Seven Useful Tools

Sometimes it seems as though the writing life is just so damned complicated. You can’t help wondering how the likes of Hemingway or Jack London managed with just a writing pad, a typewriter, and a bottle of liquor for company. But manage they did; they and countless others who did not have the blessings – and the tribulations – of technology to get them to The End.

Are you overwhelmed by choices and possibility?

Do you ever feel that sometimes this writer’s life is missing something? I think I can help. I know just what’s missing.

It’s you.

Unless your writing has your undivided attention, mentally and emotionally, you’re doing it – and your readers – a dis-service.

Fret ye not. Here are seven everyday tools to help you free up the writer within.

1. An Alarm clock. (What? You were expecting a high value development system?) This state-of-the-art time measuring tool will enable you to get up earlier, keep track of your time – in real time, and give you a reminder when your writing time starts and ends.

2. Spreadsheets. Yes, I know, it doesn’t sound very creative but bear with me. Spreadsheets can help you track your submissions (so you’re not waiting a year like I did…), keep running totals of chapter and story word counts, and – when the money starts rolling in – use formulae to work out profit, loss, tax and expenses. All you have to do is set the spreadsheet up properly (see Youtube!) and remember to input the data.

3. The trusty notepad and pen. Sure, it seems obvious. But how many times have you had a brilliant idea and by the time you commit it to paper your precious treasure has become a tarnished knick-knack? That notepad should go everywhere with you except in the shower. You can use a permanent marker for that and clean it off somehow later.

4. An answering machine. If you’re writing, bar a genuine crisis (that’s bigger than your protagonist’s crisis), you are not available. You can leave a message to that effect if it makes you feel any better. Think of it as a time stealer training device. The more seriously you take your writing, the more seriously other people will too.

5. The remote control. I like Judge Judy as much as the next writer, and some fly-on-the-wall documentaries are truly compelling, but what about the dramas in your own head waiting for an audience? Turn off, or turn off and record, and prioritise your activities in line with your intentions.

6. A writing system that cannot go online. This could be an A4 writing pad; or an old laptop; or an old laptop, a router and some self control. You can make a note of anything you need to research and tackle it later to avoid interrupting the flow.

7. An open window. This will provide you with fresh air, cunning designed by Nature to help keep you awake. It will also provide background noise, and occasionally speech, to ground you in reality (now and again) and help to inspire you.

Just to show I take my own advice, I am switching off the TV for July. I will record anything I feel is worth waiting a month for, and any actual downtime can be used to watch the 30 hours of recorded material (mostly films) that I’ve never found time for in the last two years. I’ll let you know how I get on!


  1. Monika says:

    I think these are brilliant ideas, not just for writers, but also for everyone who wants to get anything done. Or enjoy a meaningful life, period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *