More Thinking About Writing (Regarding Tools and Positioning)

Recently I’ve blogged about my attempts to optimize my approach to writing day to day, to hopefully become more productive and prolific. A huge part of that, by necessity, is that I have to deal with my depression; if I can’t, I might as well throw in the towel.

This week, I start a course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which will hopefully give me the edge in that fight. I’m assuming it will, so I’m working on setting the stage for the writing I plan once it’s over.

Kate gave me a book about writing for my birthday, Chapter By Chapter by Heather Sellers. Generally I find books about writing to be a waste of time for a writer; most of them say essentially the same things, and once you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read the rest. If you’re trying to be a writer, your time is better spent writing than reading about writing. Till now, I’ve recommended only two books to writers looking for advice, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and On Writing by Stephen King.

Chapter By Chapter is now on that list, and not just because it came to me via hot redhead. Kate chose well; Sellers has some fresh perspectives on the work, and her book has been useful to me as I try to figure these things out.

One chapter proved pertinent to this post, the one about “positioning.” Sellers defines positioning as preparing to do the work, mentally and physically, in advance, so that when it’s time to get to work you can just sit down and write. Part of this is making a routine of connecting with your project every evening, thinking about the next day’s writing, staying involved. The other part of it is making sure you’re physically set up in advance so you don’t have to waste time gathering materials and setting up when you sit down to write again.

For my purposes, this chapter helped me think about the tools I use to write, and my overall approach, physically, to the work. My tools have been sound enough in the past, mostly various sizes of portable computers, but I decided to streamline by going smaller and lighter. After all, unplugging my netbook, putting it and its mouse and cords in my backpack, and booting it up and down are all extra things I have to do, time spent preparing rather than working. Worrying about such trivial actions may seem ridiculous, but when you struggle with depression, little things can be just enough to hold you back. On a bad day, it may seem far too much effort to unplug and get ready. I have days I wish I had a cup of coffee, but never manage to make a pot.

I’m now using an iPad 2, which is on instantly when I need it and has a battery life of 10+ hours (so I neither have to worry about losing power nor about carrying an adaptor and finding a place to plug it in). Using the touch-screen is awesome and I don’t have to carry a mouse. If connected to wifi (and the places I write all have wifi), I can automatically sync files with Dropbox online, making my files accessible from other devices, so I can do some editing on my desktop at home if the mood hits, or capture something on my iPhone that I think of while grocery shopping.

Writing anything lengthy on the touchscreen keyboard is annoying, so I’ve paired my iPad with a nifty gadget called a Zaggmate. It’s a high quality protective case for the iPad, with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard.

It serves as a stand for the iPad, and you can stand the screen in either portrait or landscape position.

The iPad presses securely into the case, making it all one unit, still extremely lightweight; I can pick it up and go, and setup takes less than a minute (and, again, I don’t have to worry about being near a plug).

It’s a delight to use, perfect for cafe’ writing, and I work best at the cafe’. It’s psychologically better for me, because I’m out of the Byrdcave, and even if I don’t talk to anyone, I’m energized by being around other people. Part of my positioning always has to be awareness of my depression and things I might do to defeat it.

I’m currently writing on an app called IA Writer, which has a nice easy interface and looks pleasant on the screen, and also syncs with Dropbox as noted above. It’s fine for basic text, but if I want to get all fancy and modern, using extravagant features like italics or bold, I’m out of luck. So I’m considering switching to a more powerful word processing app, like Pages or QuickOffice HD, but I’m gonna wait for now. I doubt I’ll be writing much fiction in the month ahead, since I’ll be going through the ECT zapper three times a week.

But when I do start back up, here’s my basic positioning:

I’ll write a minimum of 500 words a day, with a goal of 1000.

I’ll write every day, or I may take Sundays off (since my son, who splits his week between my place and his mom’s, is always with me on Sundays).

I’ll write on my iPad, and generally will just need to grab it and my brainstorming notebook and head out the door.

I’ll write at the cafe’. Alternately, if necessary, I’ll write at the kitchen table or at our table outside if the weather’s good.

Every evening, I’ll revisit the writing I did that day, look over my notes, and make sure I have a good idea of what the work the next day will focus on.

Streamlined and sensible. Now I just have to make it work…

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One comment on “More Thinking About Writing (Regarding Tools and Positioning)

  1. Marile Cloete says:

    Also love Stephen King’s book!

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