Monday, February 24, 2014

Can't Live Without My.....

RHYS BOWEN: We all have some remnant of the past that we can't live without, even though we know that better, easier things have been invented. My husband John insists on making loose tea in a teapot and grinding his coffee from beans every day. For me it's notebooks. I have a Dayrunner from 1988 that I still treasure. Although I don't use it daily now, I still check addresses in it, keep a list of all my flights and every New Year's eve I write down what I have achieved and what I plan to achieve in the next year.

And I always carry a little notebook around with me, even though I have Sticky Notes on my laptop, Evernote on everything, Notes for my iPHone and Dragon dictation for sudden thoughts. So why can't I trust the electronic media with my brilliant ideas? Especially for thoughts on the books I'm working on. It must have something to do with knowing a large meteor strike won't destroy my words forever. Or is it that I enjoy seeing them on the page? When I actually put them down they become real, no longer in my imagination, but out there, for anyone to read. And I can underline the words that seem important, doodle flowers while I think, draw lines to show connections in the plot.

I also write TO DO lists on the back of envelopes at dentist's offices and while John drives. I have to know what's ahead for the day and the week and whether I can handle it without becoming a basket case.  I keep all the little notebooks, even when they are full and flicking back through them is like opening a treasure trove: the first lines of Her Royal Spyness being played with. Thoughts on a new book that might take place on Ellis Island, or a lost child, or notes on Paris art world. My whole career evolving in a stack of pretty note books. Yes, they are always pretty. I must have attractive books to put my thoughts into.

So how about you, Reds. Electronic notes or pen and paper doodles? And anything else you can't live without?

HALLIE EPHRON: Like you, Rhys, I'm addicted to paper. And I love the feel of using a pencil that's just been sharpened.
I've used the same day planner for more than ten years and I don't plan to give it up. Every year I invest ten bucks in a new calendar insert and I'm good to go. I keep the little booklet with my tax records, and when my computer dies I don't lose it all. We also still print photographs and put them in albums, in spite of having tons of them online.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I keep a yearly pocket-sized calendar despite the fact that I use Google calendar to coordinate my life (I love being able to confirm an event on email and then dump all the info right into my calendar.) I like the permanence of the paper copy - the Cloud may drift away, the Polar Vortex may freeze all electricity and keep my computer from working, but I have those little leather or cloth bound books lined up in the parlour bookcase, and they're not going anywhere.
I also do all the work on a book that's not actually writing in composition notebooks, one per novel. Ideas about themes, character sketches, plot trees, chapter outlines; it all has to be pen or pencil on paper. I experience a different quality of thinking when I'm physically marking something down. It's not just the ability to scribble out and make circles and arrows and boxes (which I do.) I tried one of those programs that lets you fool around with symbols and even add pictures and link to other things. I couldn't use it. For me, keyboard + screen = composing. Pencil + paper = proposing.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yup, day planner on paper, a slim little book, exactly the same one every year. I love it, an dI can see the whole week, and the flow of the time. Yes, I have it all on my Outlook, too, but I still like it on paper.
Book notes? Here's a photo of a page in my "formal" book notebook--and a scrawled flurry of ideas on a random piece of note paper. I have notes everyone, like Lucy, on envelopes, little bits of paper, everywhere!   Interestingly--often I never look at them again. But writing them out makes my brain work. 

LUCY BURDETTE: No paper dayplanner for me. I've moved on to the computer calendar that syncs with my iphone. But I haven't mastered electronic notes. I tear into quarters pieces of computer paper that I would otherwise recycle, and those are for my notes. At night while I'm reading often I think of ideas or scraps of dialogue and jot them on these paper.


A lot of what I do these days is on a computer. The hubby and I sync our e-calenders, which has actually been pretty useful as we each have a lot of travel and things going on. 

When I'm roaming a city, doing research, I like the notebook application on my phone — it even has virtual yellow lined paper! Then you can just email it to yourself... No need to retype. (Have any of you found that the more you type, the worse your handwriting gets? I actually HAD to switch over to notes on the phone because I can't read my own handwriting...)

However, for plots, character sketches, and outlines, it's pencil on a yellow legal pad for me. It just feels right.... A cup of coffee is good, too....

