Creating a Pen

I subscribe to the Writer’s Almanac. It’s a wonderful service which I recommend to everyone. The right poem can be like clean mountain air, like the almond-cherry memory-scent of your grandmother, like the throbbing orange embers of a dying fire. Beauty in the morning—why start a day any other way? Of course, I don’t connect with every poem, but the Writer’s Almanac nearly always presents some small diamond for me to ponder. Today’s jewel:

To write a poem you must first create a pen that will write what you want to say. — Jim Harrison

I’ve been thinking about this all day.

My family bought me a netbook as an early Christmas present, and I’ve been hoping it will be the “pen” that gets me writing more. At home, I don’t have an office or a private place of my own. I’ve always shared a computer and somehow manage to be last in precedence—by my own doing because it is easier to let someone else use the computer than to write.

But really, to create my pen, I need more than my own computer. I need privacy and a designated time to write. I don’t do spontaneity. If I suddenly have two hours alone at home with nothing to do, I should write—but I can’t (don’t?). I’m not ready. It’s like I need to talk with my characters ahead of time and let them know when I’m coming. I can’t just drop in. They won’t talk to me. Or if they do, it is only to mess up the story with anachronisms or dead-ends.

My pen is not a tool but a state-of-mind. Writing flows from me when I know I’ll have some time and privacy and have prepared for it.

I imagine every writer has a different pen.

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