Every writer is different in how they work. Some need noise, some need quiet. Some swear by pen and paper, others dictate or type. Coffee fuels some, while others need a walk around the block to get their creative juices flowing. We asked the Writers’ Program staff for some of their favorite/essential writing tools.
To set the perfect writing atmosphere at home, I will need a mug of hot tea, instrumental music playing in the background and a purring cat on my lap. Note that the cat needs to be sleeping calmly on my lap as opposed to sitting in front of my computer monitor or walking across my keyboard.
If I’m writing at a café, I’d need my laptop and earphones to combat the external noise. Nutella milkshakes and fries are optional.
My cheap but highly effective noise cancelling headphones are essential when I write these days. I don’t even listen to music unless I’m taking a break and need a little pick me up or inspiration. I simply put them on to dull the sounds around me and give myself and others the impression I’m not to be bothered.
I write first drafts on computer ALWAYS. However, for editing I have to work with printed drafts and then make edits and changes in pencil, mainly for poems.
A really effective revision strategy I use for manuscripts is to print them out, open a new Word document, and retype them all word for word. The intensity of that labor makes me stop before letting loose language, clichés, and other poor writing make it to the next draft. It’s a great first-to-second draft technique.
Tool: My current favorite writing “tool” is export a file to PDF, open on iPhone, highlight a passage and click “Speak”. Bam. It’s like you now have your own personal assistant dictating anything in the draft stage back to you.
Fuel: coffee, always coffee.
My favorite tool for writing is Google. I also hate it the most.
I’m pretty scattered in what I need depending on the project/my mood. Generally I need a good beverage (usually coffee or tea), inspiring music (typically instrumental, but can vary – I’ve got a playlist of songs featured on The Vampire Diaries that can really get my fingers tapping on the keyboard).
If I’m writing by hand, I need a comfortable, smooth-glide pen – a good rollerball is where it’s at for me.
Lastly, closing ALL the tabs, or using a distraction-free writing app, is essential when really trying to focus. Timers really help as well – 20-30 minutes solid writing, followed by a brief break, and keeping that up for an hour or two usually yields my most productive work.
My desktop computer (can’t beat that big screen!), my ergo desk chair, two sleeping dogs at my feet, and silence.
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