The best writing tool you own

What tools do you use for your craft? What do you write, or sketch, or compose on?

Storytelling tools old and new

I’m so tech-reliant these days. When I was a child, we had a two-hour screen-time limit per day, and honestly, I can’t remember what I did with the other hours! Now that I use my computer for work, play, homework, recreation, social interaction, and so many other things, the thought of only being able to spend two hours on it feels like limiting how long I can use a part of my brain. (Not healthy, I know.)

If you took away my computer, I’d probably stop writing and composing altogether. All my projects are on there, I’d say. All my tools and platforms. How can I write without a word processor? How can I compose without my sample libraries? GIVE IT BACKK–*grabs for it*

In the whirlwind of buying new tech and subscribing to new platforms, of marketing and practicing and growing, I recently realised that I’d forgotten where I started.

I wrote my first complete novel when I was about thirteen. I was just starting high school, and I carried a notebook to each class. There was a pen constantly hooked onto the cover and, any spare minute, I’d pull it out, open the notebook and pick up wherever I’d left off. I can remember so many places around my school where I’d kneel or sit down on the ground, put my textbooks to one side, and just start writing.

I wrote three novels in those notebooks over the years, and started a couple that I never finished. I even started a musical in one, writing the lyrics to the songs down one page. If you wanted to know how to sing them, you’d have to ask me; only the lyrics were recorded. When I finished each story, I’d type it up on my mum’s computer, editing as I went, before printing it and putting all the pages in a folder for my sister’s Christmas or birthday present.  

Eventually, I gave up on the notebooks and started borrowing my mum’s computer. I had a folder with all my works-in-progress, and some days after school I’d sit down and start working on them. If I couldn’t write one day, I could plan where the book would go and what I would write next.

When I was seventeen, I was given my first laptop for school work. I had less time to write (thanks, school), but I still managed a couple of novellas in the two years. Nowadays, as I said, I do so many things on my computer–it’s so convenient, and reliable, that I’m relying on it perhaps too much now. Especially since lockdown, when even my classroom went online.

With everything virtual now, I’ve realised that I’ve started to think of writing and composing as working on big projects, that take weeks or month from start to finish. At some point I started to think that if I wasn’t adding to my novel’s word count, I wasn’t writing. If I didn’t have my laptop handy, with all my notes and brainstorms and drafts, then I couldn’t write.

How could I write without my laptop?

Simple. I could go to the spare-stationary cupboard and find an empty notebook and a pen. If there aren’t any there, I can go and buy some. Exercise books cost less than a dollar, and pens are about as cheap. If I can’t go to the store, I have my brain: it’s the handiest tool I know for brainstorming, planning and plotting, and it even sometimes remembers to pick up stationery from the supermarket next time I’m there!

My ability to create isn’t reliant on anything. I wrote whole books by hand. I composed and improvised on a piano, or with my voice. And even those tools were just tools; blessings given to help explain the ideas in my head in an exciting way.

If you can communicate in any way, you can tell a story. You don’t have to tell it well, or in a fancy font, or with a thousand people making a masterpiece film. You don’t have to use words, or even make it up.

You can be transported to your old memories as you wash the dishes. You can tell sagas for your family as you get ready for bed.

You can scribble your stories down in a notebook in the short breaks between classes.

Storytelling is a gift, and it’s incredibly versatile and adaptable. You can tell so many stories in so many ways, and the way that’s available for you now is the best way to tell your story. 

I’m so thankful for the memory of sitting on the floor outside my classroom, scribbling away into my notebook. I’m so glad I’ve kept those mementos, and I hope they remind me in future not to lose my stories in the unfathomable memory space and RAM of the latest, greatest technology.

I’m going to keep those notebooks as long as I can (because reading my first novels is entertaining :P) to remind myself that words aren’t limited to Calibri or Times New Roman. Music isn’t limited to MIDI and studios. Audiences aren’t only online.

These notebooks remind me of the gifts God has given me to help me write and compose, and that even if he takes them away, I can still tell the stories he gives me. 

So, wonderful story-tellers, what did you start creating on or with? Have you ever had to write or create in a less-than-conventional way?

Published by Debbie Coll

I'm a storyteller, songwriter and author who loves God, fairy tales and music. I write about tales, creative tips and process on my blog,

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