at Panera Bread. Sometimes I can get in the writing frame of mind, but other times the distractions are too much. And I absolutely can’t write with a TV on. I think that would be a HUGE distraction.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I change my mind and erase stuff all the time. I used to do pen and would make such a mess that I’d have to junk the page. The downside is that it smudges and fades a lot easier. I’ve tried the library a few times, but the ones here are fairly crowded. If I’m not quick enough then I don’t get a spot with an outlet. Leaving for food or the bathroom is basically abandoning my spot to someone else too. This is a big reason why I prefer home. I can wander the room if I hit a snag and think my way through it without fearing that someone will take my spot.

        With the TV, I can outline and plan with a TV on. Actual writing doesn’t work as well, but I do need music when I write. Utter silence drives me nuts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow. Utter silence drives you nuts? That’s amazing. I NEED utter silence when I write. Either that, or instrumental music. I can’t have anything with lyrics, or I get distracted.
        I also know what you mean about pencil fading. I’ve come across old notes I wrote years ago. A few were in pencil and have faded over time.
        Your library does sound incredibly busy. When I go, I’m usually there when the doors open and am able to grab a private desk. I leave my laptop on the desk if I have to get up and use the restroom, so my spot is always there when I come back. But I’m in a fairly small town and I go the library on a weekday so it doesn’t get that crowded.

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      • I remember you mentioning this once before, Michele. And still find it so odd.
        Yet, when I work my day job and am concentrating on work, I need music with lyrics. I have it playing from the time I get to my office to the time I leave. Weird how that time of concentration is different for me!

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  18. I gathered up a good notebook and a nice fountain pen. Made a serious effort to use them, too. The pen is now on my desk at work and gets used every day for business. Maybe it’s because guys don’t have purses, but I use my phone. I never dictate, but add bits and pieces to the notes app fairly regularly. It works for me and since I’m already packing it, it gets used.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I like using a notebook to scribble ideas and to brainstorm. Strange as it may sound, there is something different about writing down ideas versus typing them. Sometimes I use a legal pad, but I bought a journal for my new series. I have dictated on my phone, but it’s not the same as jotting down those ideas. I’ve used post-it notes and even the back of a church bulletin (you never know where inspiration will strike).

    Love this post!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m a notebook person when it comes to brainstorming too, Joan. When I start getting into more detailed aspects of a WIP (like character profile), then I’ll switch to the computer. I completely agree about the difference between writing something down vs. typing it. As an example, all my research notes are hand-written, because the information will be better retained if I write it versus typing it. So strange, but it works for me.

      I do want to try dictating on my phone. Just haven’t gotten in the habit yet. And you’re right that inspiration can strike anywhere, LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. I think best brainstorming with pen and paper, but I learned my lesson long ago—I can’t read what I scribble in the dark. So, now all my initial ideas go straight into my Notes app on my phone, even in the middle of the night. I have story concepts, character names, place names, scene ideas… you get the idea. When it’s time to start on a new project, I just scroll through the app. The nice thing is it syncs with my laptop, so I can read a bigger version of it when it’s time to start work.

    Great post, Mae.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Great idea with the Notes app, Staci. I’ve tried to scribble things in the dark as well. We all know about the 3:00 AM inspiration bursts! The next morning it’s a challenge to decipher what I wrote.
      It sounds like you are really make use of your Notes app. I need to play with mine more. I use a List app for character names but nothing more detailed. I think I also need to start adding place names. I hadn’t thought about how easy it would be to view those apps on my Mac. Thanks for the idea!

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Yes I have been known to scrabble in panic though every bag searching for a pen. One weekend away I realised I had forgotten my prescription reading glasses. Cyberspouse couldn’t see the problem – I insisted on going into Boots the Chemist where I found a rack of not so cheap reading glasses.

    Liked by 3 people

    • OMG, Janet, I feel your pain! I can’t see anything up close without my prescription reading glasses. The idea of not having them is devastating. I would do exactly what you did and find the nearest drug store to grab a pair off the rack.
      I bet you never forgot your glasses again after that debacle! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Um … no pen?? maybe … a sharp stick and blood? 😂… We HAVE to write! Tee he hee. I’m like you for being old school. Funny though, because at home all my ideas get typed onto my Mac. I also have my tablet and they sometimes get typed on there (its dictation hates me!). But I much prefer the old pen, ink, and paper, lol. You have a good hubby for making that detour for you. Thanks for a fun post, Mae 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I had a good chuckle over the shark stick and blood, Harmony. Yep, we HAVE to write! I’d be in withdrawal otherwise.
      I like paper and ink too when it comes to brainstorming. I even use them at home, including for my research. When I get into character sketches, then I move to my laptop or desktop. Isn’t it weird how we have certain habits for certain things. I think that goes in hand with what inspires our creativity!

      Liked by 1 person

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