Paul Auster tells the heartbreaking story of running into Willie Mays’s as a little kid and asking the legend for an autograph. The pint-sized Auster didn’t have a pencil to his name and Mays didn’t have one either. After several minutes of frenzied pocket-rummaging, Auster came up with nothing but lint and an empty gum wrapper. He was so stunned he couldn't even cry. He loafed there flatfooted with his t-shirt untucked, one block from the old Polo Grounds and his childhood hero turned the corner and disappeared. Little Paul vowed always to carry a pencil everywhere he strode. The tragedy would become a triumph years later. That episode bore the right of passing for a great New York Author.
Now where fact meets fantasy I’m not sure, but as Auster has pointed out that experience taught him a valuable lesson. To always, always be prepared. Of course, the pen, the pencil, the Crayon, the bloodied finger: all suffice as writing tools.
I’m pretty good about stocking writing ammo. My Achilles Heel is in the scroll. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a loss for paper when the magic moment hits me. Fortunately, I’m blessed with the resourceful gene. I’ll use a napkin, a flyer, a takeout menu. This happens quite a bit. Believe it or not, I use newspapers. The mad scribble gets a bit messy, but it does the trick. Sure it looks really strange, but it's better than letting my thoughts slide out of my creative ether. Transcribing becomes a bit of a mission. The jumble of words takes on a Sanskrit-type look, which isn’t so bad. It makes me think of the monks and what they must have went through when they were engaged in their own transcription.
Do I recommend this for the casual free-write? It’s not a terrible exercise to undergo, but I wouldn’t want you to make a habit of it and don’t get me wrong this isn’t my chief M.O (modus operandi).
Ideally, I stock a handful of scrap paper in my back pocket, jacket pocket, the side flap of my shoulder bag, and under the sole of my shoe. I’m loaded to the gills with paper. You remember the 80’s shoulder pad fad? Okay, I don’t go that far, but I lose track of some of my storing places which causes its own problems, but I can’t be blamed for being idle. The goal is to keep cranking out genius. I tend to rip up most of what I write. So much for genius. Much of my scrap paper happens to be printouts of earlier drafts of stories, novels-in-progress, and a hodgepodge of other whatnots. It’s nice to see where things are going and be a little bit green at the same time.