Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Tools and Addictions

My daughter found a pen recently while cleaning our house. It feels just right in my hand. It even has a flashlight on it.

Oh my. I am in love.

But since my daughter voluntarily cleaned the house and she found it in the process, I agreed to let her keep it. (See, she adores it, too.)

The following picture isn't it the same (I couldn't find it online); this one is a space pen. Hmmm ... I like it.

Anyway, this whole pen business brought me back to my addiction to pen and paper, and the below thought stream I wrote a couple of years back about this lust of mine.

Now I am curious about you, my reader. I want to know something. Carry on to find the question at the end ...

I have finally figured something out after all these years and I’m ready to admit to the truth. My name is Linda and I am a paper addict.

I’ve had this obsession since I was about seven years old (actually, it was probably before then) and my parents used to take me to Standard Brands for household paints – you know the kind – to paint walls with.

Only Standard Brands had a separate section with fancy papers – big pads, small pads, charcoal paper, watercolor paper, and journal books – and pens with large tips, small tips, and… oh, those calligraphy tips… that I salivated over.

I kept myself occupied, trying out each pen on the notepad samplers hanging near every pen cubby, while my parents shopped for eggshell white or off-white to paint the living room walls with.

Every time I went to this store, I interrupted my Mom’s color decisions by begging, “Please, please, can I have this paper and this pen?”

Then after giving in to my pleading, she would march me outside into the gray skies of Seattle where I would open my new pad of paper, drawing strange faces that I found hiding in the trees or amidst the wrinkles in shirt fabric.

I would then soon after write down every thought of every painful experience that I saw in my early life, making up poems about how I buried my heart in my backyard or stories about pencils that I watched come to life as I sat in my classroom.

Later, I graduated to high school art class. There I earned a spot in the glass-walled room where I could pick any photograph that I wanted to paint and create it the way that felt right to me – and do it all, not on canvas, but on paper.

My art went on display at a local mall and my parents longed to have me carry on by becoming a professional artist, but my heart had already told me years earlier to take a different route. It was back when I was about eight years old, I was in a school play in which I played a horse or some animal that I don’t even remember.

What I didn’t get at the time was that it wasn’t the acting, but the holding of that script in my hands that fed my yearning. How could I not have understood that at the time?

Today as I was driving up the 14 Freeway with the beat of techno drums vibrating my car, I realized with a panic, that I had left the house without any paper. What would I do to occupy myself for the next hour while my daughter took her horseback riding lesson? I needed something to scribble on.

I started feeling shaky at the prospect of not having any paper to write my thoughts on.

Don’t I have anything in this car that I can write on?

My daughter usually has her journals strewn about like crumb trails through the forest. I was once as careless with my journals, but have finally learned after all these years to keep them confined to five or six different shelves at various corners of my house.

But no, I had just cleaned my car and there was nothing… no papers, no journals, nothing.


The directions to the horse ranch where we were headed. Yes, that’s it. It has about one and a half pages to scribble notes on. I can write really tiny, I convinced myself.

This banter with myself helped me to realize why that box of papers sitting by my computer is still sitting there. It’s paper.

All my life I have longed for more paper. Paper to read, paper to draw on, paper to write on, and now it was being given to me without my asking. It was coming to me free of charge in my mail box.

Oh, lucky me! To be given paper without asking. And what’s more, this paper was already covered with words.

And what’s more than that, I could cut out each word from this assortment of paper samples and create my own collage of feelings put together by the thoughts of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other earthlings like me.

What an amazing art piece I could make, all from this pile of paper referred to as “junk” mail. To think, I have always only considered it my job to tear this paper up and throw it into the recycling bin.

So next time I long for a place to scrawl down my thoughts as I drive off into an adventure with children in tow, I can simply pull off onto the side of the road and find free paper to jot my thoughts onto… you know those free local newspapers or hotel guides that you can find at any Denny’s Restaurant along I-5.

And the next time, I think to curse the businesses who send me piles of paper day after day after day as wasteful, I will thank them for giving me what I have longed for all my life. Paper – a place to put my thoughts.

So now tell me. As writers, what addictions do you have?