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Materiality in Writing Practices: What matters?

A common point of difference in commentary on literary craft is the role of tools: the pens, the paper, the word processors, and other ephemera through which writing actually happens. Some authors, such as Neil Gaiman, famously write in beautiful notebooks with beautiful pens, while others take the opposite approach. Natalie Goldberg, for instance, has written of her preference for a fast-writing cheap pen and an inexpensive notebook, on the basis that such tools put little pressure on the author to produce perfect work.

While it seems reasonable that personal preference plays an important role, how can aspiring writers think more critically about their choice of creative implements? Of the resources at our disposal, which are likely to support the creative process, and under what conditions? Conversely, under what conditions might we consider a writing practice to be ill-resourced, and what are the telltale symptoms of such a situation?

  • The same consideration could be applied to the entire material environment and its consequent impact on the writer's experience. For instance, compare Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in a small cabin in the woods with a fountain pen, to modern digital nomads writing on their laptops in the coffee shops they found in their way. – ivan 8 months ago