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I put everything in my Google calendar, which coordinates with my phone (most of the time) and sync's with Rick's calendar. It's incredibly useful, but--I still hang onto paper. I buy a new Quo Vadis diary every year. I can see a week at a glance, put down to-do notes, and day's writing goals. I don't quite trust the Cloud--I know people who have lost years' worth of Outlook calendars... and I think, as Julia commented about writing, that our brains just process written material differently.  I keep two spiral notebooks. One is my everyday record of things; phone calls, to-do lists, travel confirmations, instructions from the vet... You name it, it goes in that notebook, with a date. When I've filled a notebook, I used a label maker to put the beginning and end dates of the notebook on the front cover, then I stick it on the shelf on the Chinese secretary in my office. It's a messy record, but I can go back years and see what happened when. I keep another notebook for those writing notes, one for each book. Plot ideas, character sketches, bits of scenes and dialogue. Often I'll write the beginning of the next day's scene in the notebook before I go to sleep. Somehow paper is liberating. Interesting.
PS: Rhys, you know I'm with John on the tea:-)

RHYS: I have to confess that I do love good loose tea. I just don't enjoy cleaning the tealeaves from the teapot. Although now we have an infuser built it. Brilliant.  But aren't we a bunch of dinosaurs, clinging to our paper notes? I think we're all afraid a meteor strike will rob the world  of our prose and ideas!
So how about you? Who has gone completely electronic and who still clings to paper like most of us Reds?


  1. Grinding coffee beans and steeping loose tea leaves . . . yep, that’s exactly what happens here, too.

    While I mostly love my computer, I don’t do any of that electronic calendar stuff, nor do I sync anything with my phone, create electronic sticky notes, or make electronic lists anywhere. I love really nice bound journals and notebooks . . . give me a pencil and my daily planner and I’m good to go . . . .

  2. I am just starting to use a calendar at all - and that the one on my iPhone. Most of my adult life, I haven't needed to worry about it.

    And you want to know what I have mostly in my calendar? Book and music release dates. Yeah, exciting life I lead.

    I am running out of book space, but I refuse to get a Kindle. I don't want to have to buy a devise to earn the privilege to buy books when I can just buy books. Which makes me very old fashioned, I know.

  3. I try to enter in appointments and some family events on my phone calendar, but I love having a paper calendar every year on which I write in dates for birthdays and trips and grandchildren events. It's rather like a personal diary of what we do each year, and I like looking back through the months at the end of the year to remember the good times. Also, I can draw little sparks around the birthday dates and other such doodles on the paper calendar.

    And, my lists for trips, such as what to take (including what books), have to be written out so that I can check things off as I pack or buy them. I have switched over to doing my reading lists on the computer, especially since I'm adding or rearranging them all the time, and I can highlight the books as I finish reading them, which is more fun than you might think.

    Mark, I wasn't sure I wanted a Kindle either when my kids bought me one several years ago for my birthday, and now, I'm getting a Kindle Fire hdx for my birthday today. Well, it won't actually arrive for a few days. I don't do that much reading on my Kindle, but I like all the other features on the new version I'm getting, and it is nice to take on trips. I will probably do more reading with the grandkids on this one, as even the four-year-old likes it, and now I will have color (not that I don't stress print books with her, pretty old-fashioned about that, too). Of course, I know I won't ever stop buying print books. Love the feel of them in my hands way too much for that to ever happen.

  4. Very interesting that most of you find writing on paper brings out a different set of ideas. I think I need to spend more time in an easy chair with a nice pen and an empty notebook.

    I keep a little paper calendar on my office wall, from the Tibetan nuns, and write down all the birthdays, appointments, and sometimes the weather. I don't use on online calendar at all, although when I have a book release coming up (in May!) I create a Word table for guest posts, date due, topic, URL, date sent, etc, so I don't lose track.

  5. Good morning!

    I have become attached to the calendar on my phone. I can't manage Google (why does everyone use google docs and calendars and hangouts?)but I do have a planner that I've been getting each year from Am Ex for ages. It fits in a purse but I find I write less and less in it. My phone calendar lets me put birthdays in it and it remembers them for me each year. (Pssst, I put book release dates in there, too.)

    There's a paper calendar on my fridge and one next to my desk.

    Here's a confession - I need to use a calendar to know what day and date it is. I retired many years ago and since then I never know where in the week or month I am. It's actually not a bad thing.

    I use loose tea, too. :-)

  6. After using, replacing, and discarding dozens of electronic devices over the last 30 years, I'm grateful for my habit of printing out stuff I want to keep, as spotty as it is.

    Electronic data is unstable, and even though paper is fragile, I still have handwritten copies of stories and story, article and book ideas I wrote nearly 40 years ago. I think we need both.

