Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Most Overlooked Writing Accessory Ever



Every writer knows there are must-haves: a good dictionary, Strunk and White's Elements of Style, reliable research material. The necessity of these and many others goes without saying. Then there are the less formal accessories that vary by writer: the proper pen, the stress ball, the bowl of peanut M&M's. Talking recently with a fellow writer, I was surprised to find that one of my hands-down, deal-breaking must-haves she has never used: the Dump Pad.

THE DUMP PAD

What is it? It's simply the greatest low-tech anti-distraction device ever created. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you. You sit down to write. Your cat bites your foot. You remember you need to buy more cat food or tomorrow she will not stop with a simple bite; she will devour you. You get up and make a shopping list. While standing at the counter, you see in the morning sunlight the ghastly shade of your dishtowels and berate yourself for not doing your laundry. The mail arrives and you remember you forgot to send out the cable bill. Without cable you can't watch the NOVA episode on the Eastern Cougar (or the Bachelor. I don't judge.) It's on tonight, right? Is today Thursday? You were supposed to call your friend about going out tonight…

Sound familiar? Enter the Dump Pad.

I keep it next to my writing station with a working pen. As my brain labors to kick into fiction mode, I stumble across dozens of fleeting thoughts, chores, mental dings that could derail me if I address them at that moment. Instead, I jot them down. They're not forgotten; they're not left behind. They will be dealt with afterwards. Knowing I have a record of them frees my imagination from my responsible mind's grip and creativity can commence.

Don’t lose your dictionaries or character bibles and, in the name of all things holy, don't lose the M&M's. But do yourself a favor – get a Dump Pad. You'll thank me later.

15 comments:

Donna Cummings said...

Great suggestion! Even better, you helped inspire my blog post for tomorrow--I'll be linking back here so people can see your brilliance on the page. :)

SG Redling said...

Donna, you are a queen among women. I dub thee Lady Biscuit! Thanks for the love!

Anita Clenney said...

Great post. I have a dump pad, well...pads. If I had only one, it's brilliant, but I write notes on whatever is closest at hand. Sometimes it's this pad, sometimes it's that pad, sometimes it's a bill thats waiting to be paid...you get the picture. This has reminded me to keep it all in one place. The OFFICIAL dump pad!

Melissa Romo said...

I buy these in bulk from Staples -little mini legal pads. Can't live without!!

Daniel Grafton said...

I actually use a combined sheet of paper always on my desk and my phone's "notepad" function for the same purpose. You've got to watch out on the phone though... easy to forget there's a new note in there when you could be eating M&Ms instead. ;]

India Drummond said...

Ooh, this is one of the best suggestions I've heard for writers in a very long time!

Nice one!

SG Redling said...

Once you've used one of these, you wonder how you ever kept a train of thought without it! And Daniel, there is no way I would use my phone. Writing is my favorite excuse for turning the thing off! And Melissa, I LOVE those little legal pads!!!

Patti Larsen said...

I've never tried this before! Thanks for the suggestion!

Girl Fren' said...

I love this! In fact, I have this, just didn't name it...see it? over on my right? yellow legal pad.

Like Anita Clenney, though, I tend to have one near the computer, BR phone, KIT phone, LR ... well, you get it. I'm cutting back, though. NOW!

brandieyalniz said...

I use this at work. Without it I would forget what needed to be done. But at home, I just haven't found my organization button. I think it's under that pile over there. I do have tons of notebooks on my desk, but that doesn't help, seeing as I write little things in all of them and then can't find them later on. Soon, I hope.

SG Redling said...

Don't give up, brandie. There's always hope...and office depot! Good luck!

Heather Isaacs said...

Without a "dump pad" my life would be in shambles. My everyday stuff. ASAP to do stuff. Next week stuff. Next month stuff. You name it it goes on there.

SG Redling said...

LOL Heather. Once you're a convert, there's no going back!

Donald V. Phillips said...

I use... old copies of manuscripts cut into small sheets and bound together with wood glue into little tablets. :) It's my only stab at recycling.

writingdianet said...

I love this idea! Something to posssibly cure my (self-diagnosed) a.d.d.. Can't wait to try it:)