Column Drafting Preferences

When I sit down to write a column, I start here:

Some writers head straight for the computer keyboard but I start out with a pen and notebook. That’s why I buy a ton of these.

I’m not particular or very specific; I like variety and will use a different style notebook every time I need a new one and will stock up on them when they’re on sale. I have a fixation for new notebooks. Maybe it’s because of the sense of accomplishment it gives me when I’ve filled one up or because I love them when they’re brand new. I enjoy writing with pen first more so than typing first. It’s always a fun day when I’ve filled a notebook up and get to pick out a new one. I get amused by the littlest things, can you tell?


I usually begin a writing session by brainstorming topic ideas or free writing on a topic to get my brain warmed up. I purposely don’t hold back anything while writing, which is why I hate it when my family reads what I’ve written in these notebooks. I will oftentimes change what I intended to write mid-sentence so I don’t stop and start over and risk losing momentum on an idea.

I get really peeved at my kids or husband when they start reading stuff I’ve written out loud. It makes me sound like a schizophrenic. My brainstorming or free writing is mostly garbage, and nothing in the beginning stages of a column makes sense but I rummage through my garbage of words—and there’s a lot of it—then sift out what I need later.

I have a compost pile, recycling pile, and a lot of totally useless junk. Sometimes it takes a page and a half or more of writing rubbish to get one gemstone of a sentence. Those begining, warm-up writings usually contain words that don’t make sense and a lot of it is mostly garbage at first but I sift out what I need later by highlighting what I want to use.

I try to think of as many things as I can that’s related to the topic I’ve chosen. Regardless of whether I think I’ll use it or not. Sometimes just having oddball notes and related content can spur a clever line or create a completely different column idea.

I also write out lists of anything and everything related to my topic.

An example of what I would write in a notebook about baling wire might look like this:


“Miracle wire”

Handy, useful, convenient, versatile, pliable, sturdy,

Square baler

Behind pickup seats, in pickup boxes, barns,

Tucked between boards

Reusable, recyclable


Holds gates, car batteries, panels

Door latches

Manipulate easily

Fixes fences

Holding our ranch together

On every tractor

Makes hooks, door handles,

Old timers want some/in high demand

Wire-tied balers rarely used

Saves day

Only repair tool needed

Necessary on ranch

Training kids to use


Once I get enough material to work with then I go to my computer and type up a rough first draft.  Notebooks are ideal places for me to dump my writing garbage but also a  great place to rummage through for new ideas.

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