    And I can't live without a sewing machine in my life. Sure, it's easy, and no doubt cheaper, to buy something at a store, but I can make clothing that fits better, and household items that match my color and style choices, without worrying about the whims of anonymous merchandisers.

  7. So glad to know that minds more brilliant than mine still love paper, pencils and pens. I can't live without my black papermate flair pens. and enough paper to sink an ocean.. I save the clean parts of all envelopes and bills etc. and have little piles stashed all over the apartment. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  8. My phone doesn't do anything but, um, phone. As for notes, definitely paper, then maybe a doc file called notes that I print out and stick in the loose leaf binder I use for each book. I print each day's work--no faith in electronic backups at all, although I make those too. Paper calendar. One of those week at a glance day books for each year, and lots of handwritten to do lists. Can you say dinosaur?

  9. Like most of you, there is no substitute for me for the written word on a piece of paper. It's not that I don't trust electronics - I envy my friends who can keep track of everything on their phones. But I'm just addicted to the tangible. I just bought a new leather address book and am in the process of filling it up (my old one looks like a dog tried to eat it), and I also can't live without my fountain pen, my notebooks and ... my typewriter. I write mainly on my computer, but when I need to slow things down, really think my way through a scene, I use the beautiful little Smith-Corona Selectric I bought on Etsy a few years back. Sometimes I can hardly believe there was a time when I wrote whole books on a computer. It definitely stimulates a different thought process.

    As for the lists many of you mention in notebooks, on sticky notes and on the backs of envelopes, LOVE them and can't live without them.

  10. This is the first year I have not relied on a paper calendar -- and only last year did I finally trust technology and backups sufficient to make my phonebook electronic.

    My novel notes & ideas do not come at convenient times so I am forever sribbling on paper scraps -- and then collecting them in a Word document.

    ~ Jim

  11. I love my Day-Timer! I also love notebooks and buy cute ones whenever I see them.

    And I'll never part with all my old journals and diaries. I've got half a dozen plastic bins filled with them. Just this past weekend I needed to hunt down an Ireland travel journal--wow, let's just say I got distracted browsing through my life. :-)

  12. I also keep a whiteboard calendar in the kitchen that I re-write every month.

    Kim, that's so interesting that you write on a typewriter. I started my first novel on a very early computer, and have always said I'd never have finished it on a typewriter:-)

    Rhys, I have the perfect loose tea solution. I'm just going to post a pic on my author Facebook site, so look there.

  13. Wait, you Sync the iPhone calendar to your computer? HOw?

  14. Thelma, Sue Grafton travels with BOXES of Papermate Flair pens! (She uses the calligraphy nib..)

  15. I'm never without a yellow legal pad (Tip: costco's are the best. Don't be fooled by the ones at Staples or Office Depot). I have stacks of them and can never seem to throw one away when it's filled because I write so much of my first drafts on them. They feel like a history of my work.

    I'm less picky about pens but at the moment, I'm enamored of the Uni-Ball Jetstream.

  16. Ah but Debs, you don't know John. He has to blend about 5 different teas, then half fill the pot with boiling water, then lower the infusing cone in and fill the rest. Then exactly six minutes later the cone is removed. Ritual, don't you know.

  17. I compose on the computer, except for poetry, but like Julia, notes, planning, thinking must take place with pen and notebook. I always carry a small notebook with me in my purse. And as of recently, a purse calendar. I moved to Outlook and loved it for years, only to find when I had two computer meltdowns in as many months last year that my carefully backed-up Outlook files were unreadable. I'm planning on pulling my DayTimer out again.

    I'm a loose tea fan, have inserts for some of my teapots, and just strain and clean the others. No tea tastes better.

    Like Karen, I have to have a sewing machine--and spindles, spinning wheels, knitting needles, and looms. Yes, you can just buy clothing, yarn, and fabric, but even the expensive labels are made on the cheap in China or other spots in sweatshops. And the items I make with these old-fashioned tools are of such a higher quality that I could never afford to buy them. Some very wealthy women I know don't buy at Bonwit, etc. They have their clothes made for them by hand by master seamstresses from magazine photos, etc., using handmade fabric they import. I can do the same for myself.

  18. For personal use, I have a pocket calendar which allows me to function in life! At work, I am similarly dependent on my Outlook calendar. I put personal as well as work items on that calendar. It, too, allows me to function. I need to make sure that all personal items are on BOTH calendars.

