Joe Lavin

September 26, 2005

From The Montreal Gazette

The Condensed Guide to Looking Like a Writer

Some people think it's easy to be a creative writer. You just come up with an idea, jot it down, and then you're done. But, no, not everyone can be a writer. You first need to have tools, because without the proper tools, you're just faking it.

For example, just about everywhere I turn, writers are extolling the virtues of the Moleskine leather-bound journal. In case you don't know, these pompous little journals were once used by such artistic luminaries as Hemingway, van Gogh, and Matisse. These days, they are surging in popularity again, as if using Hemingway's little notebook for your shopping list at the Key West Liquor Mart will really make you a better writer.

It's not even clear that Hemingway used a Moleskine at all. He merely mentioned that in Paris he wrote part of a novel in a notebook that fit in his pocket, but that hasn't stopped the company from capitalizing on Ernie's good name.

At the very least, costing $15 U.S. a pop, the Moleskine can certainly put the "starving" back into starving artist.

They are so small that I don't think I could possibly support a Moleskine habit. I could probably fill one up in a week or two, and then I'd have to spend another 15 bucks. Personally, I like to go with a Mead Five-Star College-Ruled One Subject notebook. Sure, it's not quite as portable or trendy, but it was on sale for $1.59.

According to the Moleskine website, the journal has become "a symbol of contemporary nomadism." My Mead is probably a symbol of contemporary vagabondism, but no matter. The paper in a Moleskine is so pristine that your words will, apparently, last for years and years. Because, really, the inspired jottings that I have while out and about ("Write something about grapes. Make it funny") desperately need to be preserved into the 22nd century.

They've found van Gogh's notebook (which may or may not be a Moleskine) from the 1880s. Use one yourself, and they'll find your ramblings too.

Otherwise, when you become a dead, famous writer, how will anyone put together your Complete Works if your random thoughts aren't preserved for posterity? Oh, wait, they'll just get everything off your computer. Never mind. Imagine if the Complete Works of Hemingway also included all his emails, instant messages, blog entries, and the cache showing the dodgy sites he visited on the Internet. On second thought, posterity might be a little overrated.

You also need a pricey pen if you want to be a serious writer. I alternate between using an Erasermate II (permanence is very important to me, you see) and whatever black pen I accidentally pilfered from the office last week.

This, of course, means I have no hope of making it big. To be a serious writer, you need to have an expensive fountain pen. Granted, I've tried the expensive-pen route before, and occasionally I've even managed to make it two months before losing the expensive pen and going back to the pilfered office pen strategy, which is far more economical in the long run.

Instead of a pen, some writers attempt to increase their street cred by claiming to use a typewriter. Unless the writer is over 60, this is a lie. After all, deliberately using an outmoded form of communication instantly makes you seem prestigious, and these writers know that.

Personally, I like to do all my writing on the side of an abandoned cave. Anything more modern, and I feel it just dehumanizes my writing.

Finally, it's important that you never write at home. You need to have a hangout, preferably a little coffeehouse like the one they had on Friends, where you can do all your writing and/or possibly have an on-again, off-again 10-year relationship with a paleontologist. This way, you can spend whatever little amount of money you have left after all the pens, fancy stationary, and pretentious journals to spend on overpriced coffee.

Don't worry. If you cared about actually making a profit, you wouldn't be a writer in the first place.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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