Writing On Receipt Paper and Other Random Surfaces

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What is the most nerve-wringing advice every writer hears?

“Every day. Write every single day. You can’t be a real writer if you don’t actually write, so make sure you write every day. Have work? Wake up at 6AM and write. Can’t wake up early? Write until midnight. Need full eight hours sleep? Haha, that’s cute. WRITE!!!”

I can’t always fight back the overwhelming panic when I find myself only ten minutes before bed and realize, “Oh, s***, I didn’t write a bloody thing today.”

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My mind pulls up every mental file of every author quoted on how writing is not a choice, it is a demand of a writer’s mind and heart to be done as often as possible, so if you don’t get yourself into the habit, how can you be one? Each time, I sit in a daze with the everlasting question that I believe every writer who cares, truly cares too much to the point of anxiety, ask themselves:

Am I a real writer? Or just another fraud?

I’ve met people who would become ecstatic when I say I write or strive to become a full-time writer. They would say “Oh, I’m a writer, too! Isn’t that awesome?”

I actually find solace in discovering another writer, like finding a lost friend in a chaotic crowd (as an introvert, this is my view of the outside world, full of people I want nothing to do with until I discover they like to read or write). So this one occasion, when a coworker I was getting to know at my new job in retail after moving to NC told me she was a writer, I asked what I always ask other writers, “So what do you enjoy to read?”

Yes, usually the question would be “what do you like to write,” however writers do have an understanding that in order to write, you must read (a LOT) in order to grow your own prose-creating powers either from inspiration or examples of writers who broke through the publishing wall many of us are still slamming our heads into. Plus, it’s a fun break from the routine and a lot of writer’s genre of choice reflects on their choice of books. So I ask this and the coworker replies with a glittering smile:

“Oh, I don’t like to read. It’s a bit too boring.”

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I fell into a hole of silence without a single appropriate response available to hoist me out.

I thought, “Wait…how? How can this be?” Numerous teachers, professors, and mentors have all drilled it into my head: You cannot write well if you don’t read as much as possible. Always have a ready-to-read book at hand for those times where writing is improbable (such as when you travel).

Curiously and dubiously all at once, I ask my coworker, “So, how do you write then if you don’t read?”

“Oh, well, I don’t really write anymore but back in high school I would write fiction stories in my notebooks during class. I filled one up!”

“How…how long ago was that?” Perhaps this was a bit rude but my confused daze was not lifting at all.

“Oh, I graduated eight years ago!”

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I don’t remember exactly how I responded so please accept Nathan Fillion as my stand-in during this flashback. I may have reacted the same way he’s depicting. I knew then that this person, as earnest as they were, was not the same type of writer I discipline myself to be and we never spoke of writing again.

I remind myself of this cringe-worthy memory to assure my worries, though healthy to keep to always keep myself trudging forward through the muck of adult-life responsibilities, that I am a writer and it’s all about finding balance and routine to keep the ink flowing. For a long time, I had a schedule of waking up early to write for an hour or two each morning before getting ready for work. Some portions of my life I would write for two hours an hour after returning home from work. But for those times when finding time outside of work was too much?

I remembered one professor always boasted this history tidbit about the great Jane Austen: for her days that were filled with visitors frequenting her home, where her attendance and attention were required, she would keep a small notepad and pen under her hands to jot down writings, notes, and ideas either during or in between visitors. My professor told us we may not have the same responsibilities as Miss Austen but we should share the same sense of commitment. This has remained with me for years and finding myself at an hourly extensive position at a retail drugstore where I spent hours standing at a counter, waiting for customers to need my help, I used it.

Despite that notebooks were not readily available, retail does provides a large amount of paper materials, specifically in receipt roll paper. I’d even sneak sheets of printer paper from the office, write on the back of these consultation note slips that I had while giving customers consultations for skincare and makeup (I was a beauty consultant of sorts) and anything else I could get my hands on. I always had a pen in my smock pocket or at my counter (several of the company’s pens wound up going home with me in my pockets) and sometimes I would bring a notebook/journal from home and write in it when the customer count was slow or nonexistent.

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Here is an image I snapped one evening when I piled up several pieces I worked on at work. A few are on flimsy, thin receipt slips taken blank from the machine, many printer sheets, etc. Now it probably was not in good graces to take these from my workplace and using them, but when you work in customer service and deal with the headache-inducing moments of people being people (hint, hint: people can be quite terrible to you when you can’t cash their very out-of-date coupon) and you have the nagging pull to grab a pen and write down the next scene of your story, you bend your morals a tad. You work with what you have, so I did. (Also note, I NEVER did this in front of a customer nor while my workplace was busy and tasks needed to be done. It was ALWAYS done when my tasks were completed/no customers were stepping near my work station. If your work does not give you the free time to write, do not risk losing it, especially if you need it for the income).

Lately, while packing up items in the bedroom, I cleaned out my clogged bookcase, and discovered a small nest of scraps of paper. Confused, I dug them out from the corner of the shelf where they were shoved. I scanned over one, over the scrawls of scraggly cursive with its jagged lines and ill-drawn swoops; unmistakably my handwriting. Yes, these were mine, several upon several slips I had written while at work and squirreled away at home, unsure if I would ever use them or just keep them for memento sake. Either way, it’s always wonderful to uncover old writings, even moreso when they are written in an unusual way.

So no matter what you are given, time or material wise, if you are a writer:

Then write. Don’t stop. Don’t slow down. Even if you need to just write about how exhausted you feel or about the taxing demands of society that requires us to be robots when all we want is to feel human, write. Nothing will make you feel more human than writing about how awful it feels to be so. Better yet, it will make you feel like a writer, a real, genuine God forsaken writer with ink flowing from the pen (or from the keyboard keys) and nothing relieves us more than that.

 

Let the words and ink flow, my friends.

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