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This tip comes from Dean Wesley Smith, as part of his Tip of the Week series.
Use a different computer for your writing, and only for your writing.
I've heard Dean and Kris say this many times over the years in different ways and I finally listened when I watched that tip. Go subscribe and get weekly tips from professionals. That isn't an affiliate link, just a great deal. I highly recommend listening to professionals further along the path you want to follow and their lectures and courses are worth your time.
The basic idea here is that you set up a computer that has nothing except your writing on it. No internet. No email. No games. Nothing. Back up your manuscripts on a USB drive and use that to transfer the files to your connected computer where you do everything else. Keep your writing computer strictly for writing. It will help your gray matter. When you sit down at that computer you know the only thing that you will do is write.
Setting Up the Scrivener Laptop
I like being mobile. I want to write on breaks at work. I want to write in different places. The trouble is that I have used both my desktop and my Chromebook for writing and everything else. The temptation is always there to check social media, email, read, watch shows, and everything else. I'm writing this blog post on my desktop.
I am rebooting my writing career this year. I'm focusing on learning and creating as much as I can manage. Dean's points make sense. When I finished listening to the tip I decided that this was something that I could implement to help me move my career forward.
What did I do? I bought a small, inexpensive Dell Inspiron i3162 Bali Blue laptop for $183. This is not a high-powered machine. It's a small 11″ Windows 10 device as cheap as my Chromebook. I only need it to run Scrivener. The laptop arrived yesterday.
After the initial setup, I removed all unnecessary programs that came preinstalled:
- Office 365 (I'll be using Scrivener).
- McAffee Security (Windows Defender works great, is free, and I won't be connected).
- Miscellaneous Dell software cluttering things up.
Then I went to the start menu, right-clicked each tile and unpinned everything. I resized it to just the menu width. I don't need a bunch of tiles. I did install Scapple along with Scrivener and pinned both to the taskbar. I set the taskbar to autohide since I don't plan on using it either. I navigated in the Windows file explorer to Users > [User Name] >AppData > Roaming > Microsoft > Windows > Start Menu > Programs > Startup and added a shortcut to Scrivener. Now Scrivener launches automatically when the laptop boots up.
Wifi is turned off.
Now I have a machine that just runs Scrivener. I plan to use it for my fiction writing. If I want to go online, I'll use my desktop, Chromebook, or phone. No lack of options there!
I have a USB drive I can use to backup and transfer files.
What do you use to get into that writing headspace? What do you think of having a dedicated device just for your writing?
When did you last feel like you had all the time in the world to write? How long since you had a day free from distractions and demands on your time? Do you regularly find yourself in your ideal writing environment, with everything you need to be at your best and most creative?
I don't think I could answer those questions. I don't have days like that. I don't even know what my ideal writing environment would look like! I do, however, have four techniques that I use to include writing in my day.
1 | The 15-Minute Writing Sprint
As hard as it can be working full time at something other than writing, with a family and demands on my time, most days I can get fifteen minutes to write. The concept is simple enough. Set a timer and write!
It doesn't have to be fifteen minutes. Maybe you only have ten minutes. The point is to give yourself that small window of time to make use of it and write.
When to schedule it? You probably won't schedule it unless you're literally scheduling every block of time during your day. Instead, grab it when you have the opportunity. Look for moments you can seize—and seize them! You might snatch the time when you first wake up. On the way to work. When taking a break. If you need to get out of the workplace, go sit in your car or on a bench outside for your break. If you don't have a place to get away to, stick in headphones.
How much can you get written in fifteen minutes? That depends on your process. For example, I find it easier to get started writing when I have a work-in-progress. It's also easier with progress. Whatever your situation, it is still more writing than you would have done otherwise.
2 | Consider Hand-Writing
When trying to fit writing into the time available, the tool used may make all the difference between writing or not. As a teenager working at my first job in a local pharmacy, I strapped bound ledger books to my bike rack when I went to work. The 14-inch page length gave me more room to write. I'd take my break and write by hand.
Before you recoil in horror at the idea of hand-writing stories, keep in mind that I didn't have the options then that are available now. Writing in a notebook does offer several advantages.
- No startup time. Open the notebook and start writing.
- No connection issues. It's entirely offline.
- No lost files. Every stroke is saved as soon as it is written.
If I'd known shorthand I would have tried that instead. Shorthand coupled with a smart scanning system might still be a viable alternative (80+ Words Per Minute), though I don't know if there is software available that could easy transcribe it.
When I wrote by hand the big disadvantage was retyping my work. That wouldn't have been so bad except I used a typewriter at the time and often had to retype stories more than once to make corrections!
3 | Use Anything Except a Computer
Try something other than a standard laptop. I use a very inexpensive Chromebook. It's small, light, and affordable. I don't have to wait for it to start up or wake up and the battery lasts all day long and then some. I don't have to worry about charging it at all. I plug it in at night and it's ready when I need it.
Another good alternative? Your phone. Whether you're using an Android or iOS device, there are many app options to help you write. Even the popular Scrivener writing program is available for iOS now. A phone has the advantage over a tablet because you usually have your phone with you. Using a phone means you can grab even a few spare moments waiting in line to write.
4 | Dictate Rather Than Write
Dictation offers similar advantages to using a phone or Chromebook and that of shorthand with automated transcription. With a small digital recorder (or an app on your phone) you can dictate when the opportunity presents itself.
A program such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribes the recording into text, which you can then edit. There's also a mobile app version that provides transcription on your phone.
You can also use a free option with a Chromebook and Google's Voice Typing.
Monica Leonelle's book Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter covers many of the details if you want a guide to help you get started.
What techniques do you use?
I'd love to hear what techniques you use to fit writing into your life? Do you have something that works for you?