The tools maketh the writer. Or do they, really? Does using an expensive laptop—say, a Macbook—produce better prose than George RR Martin’s clunker of a PC?
You may be tempted to say no, and I might agree, but there’s no denying the effects that tools play on your psyche.
I’m not here to argue about whether writing tools improve productivity, though. Instead, I’m here to share the important ones that exist in my creative process. So let’s begin with…
Pen and paper
Ah, the good ol’ pen and paper, or quill and parchment.
I’ve used them to draft entire novels, these. And while do I enjoy a literary frolic with my fountain pen, it’s the cheap paper and pencil that get my words flowing.
Why a pencil? Because it doesn’t depend on gravity to work. Which means that I can have a clipboard on the couch, angled any way I want, and still be able to write. Also, pencils don’t feather or bleed, which ink tends to do on cheap paper.
I enjoy using cheap supplies because thinking on paper only works if I’m not too precious with my thoughts.
Sure, writing longhand is way slower than typing, but you can’t rely on technology all the time. Besides, this is how the greats used to write, am I right?
I bought my first mechanical keyboard for my first writing gig about a decade ago, and I’ve never turned back.
It’s not to say that they differ that much from a regular keyboard. But the difference in weight matters once you type thousands of words per day.
I used to love the clickety-clack of blue Cherry switches, but have since switched to reds, which are much softer on the fingers.
I believe that getting a good keyboard is like investing in good tyres, shoes, or mattresses. You spend so much time with them that it’s worth splurging for quality.
I’ve shilled this tool in my previous articles, and now I’ll do it again.
Notion is a wonderful tool for writers because it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a substitute for Scrivener because of its similar layout, or it could simply be a deadline tracker.
I use it as a place to store my writing ideas, since it syncs with my phone. It allows me to upload unlimited pictures too, and also works great as a commonplace book.
So yes, while Notion may be just another productivity app, it’s also the productivity tool for me. This will be something I use until either of us dies.
p.s. It’s free, too.
Every writer needs an offline-but-digital tool for writing. Why? Because we shouldn’t depend on connectivity to write.
This means that apps like Google Docs don’t belong here, but those like Microsoft Word do.
Not only do you remove the lag that comes with online platforms, you also get faster drafting speeds.
My offline weapon of choice? It has to be Scrivener, a tool made by writers, for writers.
There’s just no substituting the binder for fiction research and chapter separation. This interface changes your workflow, especially when compared with tools like Microsoft Word.
Sure, I could manually add notes to the end of each chapter, but nothing beats having a dedicated section.
Couple that with features like the cork board or the running word counter and you have a perfect novel-writing tool.
Still on the fence? They have a month-long free trial available for download on their website. Be warned though, you could end up like me and give up every other writing app.
I’ve grown partial to the ‘power’ variation instead of the standard Thesaurus.com. This preference is due to the more diverse results you get for each word. And when I’m browsing the thesaurus, that’s exactly what I’m looking for: ideas, words.
By default, I prefer not using a thesaurus. Because if I can’t think of the word off the top of my head, then I don’t deserve to use it. But sometimes I’ll need help with unique words—like quill and parchment—and that’s where a thesaurus comes in handy.
I can’t write about writing tools without mentioning Canva. Because there was a time you’d be visually screwed if you didn’t have Photoshop knowledge.
Pre-Canva, editing images often involved learning crap like the lasso tool. Even basic editing processes seemed to require a multimedia degree.
Canva has changed all that by simplifying the process.
See the header on my website? That a Canva end product. Have you signed up for my newsletter and downloaded to guide to growing your blog? That e-book is a Canva product as well.
We can’t forget this useful tool now, can we? Because every writer knows that the only way to sustain a respectable output is by making a deal with the devil. Sometimes I sacrifice a goat, sometimes a chicken. Gotta pay that blood money somehow, right?
Coffee, not for the energy, but for keeping my sleepiness at bay. A stopwatch, because writing sprints do work. And my mortality, because knowing that I can die anytime does pepper a little urgency into my life.
Tools I don’t use
While there are tons of tools available to writers today, there are also apps that have never really resonated with me. Here are the few that I actively avoid in my writing.
You’ve probably heard of these ones, that exist in the form of Grammarly or Hemingway. Why don’t I like grammar tools? Because they try to funnel writing into a universal voice, one that’s devoid of rhythm and feel.
Besides, the ‘corrections’ tend to mess with the expressive side of writing, which can detract from a young writer’s journey into the art.
If I were to use a grammar checker, Google Docs does a good enough job. Or maybe this is just me being the ‘get off my lawn’ equivalent of a writer.
High-pressure word processors
Ever tried Write Or Die or The Most Dangerous Writing App? For the uninitiated, these are tools that threaten to delete your work if you stop for too long.
It’s great if you want to get over your perfectionism. But writing sprints can do that too. Through sprints, you’ll learn how to write without stopping. And with that skill, you’ll be able to churn your zero drafts without the help of ‘dangerous’ writing apps.
Abundance of time
I’ll probably get flak for this, but let’s just say that I write better when I don’t have as much time.
Give me a free weekend with no plans and I’ll come up with a blog post. Give me a busy day where I can only write during lunch break, and I’ll still come up with a blog post. Blame Parkinson’s law for this.
Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to writing productivity, time isn’t a tool that I generally need.
It’s not the tools
I hope you see where I’m going by now. At the end of the day, you’ll craft the exact same thing on a $2,000 laptop as you would on a $100 one.
Likewise, it shouldn’t matter if you have Canva, or Grammarly, or a pentagram. Because many successful writers have put out great work, with or without them.
When it comes to creative pursuits, what matters most is that thing between your ears. And the only way you can hone that is through years of practice.
Or training. Or drills. Or *breaks open thesaurus* exercitation.
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