My writer friends and I often talk about the tools we’ve discovered to actually help us put words on a page. Those tools range everything from hardware to software, pens to moleskine journals, settings to environments, snacks to libations. I’ve decided to sing the praises of a few of my writing tools here in a series of posts.
Last time out I sang the praises of my Macbook Air, the hardware of choice for me and my writing life. This time I’ll share with you a few of the operating features, software gems and apps I appreciate most.
First, the Mac OS offers a multiple desktop feature. I’m guessing Windows must have something comparable for PC users. Briefly, I love this feature because I’ve created a special ‘writing environment’ desktop for myself, with all the apps and docs I need handy and open, while all the ones that would tend to distract me (Facebook, etc) are hidden. Not to mention the desktop picture was chosen to soothe… it’s like I’m writing in one of my favorite settings, as opposed to my the look of my normal work environment. I know, I need help. Next.
I do have the writing program Scrivener on my machine. I am using it for a couple of projects. But truth be told, I still use Microsoft Word for most of my writing. I know, right? For me it’s simply about familiarity. We’ve all been using Word for so long, I can use it with my eyes closed (and writing in the middle of the night, I often do). Now Scrivener does have a lot of wonderful, writer specific features that ease transition to many different formats and things. So I do bounce between the two with projects. Still, an admission: more often than not, the blank page before me is likely a word doc.
For compiling research, ideas, character development, outlines, notes and you name it (all, by the way, features within the aforementioned Scrivener) I actually use the mighty Evernote program. The reasons I use Evernote could fill a dozen of these posts. Because my writing endeavors fit in and around many other responsibilities in my life, the fact that Evernote is also an iOS app and is therefore on my phone, makes this an invaluable ‘everywhere’ tool for me. I highly recommend it.
A couple more apps to share, and of my favorite variety: they’re free! Because writers write, and for me that means a lot of journaling, I use a free version of Per Se. I used to use real notebooks, pens and paper, but I’ve got stacks of them. And what to do with them, right? Now the digi-journal is my friend. Because I write when I can, it often means budgeting an hour here, or thirty minutes there, amidst my week. To do that and make sure I get the most out of those time slots, I use a free version of the app Howler Timer. It’s literally just a desktop timer that you set, and it howls at you when your time is up. So if I plan to give one hour to a manuscript, I can tune out the rest of the world until the wolves howl. Of course, I’m a Springsteen fanatic, so I prefer to think that “The dogs on Main Street howl, ’cause they understand; if I could take one moment into my hands…”
Finally for this entry, I’ll commend to you the Mac tool I use, but more importantly the practice of regularly backing up your writing. Macs have a build it feature called Time Machine. I’m guessing PC folks have something similar. USE IT! Perhaps you’ve experienced the sheer devastation of realizing you lost EVERYTHING you poured your heart into. Time Machine allows me to schedule back ups so I don’t even need to think about doing them. And I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve slipped a finger on a key, here or there, or been thankful I could go back and grab an earlier version of something.
All of this, hardware, software, environments and apps, helps me get B.I.C. and W.O.P. (Butt-in-chair and words-on-page.) What about you? Any hardware, software or app suggestions you can share that help your writing life?