Tools and Systems I Use for Writing

When I was younger, I thought of writers as near-mythical figures who would stare out into space, get inspiration, then start typing out awesome words, sentences, and paragraphs while huddled on their typewriters.

And when I was in College, I thought that writers got to sit at a café looking intently focused, concentrating in front of their palm top devices or laptops while drinking expensive coffee, and looking like sophisticated city dwellers.

I certainly paid my share of expensive coffee, though, I’m not sure if I fit the sophisticated city dweller image. Now that I have published three books (ahem!), I probably have some right to call myself a writer. So if you’re wondering what writers look like, look at my Facebook photos. We are normal looking, though whether we are actually normal people may be debatable.

The main criterion for being called a writer is that you write–a sentence at a time, a paragraph at a time, and then a book if you can manage it. But if you’re wondering about tools, systems, and processes that writers follow, here’s mine. I can’t really speak for other writers, so I hope that this could help you get started.

Hardware

Laptop/s.

I currently use a Microsoft Surface 2. It’s a beast of a machine–very lightweight, portable, and it has all the software I need. It has Microsoft Office, Google Drive, OneNote, and all the other things that a writer needs. My wife has a Dell touch screen laptop, which I sometimes borrow. But you don’t need an extremely fancy laptop computer. If it has a document processor, has browser and wifi capability, it’s good enough!

Lenovo Tab 4.

After years of (not) using my Kindle Fire HD, I decided to sell it and get a real Android tablet. So I got a Lenovo Tab 4 10.1 inch tablet. It does the job. I use it mainly for reading books on my Kindle and keeping up with some of the magazines I read. I really love the public library system here in Nashville, TN, because they provide access to digital magazines through one of the apps they have membership to. I get to read some writing magazines for inspiration and prompts.

Smartphone.

For quick writing tasks, I use my Android smartphone. I have installed OneNote on both my tablet and my smartphone so that anything I write could sync with OneNote on all my devices. Evernote is really the best note-taking app out there. But alas, I can only install it for free on two devices. OneNote is clunkier and not as minimalist and intuitive but it’s free with my Microsoft Office subscription and it can be installed on unlimited devices. So OneNote it is.

Bluetooth Keyboard.

Yes, I bought a bluetooth keyboard for those instances that I don’t have my laptop, or if its battery died. I’m not as fast a typist on my bluetooth keyboard compared to a regular laptop keyboard, but it does the trick for quick writing tasks.

Taking Down Notes and Ideas

So many writers swear by their notebooks! When I spoke with Ms. Grace Chong, a multi-awarded writer of children’s books, she told me that she keeps pocket-sized notebooks all the time and that is where she jots down inspiration and snippets of sentences she plans to use.

Sketchpad/Notepad.

I don’t keep a small notebook anymore. I used to. But my smartphone apps such as OneNote and Google Docs have fulfilled that purpose now.

But still, when I am mindmapping and brainstorming ideas, nothing beats a sketchpad. Nope, I’m not an artist and I don’t draw or sketch. Rather, I write words and circle them and explore different concepts and thoughts that relate to these words. I don’t do a traditional outline, but once I do a mindmap, I get a picture of what I want to write about, and then I can write.

OneNote or Google Drive.

These two apps are my main note-taking apps. I type thoughts, ideas, observations, and other things that I hope to write about. Some of the ideas that I have written have made it to some blog post or to materials for a book. But sometimes, those ideas just sit there, waiting for their chance to shine.,

MS Word (or any other word processor).

I cannot imagine a time before computers and MS Word. Yes, I have used manual typewriters when I was in high school. That’s how I learned how to type fast. But with computers, you type what you wanted to write, and if you made a mistake or if you want to edit your piece, you just use the Backspace or delete buttons. You don’t waste any paper at all!

If you cannot afford Microsoft’s Office suite, there are countless other alternatives out there such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

Blogging: WordPress, Blogspot, or Medium

In the age of the Internet, it has become easier to be a writer. The barriers to entry are lower. You can publish pretty much anything online and if you find an audience, you can actually thrive. Just ask the teenagers who are publishing their fiction and nonfiction on Wattpad, or the countless bloggers who find an audience and make some money online.

I hope that you are not thinking of writing as a way to make lots and lots of money. Because it doesn’t work that way. I have not yet published a lot of books and I have not really mastered the art of publishing, book marketing, and event conferences. Although I have published 3 books, and have written a chapter in another book, let me tell you that the income from these 3 books are not enough for a living.

If you really want to have a sustainable life as a writer, I have heard that writing textbooks can be lucrative. But that’s a different story that I don’t have the experience and sources to talk about.

I know some authors, though, who have combined their writing with public speaking, training, and conferences/events and they have made it a viable business model.

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