All I Need

One of my husband’s favorite scenes in Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk takes place in the office of an extravagant mansion. Raised by black sharecroppers in an unpainted, two-room shack in the rural South (I know, I know), the jerk ends up with loads of money—only to lose everything he loves, including his wife, played by Bernadette Peters.

When his wife tells him all he cares about is money, he sweeps a mountain of paperwork from his desk. “I don’t need any of this—except this ashtray. That’s the only thing I need. And this paddle-ball game.” As he staggers around the room, his list of necessary items lengthens. “All I need is this astray and the paddle-ball game—and the remote control. And these matches. And this lamp….”

I’ve been thinking recently about what I need to write. I need my computer, obviously. If I had to write everything out longhand as some writers still do, I’d never have finished my first manuscript. Word processing is essential to me, but writing directly on a laptop isn’t ideal. I never can use the built-in mouse thingy right. So I also need my big monitor, my keyboard, and my mouse.

Then there are my books. Some favorites are always there—The Emotion Thesaurus and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, for example. And Watching the English by Kate Fox—a wonderful resource for understanding what she calls “the hidden rules of English behavior.” My own previous novels are always within reach as well, in case I need to check something for continuity. And a few books on craft.

But with each new novel, my go-to bookshelf changes. This time around, with Book 3 in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, I’ve added Domesday Book: A Complete Translation, ed. Dr. Ann Williams and Professor G. H. Martin; Suffolk Folk Tales by Kirsty Hartsiotis, Village Buildings of Britain by Matthew Rice, and Lost Country Houses of Suffolk by W. M. Roberts.

Is that all I need? Well, not quite. Here are some of my other necessaries:

* My sweet Millie, a calm and quiet presence (she does make suggestions from time to time)

* The bouquet of paperback flowers I won at Crime Bake years ago

* My candle holder—a comforting flame on cold, dark winter days

* Note pads, sticky notes, and tablets for the brilliant ideas that come to me as I write—or the errors I must remember to fix

* My printer, to print out bits of research I will need

* Pens, pencils, and markers—one in a ceramic holder made by my son Dave in middle school; the other in a pretty marquetry holder from Damascus, Syria (a gift)

* A bottle of Fiji water, sometimes a cup of coffee, several lipsticks, and oh yes, my comfortable chair

That’s all I need.

What do you need to write?

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