Writing tools you can’t live without

Writing tools you can't live without_text over lightened image of a neat pile of pencils with sharpened tips
Date Posted:
5/19/2021

Sometimes, an amazing idea hits at the worst possible time.

Maybe you’re in the parent pickup line at your child’s school and out of nowhere, you realize how to solve a problem your novel’s main character is having. Or you’re up to your elbows in tomato sauce during a late-summer canning spree when a strong image or first line of your next poem bursts into your consciousness.

How many of those ideas actually make it onto the page?

Lots of writing advice centers on making time and space to write, and that’s great; but the truth is that you never know when inspiration will strike. If you aren’t ready, a good idea might come and go before you can get home and boot up your laptop. There are tools that can help you get ready and stay ready for your next big idea.

Don’t miss out on any more writing opportunities. From the basic pen and notebook to an app that will keep you off Facebook, explore some tools that can make you a more productive, organized, and dedicated writer:

Carry a notebook.

Writer, if you aren’t already carrying a notebook with you almost everywhere you go, this tip will change your life! The notebook doesn’t have to be standard-sized; in fact, it should fit in a back pocket, tote, or purse. This notebook is for capturing ideas, not composing drafts. The goal is to jot down just enough of your idea that you will remember it later, when you have more time to sit down and develop it. Some writers like simple, small spiral-bound notebooks, while others prefer soft moleskin journals.

Make sure you always have pens on hand, too. Put a few in your bag and car, and make sure there is at least one in every room of your house. And make sure they’re good pens! A former writing professor once told me that if you don’t like what you’re writing with, you won’t write anything good. Plus, what is more annoying than urgently needing to write something down and trying to use a junky pen that’s run out of ink? For a writer, the answer is, not much.

Use your phone’s voice recording and notes functions.

No matter how many pens and notebooks you buy, you will find yourself without one at some point when you are bursting with a good idea. But we are rarely far from our phones, right? If you aren’t already, get familiar with your phone’s notes function, or practice making short voice recordings. Put both on your home screen for quick access. You can make a short recording while stuck in traffic (not while driving!), or type a note while out on a walk. If you have a little more time…

Use an app.

Maybe you can’t get to your computer or notebook, but your phone can do more than just receive your notes. If you have an idea and a little time to flesh it out before a full-on writing session, there are apps designed specifically for writers that can help. Need to brainstorm? Create maps and diagrams of your thought process using Freemind. Want to make lists or take notes? Try Evernote. Want to journal from your phone? Life Calendar utilizes fun color-coding for organizing your short entries. Organize larger projects with larger investments in programs like Ulysses or Scrivener. Each of these apps is a unique way to capture an idea before it flies away.

Or step away from the apps.

Maybe your productivity depends on not being anywhere near a smart phone or tablet. The siren call of our favorite social media feeds often keeps us from utilizing small chunks of time we could be spending with writing projects. Sometimes, we take breaks from social sites, deactivating accounts for stretches of time to re-center; but other times, deactivation is not feasible. In that case, consider installing Cold Turkey, which will block access to certain websites on a specific device, or Freedom, which will sync programmed “distraction-free” times across all your devices.

Choose the tools that will benefit your writing practice the most to maximize readiness for your next great writing idea.

Have you or will you use any of the tools in this post? Share with us in the comments.

Related reading:  Paper or screen? Keys or ink? How writers write, and why it matters

Reframing the “no time to write” problem

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