I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tools I use for writing (both hardware and software) and the way I use them. And I’ve realized that I might need to change my tactics to work with both the way my brain works and the way that my tools work.
For example, though I have a computer at home, I rarely use it for long writing sessions. I find that when I’m at home, it’s too easy to be distracted. I do write at home, but I’m nowhere near as productive as I am when I’m out and about. So as a result, I have been trying to spend more time writing in places that aren’t my apartment.
I have a laptop which I had been carting around for writing, but I have a long commute and often have a lot of things to carry and sometimes lugging around the laptop would feel like too much. Additionally, the battery life isn’t the best if I’m in a place without outlets.
So when I was able to get my hands on an iPad, I thought that would be a great solution. A lot of people peg it as a device for consuming rather than producing, but it can be used as a writing machine. I paired with with a bluetooth keyboard and got a stand and it became a lighter device that I could carry with me in a smaller amount of space. With apps like Pages and QuickOffice I could even access my documents directly from Dropbox and work on them (though only QuickOffice allowed me to save the files back again, and then only if I had an internet connection).
So I could, and did, write on the iPad. But as I just mentioned, there were sometimes issues with saving. And I’d have to email my files part of the time to myself. Which just makes version control all the more difficult.
Additionally, lately I’ve been working more on novels than on short stories. And while I write short stories in Word (or a comparable alternative), I work on novels exclusively with Scrivener. Scrivener has no iPad version, so I’m confined to my laptop if I want the complete functionality that Scrivener gives me (and I usually do).*
Also, the other day, just after working for an hour on a chapter of my novel in QuickOffice, and basically rewriting it, I lost all of my changes when the app crashed. Suddenly they were all gone and I had no way to recover them. That was one of the worst writing moments I’ve had in a long time.
So I’m thinking that for me, right now, the best solution is to use my laptop when at all possible. Yes, it’s heavier, but right now it has a lot of advantages for me. It has a built-in keyboard for one, one which allows for tabs in whatever program I use. Dropbox files save locally to the hard drive when there’s no internet connection. Scrivener and Word both save regularly to help prevent loss of data. And I have access to Scrivener in the first place, which is a big help. Battery life can be a problem, but lately that’s been less of a problem if I make an effort to keep it fully charged. I’m rarely writing anywhere for more than a couple of hours without an outlet anyway. Do I always have an internet connection? No. But then again that can be as much a distraction as a boon (and I can technically use my phone if I need to email files from Dropbox).
I like having options. And I like the various ways I could make the iPad work for me. But sometimes simplicity is more valuable. Sometimes the ability to just sit down, open up the laptop and start typing where I left off is better than having to configure things and set them up and then sync and compare them. At least this is how I feel right now. I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
Anyone else out there have a way of working that they had to hone or fine tune? Or are there tools that you use that you find essential?
* Scrivener 2 now allows syncing with certain text apps, like Simple Note, but again, you don’t have access to Scrivener’s features this way.