where the writers are
The Essentials of a Writer’s Bag

by Jennifer King

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
— Stephen King

I love the words of advice of Stephen King, above. As writers, the best way to learn and improve, find our voice and our style, and discover the threads that make our stories sing, is to read and write. A LOT. I think it’s perfect advice. Whether we read classics or contemporaries, memoirs or biographies, fiction or non-fiction, the theory of reading to write well is a sound one. For through the ingesting and intake of written words, we are able to understand and become the written words we are made to write.

Jennifer Lyn King at a Castle in Italy

The reason why I need a writer's bag. Me, at a Castle in Italy

But there is a problem with Mr. King’s advice. I hear the excuse often, from people I meet who want to be writers. “I don’t have the time.”

It is hard to find time. But I think when we love something enough, we make the time.

I like to make the time. It becomes a challenge. With three school-age boys, I have time to write during their school day. But I also try to squeeze time in when I’m waiting on their activities—inevitably my guys play all the sports. Finding time means portability. And that involves The Writer’s Bag.

Do you have a Writer’s Bag?

If you don’t, I encourage you to make one. Following, the Essentials for My Writer’s Bag:

1)      Writing Craft Books: my favorites on standby right now are STORY by Robert McKee, PLOT AND STRUCTURE by J.S. Bell, and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. The books I carry from my writing shelf change depending on what phase of my novel I’m working on.

2)      Reading Book: genre, non-genre—something for pleasure reading. I’m reading THE GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING  by Tracy Chevalier and Madeleine L’Engle’s fantastic WALKING ON WATER.

3)      Computer: your writing companion. And USB drives, for backups.

4)      Pens: one that is inspiring to use, I think.

5)      Most important: the Writer’s Notebook: For the quick notes, and for laying it all out—plot, chapters, motivations, backstory, everything. My writer’s notebook has a durable cover, my preferred spacing of lines, and a movable divider so that I can easily find the page I use most.

Also, since my life is rather unique right now (as an expat in Europe, daily I’m living and observing closehand the things of the movies—the pricey cars, multiple languages, extravagant clothes, people who jet-set vacations to far-off places, bodyguards on comm devices, etc…), I use my notebook often to jot quick notes on things I want to remember.

Don’t you love this writer’s bag? Mine is similar, leather, easy to strap on, and easy to get into.

What sort of things do you include in your writer’s bag? What essentials do you think I’m missing?