As writers, we want the best possible writing tool that allows us to put more words on the page and to create great work. I can’t speak for you, so I’m going to share my journey and list some of the pros and cons of the tools I’ve tried.
No matter what tool you choose, it must be a good fit for you. Kinda like how some people like skinny jeans and some people like MC Hammer pants, right.
1. A Writing Only Computer.
I’ve experimented off and on with the idea of having a “writing only” computer. This approach can work, for sure. My biggest problem is you likely have to be online to download updates and to save your work to the cloud. (This means the temptation is always there to do some research when you’re not sure about something or to hop on Twitter, Facebook or other social media). Yes, you can block those things, so it is really a writing only computer, but that is a bit of a pain.
You’re also limited by technology. If you have a desktop, you’re stuck writing in that one specific place. If you have an older laptop, you’re limited by the battery life of your computer. A writing only laptop computer plus a regular laptop computer is just a lot to carry.
My conclusion: This approach can work, but often you are limited by technology and location or battery life (or lack there of).
2. An Old-fashioned Typewriter
Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it? (And yes, it smells kind of musty.) I thought there was something really cool about having the same tool used by some of the all-time greats. But I soon realized that you have to hit the keys really, really hard for the ink to be dark enough on the page. The keys are also really high, so you have to push down each key several inches for the typewriter to work. At that point, mistakes are pretty much guaranteed. And when you make a mistake, you’re pretty much out of luck.
My conclusion: A typewriter is cool but more so in a historical way than for use as a writing tool today.
3. Paper Notebooks.
Even more old school than a typewriter is writing on actual paper with a pen or pencil. I know this works for Quentin Tarantino and many other writers. This method can absolutely work if you make it clear that one specific notebook is only for one project. I’ve made the silly mistake of buying a bunch of black composition notebooks and then I just confuse myself.
My conclusion: This can work well for someone with a lot of discipline. For me, I like to use notebooks for taking notes or jotting down ideas more than for writing.
4. The Best of Both Worlds.
About a year ago, I came across something interesting that completely changed how I write. The AlphaSmart NEO. It looks like this.
What’s the AlphaSmart NEO? It’s a portable writing device that has a full keyboard and runs on three AA batteries. It’s only about a pound and a half in weight. This device is built like a tank. Best of all, there is an option to make the font bigger. When I use that option, my need to self-edit as I write goes out the window.
So what do you do when you’re done with some of your writing? I’m glad you asked. You just hook up a USB printer cable and export the text from the NEO to your word processor of choice. Most of the time, I move it over to Scrivener. (Once in Scrivener, then I can move the text around and organize it, however, I’d like.) I’ve used this approach extensively in my first novel.
You can pick up an AlphaSmart NEO on Amazon here for between 20-30 dollars. There is even a newer version available here that allows you to print directly from the NEO. (I assume an older printer would be required for this.)The USB/printer cable is available for three dollars here.
There is even an active Alphasmart community on Flickr. For me, the AlphaSmart is the ultimate writing tool. I love it so much I’ve even bought a spare just in case something happens to my original one.
While I know the AlphaSmart isn’t the right tool for everyone, you can use this approach to find the right writing tool for you. Don’t worry about being committed to a tool forever; just try a new tool for a week (or even the length of one project). I know I get more writing done when I’m not tempted by an internet browser or multiple applications.
If what you have is working well for you right now–if you are consistently putting words on the page–don’t change a thing. If you’re stuck and feeling distracted or find yourself procrastinating, a new tool can help you get back into a writing groove.
What do you use to write? Please share in the comments.
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