Writing is hard, but because I know how to make writing convenient, I have no excuse to avoid it.
Being a writer is incredibly rewarding. The benefits of writing impact your mental, emotional and social lives immediately. Today I want to show you the tools I use to make writing possible no matter where I am.
A laptop is a priceless writing tool. I am tempted to use the word critical, but I have heard rumors about writers who do not use laptops. Back to business.
A laptop gives you all the power of a desktop computer. You can install the most robust software, utilize endless storage options, and abuse a durable keyboard for hours.
Laptops also give you the ability to take your writing anywhere. Limited only by your imagination and battery life, laptops allow your writing space to be anywhere you are.
I use an Apple MacBook Air in the 11” model. This device is lightweight, compact, but truly a workhorse. Other ultra-compact laptops are available and when it comes to writing, almost anything will work. The one exception is the super compact notebooks. In my opinion, these devices do not bring enough to the table, even though word processing is their main purpose.
Certain things about the digital revolution have made writing much easier. Laptops, for instance, are a great example. However, I am a bit of a purist in my heart of hearts. Writing on paper has psychological benefits you don’t get with any digital medium. Something about putting pen to paper makes the experience real. I carry a pocket notebook for this reason and I prefer the Moleskine Reporter.
The fountain pen is experiencing a resurgence in the world. Amateur writers, journalists, CEOs and more are rediscovering the joy of using a fountain pen. Some argue the tool is inefficient, difficult to maintain, clean, or refill. To those people, I say, you may be right. However, the feeling of a superior writing tool in your hand, gliding across the page, is worth the ‘work’.
I have used various different makes and models, but the pen I am currently using is the Kaweco Sport. I have the Skyline model which merely substitutes the gold accents for silver. The pen is made of plastic, making it lightweight. It’s tiny design when closed, makes it ideal for pocket carry. When posted, it is transformed into a full-sized pen.
Whether you use a fountain pen for journaling, storyboarding, note-taking, or serious writing, you cannot help but discover how awesome this pen is.
I sat on an airplane one day, wanting to write, and wishing my laptop wasn’t dead. Of course, I had my trusty pen, but I had forgotten my pocket notebook. The next logical option was my cell phone.
Now, I have written hundreds of words with my thumbs. I should also say that I prefer not to do that. It quickly becomes tiring, tedious, and painful.
There had to be a pocket sized keyboard. What do you know? There is such a thing.
Meet my iWerkz folding, Bluetooth, pocket keyboard. This gives me a nearly full-sized keyboard which fits (truly) in my pocket. There are a few companies who do various designs on the pocket keyboard, but this one seemed the best for me. I didn’t want a silicone keyboard, as it requires a rigid platform to work on. Also, I paid close attention to the layout of the keyboard, and this model gets the keys as close to my traditional keyboard than most others. Even the function keys are most closely aligned with my laptop.
Now my writing follows me around with a much more enjoyable experience than hours-long thumb workouts.
You may have never heard this word before. If you haven’t, you are in for a treat. Scrivener is a writing software for every writer. The creators at Literature and Late wanted to make a single writing program suitable for every writing project and compatible with any operating system (for mac / for windows). That, ladies and gentle-writers, is exactly what they have done.
Scrivener comes with built-in templates for essays, fiction, nonfiction, and more. The overall concept revolves around the writer’s project binder. Tabs, notes, content pages, and any other designation you could want for a writing binder is already built in. What’s more, the program is fully customizable. You can change status, progress markers, set writing session goals, build a cork board with 3 ½ x 5 cards pinned to it… There is way too much to discuss here. I have included what I think is the best video introductory explanation of Scrivener for your edification.
CELL PHONE MEMOS (Written & Audio)
I am writing this paragraph, seated in my car, smack in the middle of a Wal-Mart parking lot. That’s right, fellow writers. My laptop died. My pocket keyboard is probably on my bookshelf, having never made it into my bag this morning. But, will I be stopped? Will my time be spent in futile waste as I battle for gold and cash in an app based game? No. (pause for a quick round of Sniper Fury) The reason I am able to continue, dear friends, is because I have not yet drained my cell phone’s battery. Oh yes, I’m the one not paying attention in line. I’m the culprit of the waiting room lobby, furiously capturing my fleeting meanderings in digital memos. I shan’t be stopped!
Seriously, sometimes you can’t pull out a laptop. A pocket keyboard is tricky while standing, but your idea will not leave you alone. My cellular phone ensures I am able to capture minute detail or sweeping prose with only my thumbs. Is this the best way to write? No, you fool, but writing does not always wait for convenience. Figure out your cell phone’s text/memo capabilities. It may be the deciding factor in the salvation of an entirely great idea.
CLOUD STORAGE (Google Drive/Dropbox)
Cloud storage is a great tool for three reasons. First, saving your work online lets you save your work redundantly. A safeguard against losing your work gives you peace of mind.
Second, the cloud lets you collaborate with other writers easily. Having the ability for every writer to access a document is awesome. My co-author for this blog and I use Google Drive as we draft, edit, and make decisions. Despite our living in separate parts of the world, cloud storage makes collaboration possible.
Finally, Google Drive specifically has a built-in word processing ability (Google Docs). The combination of internet-based storage and word processing lets me write, literally, wherever I am. Mobility, storage, redundancy, composition, and collaboration all in one place makes cloud storage unbeatable for writers.
EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
I remember the first time I lost an entire writing project. I spent hours working to draft, then hone, then tweak every word. It was also one of the only times I had allowed myself to express my feelings on the political climate at the time; something I do so rarely I was amazed it was even happening.
Upon completing my short labor of love, I pushed the save button and exited the program (it was not Scrivener). Well, poof, it was gone. My wife asked me what I had been working on and I was excited to show her, but it was gone forever. Losing any of your work is mind-numbing. The rage you experience is excruciating to the point you need to take a nap. This is why I now use both cloud storage and an external hard drive.
By saving everything to either, or both, provides you with the safest method of protection. The one plus side of physical hard drives, versus cloud storage, has to do with lost internet connectivity. So, I do both. Think of external hard drives like condoms. If you aren’t ready for the consequences, use protection.
As a writer, people think you are listening to them or paying attention to something, only to look and see you have your face buried in a pocket notebook. Every artist needs the support of those closest to them. Explain to your people you are a writer and gently help them understand how bizarre you are. If you have a moment of inspiration, and someone gets angry that you took a note, it could derail an entire day’s worth of creativity. Your people should support you, but you need to help them understand.
At the same time, declaring yourself a writer does not give you license to ignore those around you. Too many creatives are self-entitled social idiots. You will not have the critical social support you need if you cannot balance being social and begin creative.
Being a writer is incredible. Whether anyone reads what you have to say, or not, expressing yourself through words can be one of the most rewarding habits you can form. I hope something you read here will give you the ability to expand writing life.