July 18th, 2010

golden gate bridge

30 Days of Writing: Right place at the right time

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

I do the vast majority of my writing at my desk in the late afternoon and evening, after work. I have a laptop, a MacBook, but I usually keep it attached to a keyboard and monitor -- because of long-term RSI issues, typing on a natural keyboard works better than the little laptop keyboard, and I also like the larger screen. My desk is comfortably messy, and on the wall behind it I have a Scott Mutter poster: an urban landscape resting on an old-style card catalog, very appropriate for writerly contemplation.

My second-favorite place to write is the local Panera. For the last couple of years, I've been working one evening shift each week, which gives me one morning free. Sometimes it's Monday, sometimes Tuesday, depending on my co-workers' schedules, but either way, I'll take my laptop and head down there, get some breakfast, and write. I usually get in a good hour of writing time, sometimes more. I'll also sometimes go on weekends or after work, if the timing works out and I can plan it in advance. When I was in college, I found that cafes were a great place for me to read; the low-level hustle and bustle was actually more conducive to concentratation than being alone in my room, or in a quiet, isolated place like the library. So it was not a surprise that this would translate to writing. Most any cafe with wireless Internet will work, but I like that Panera in particular, because it has several small booths with outlets and huge picture windows that look out onto a busy intersection. I can see the sky, and the city skyline, and people rushing for the train station. It's just the right level of distraction.

Computer vs. pen-and-paper: computer wins, hands down. I do carry a notebook with me at all times, just in case I'm struck with inspiration when I'm out and about (I prefer quadrille-lined paper and brightly-colored ink: purple, green, peacock blue...), and I have composed a number of stories and scenes that way. But I find writing on the computer to be much more natural. There are a number of reasons for this: habit; typing speed versus handwriting speed -- it's a lot easier to keep up with the speed of my thoughts on a keyboard, and also my handwriting is bad enough that even I find it nearly incomprehensible if I don't get back to it within a day or two; I edit as I write, and that's a lot easier to do on a computer (everyone says that's a bad habit, but I can't write any other way. If I think of a new way to put something, or see a glaring error, I find it much more distracting not to go back and change it).

My primary writing software is Microsoft Word. I've been using Word since college; I'm so used to the look and feel of it that trying to learn a new program would probably get in the way of my writing flow. However, sarasa_cat recently introduced me to My Writing Nook, a web-based text editor with a companion iPhone app, and I've fallen in love with it as a composition tool. It's not great for editing, but it works really well for rapidly setting down new words, and I adore the fact that I can go back and forth between the computer and my iPhone -- I've discovered that it's a lot easier to bang out a couple of hundred words on the phone than it is to write them out by hand and have to transcribe them later. So I seem to be slipping into a new routine, where I write the first draft of a story or scene in My Writing Nook, then transfer it over into Word for editing. I used this process to write almost all of the Braska story, as well as for [community profile] megaflare_ff, and so far, so good.

30 Days of Writing: Complete list of questions

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