Writers need their tools and when they find ones that work they stick with them. Even to this day Woody Allen uses his typewriter to type his screenplays, and Hemingway always did his first draft in pencil. Sometimes objects you wouldn’t first imagine to be useful are also necessary for creative work to occur: Maya Angelou liked to have a deck of cards nearby, and Charles Dickens had to have his desk ornaments arranged before he wrote.
Here are two categories of supplies writers have opinions on:
1. Journals and Notebooks
Emerson was a prolific journaler and recommended the practice to other writers; for example, Henry Thoreau, inspired by Emerson, started a journal. Another journaler was Samuel Butler, an English writer, painter, and translator. He writes that a writer should get into the habit of carrying a notebook everywhere. Like a painter who stops and sketches where ever they are, a writer should stop and make notes or record ideas the moment they appear.
2. Dictionaries and Thesauruses
Stephen King said that you should never use a word that you had to look up in a dictionary. That is one opinion. If you asked Hemingway, he would tell you a writer should never have to use a dictionary–then he would ask you to pass him one.
What are your writing tools?
Currey, Mason. Daily Rituals. New York, Knopf, 2016.
Richardson, Robert D. First We Read Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process. Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Jones, Henry Festing, editor. The Note-Books of Samuel Butler. London, Jonathan Cape, 1930.
King, Stephen. On Writing. New York, Scribner, 2010.
Phillips, Larry W., editor. Ernest Hemingway on Writing. New York, Scribner, 1984.
- Read The Note-Books of Samuel Butler at The Gutenberg Project website.
- Read Emerson’s Essays, First Series at The Gutenberg Project website.
- Another Emerson book of Essays at The Gutenberg Project website.
Updated 5 July 2018