Michelle Wittle On a Writer’s Toolbox

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

All writers have a toolbox. Whether it is an actual box or just a box of files in their head, all writers keep things that help them write. I didn’t realize how important my own writer’s toolbox was until I started teaching again. I took my toolbox for granted. I didn’t pay too much attention to it. However, now I am seeing just how important it is in my life and I feel like I should share my toolbox with you.


First, I want to explain that I actually have a toolbox that I purchased. Before I was even in a classroom, I always thought that for non-writers, it would be a great idea to have a physical box filled with “writing tools” to help a non-writer out when they were stuck on something. When I started teaching high school, I just didn’t think they would buy into a physical toolbox and I never really had the time to devote to developing one with them.


However, now I am with little kids and I have about three hours with them, I revisited my age-old idea of a physical toolbox. Kids need a lot of stimuli and I’ll admit it, I had fun making the box.


It is an actual art box from AC Moore. It’s clear so I had to put all my favorite quotes on it. Then I went to my other favorite place, Staples, and purchased a billion index cards and these cute index cardholders. I got more pens (a girl can’t have enough pens) and highlighters. I hooked myself up. Then I went home and started constructing my box.


I already told you I wrote all over it. So, after I designed it, I grabbed a bunch of my favorite books that I know I wrote in and started finding quotes and adjectives that I liked so I could write them down on the index cards. As I writer, I know I have certain flaws. The first is naming my characters. I tend to gravitate towards “J” names and I always seem to want to use the same names all the time. One of the cardholders in my writer’s toolbox is for names. When I come across a cool name, I write it down and will now be placing it in my toolbox.


I also know that I have a hard time with adjectives. I tend to use the same sentence structure and the same words over and over again. So, I went through my books looking for cool words and writing them down to add to my toolbox.


Lastly, I have a hard time with cool ideas. If I don’t write the story down that is in my head, it will haunt me over and over again. This haunting will keep coming out in story after story and sometimes I am not ready to write that story. So, I took my favorite books and wrote down more quotes and ideas that I got from other quotes. Then when the time came and I needed a new idea, I would have a quick way to find them.


Do I think every writer should have a toolbox? Of course and I would argue that every writer already has one. It may not be a physical one, but we all see words and phrases we like and file them in our minds. Other books we read may spark a new thought within us and that thought gets filed away. We all do it. Writers love words and how they are placed together. We all look to our heroes and keep their words with us.


If you are having a difficult time writing and getting your thoughts organized, or even if you want to work on your weaknesses, I suggest creating your own toolbox. Take any form you like (whether it is just a journal, or a physical box) and when you find something you like, make a note of it. Creating a toolbox is a great way to procrastinate as well. Not that I advocate procrastination or anything, but if you need to just walk away from an idea for a bit and you want to do something constructive, making a toolbox is just a thought.