    For grocery shopping, I take a small notebook with me, listing all the items I need. I keep about a year's worth of grocery lists on it. As soon as I put an item in my grocery cart, I note the price in my notebook, adding up my purchases as I go along. That way I can check back and see how much I've been spending on food, and how the prices have changed over the previous twelve months. My supermarket (Stop and Shop) has electronic devices that customers can use to add things up as they go along, and then have the device scanned at the checkout. There are about half a dozen self-checkout stations, along with the traditional ones. I refuse to use the devices, because I'm convinced that the stores are hiring fewer cashiers since making those devices available. I don't want to contribute, even indirectly, to job losses in the community. Many retired people and students rely on their part-time cashier job for needed money, not to mention the people who work full-time as cashiers.

  19. Larry McMurtry still writes on a typewriter. I am another one who could never finish anything on one--I was a terrible typist until computers came along. The ability to erase/backspace without tearing a hole in the paper (let alone the carbons, groan) is one of the greatest forward movements in literacy, as far as I'm concerned.

  20. Rhys, whatever makes John happy:-)

    Hank, my phone and my tablet are Android, so I use Google calendar and they all sync. Rick and sync our calendars on Google, too. It is nice to have that quick look at each other's schedules, so we don't double book, etc.

    Karen in Ohio, I'm so with you on the typewriter. I do have a wonderful vintage Underwood that was a gift from friends, but it sits on the desk in the big office next to the computer. I like the contrast:-)

    Hank, I didn't know Papermate Flair pens had a calligraphy nib. Will have to check that out.

  21. Speaking of typing out your story... Kerouac always said that he wrote On the Road in three weeks, typing continuously onto a 120-foot roll of teletype paper. I can only imagine what would happen if I couldn't back up and change... it would be an interesting exercise.

  22. Love my day-timer, couldn't be without it. And, yes, I keep past years, and do sometimes go back to remember a date or special event. I also have a large desk calendar I write on for work. I love my iPhone for a thousand things, but not as a calendar.

  23. "LUCY BURDETTE: No paper dayplanner for me. I've moved on to the computer calendar that syncs with my iphone. But I haven't mastered electronic notes. I tear into quarters pieces of computer paper that I would otherwise recycle, and those are for my notes. At night while I'm reading often I think of ideas or scraps of dialogue and jot them on these paper."

    Ditto. Plus electronic notes which I print on real paper. Just in case. Because I am overly identified with what I put in writing. They go into a box. I have a garage full of them. They go back to 1987. I've never needed one of them. My multiple electronic storage devices, starting with floppy disks in the school computer lab, have served me well.

  24. Paper notepads. Something about the way my brain works...if I write a list or notes by hand I remember what I wrote even if I forget the list (which happens 99% of the time).

    I have a "visual" memory. If I read a newspaper or a book I remember where where an article was placed - left-hand side of paper, upper right-hand corner or in a book same thing.

    If I type it out it doesn't work the same way. Something about pen to paper makes it stick.

  25. When I first got a PDA, I still kept a paper calendar in my purse, and one on the kitchen wall, and on the first of every month, I updated all three to correspond, then updated the classroom calendar, too. I may have to go back to that, because the latest Apple upgrade has resulted in my iPod Touch no longer speaking with my computer . . .
    I'm hoping those clever Apple Geniuses can figure it out . . .

  26. Deb, I actually hand-wrote a novel when I was in my 20s. And I've typed at least 20 ... mostly on my dad's typewriter when I was a kid! I love the process - you can't cut and paste, so it requires you to think differently.

    And Holly, thanks for the yellow notepad tip. I'm heading to Costco for my next batch!

  27. Having buried a computer 2 years ago and losing information, as well as my mind, I confess to keeping a Rolodex, which sits atop my computer. All sorts of numbers there, and contacts, and client information. And finding things there is quicker than trying to remember what I called a file -- or may have called a file. Guess for now I'm a hybrid.

  28. Address Book - even though I have labels on puter for my contacts, I just use them at Christmas, rest of time I hand write addy on cards I mail.

    I rarely drink coffee, but if I do, I like to start with beans, esp after reading what some companies put in ground coffee, ewwwwwwww

    still have a calendar hanging in kitchen for appointments - have for years

    I was raised on tea bags so that is what I use 99% of time mainly because hard to good loose tea around here.

  29. I too keep a weekly notes calendar in spite of actually using the electronic one the most. I've always told my kids that my paper calendars & my photos were my diary. I've got every year since about 1984 when I started keeping them instead of pitching them.
    We also keep a kitchen calendar with notes for doctor, poker, weddings, etc. because my husband will NOT do anything electronically besides read his email once a week.