It’s the end of the year. For most people, the changing of the calendar is a time to take stock of where you’ve been and to figure out where you want to go. Successes are counted; vision boards are created; goals are written; and a shiny new year of possibility is just waiting for the clock to strike midnight.
It’s a hopeful time.
This year, I decided not to wait for the new year to revamp my writing life. I dove in early – not with the stock-taking or the goal-setting components though. I’m already pretty clear about where I’ve been and where I’d like to get. Instead, I focused on the regular sit-down-and-write parts of the job. What’s working? What’s not? And are there some writing tools I can use to make all of it easier?
For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying things out. I’ve created some rituals to help make the transition to writing quicker and easier and I’ve gotten rid of some tools/habits that just aren’t working. I’ve also played with some new tools to see what might make me more efficient and more organized. I thought I’d share my current writing tool box with you all as a little New Year’s gift, with the hope that you might find something on my list that will make writing a little easier for you too.
This Year’s Top Writing Tools
People have suggested this program to me forever, and I’ve resisted, whole-heartedly, until this month when my computer crashed, and I lost a ton of writing-research bookmarks and links.
So I gave in and tried the free version of Evernote. Now, I’m a little bit hooked.
Evernote is a cloud-based note-taking application that lets you clip web articles, save picture, take notes and generally organize your life and your projects across all of your devices. For someone like me who failed at Scrivener and never remembers to use One Note, Evernote’s a bit of a miracle. Now my web links, random thoughts, beat sheet, and character sketches are all in one, easy-to-search place.
At least everything except the things I hand write. Yep, I still like to write things down. Journals, sticky notes, legal pads – story ideas, character sketches, sudden bursts of inspiration are scattered throughout my house. So this month, I cleaned it up. Sticky notes get typed into Evernote. So does legal pad planning. Everything else goes into the journal dedicated to my work in progress – and it’s all dated and tabbed so I can easily see what was actually a useful idea and what was just me rambling along. One thing hasn’t changed, though. I’m picky about my hand writing tools. They have to feel good and be exactly the right size, large enough to write fast and loose in and small enough to fit in my purse. My favorite place for project notebooks and a solid pen is:
Their notebooks are solid and durable and the paper is thick, so colored ink and highlighters don’t bleed through. Their pens are pretty, just heavy enough, and easy (and cheap) to refill. I’ve been using their notebooks and pens for years now, and it’s one part of my writing system that I’m not going to change.
The next tool, however, is a huge change from my usual writing work. You see, I’m one of those writers who likes it quiet. I don’t have novel playlists or soundtracks, and I don’t write while the TV is keeping me company in the background. I don’t need complete silence though, coffee house chatter is fine – and every so often I’ll even break out one of those ambient noise apps and write to a rainstorm or some ocean waves. But all that changed the other day when I was reminded of the power of binaural beats. I’ve used Frequency Following Response in my hypnosis practice many times, but I’ve never used it to help with my own writing focus.
Brainwave entrainment is basically listening to two specific sound frequencies at the same time. These frequencies trick your brain into creating a third frequency, a binaural beat, that helps lead your brain into a desired state – relaxed, meditative, focused, alert, etc. Admittedly, the whole thing is a little woo and the science on it is pretty much a big maybe right now. But lots of people swear by it, and I’ve noticed that if I listen to the right frequencies for a few minutes (paired with some ambient sounds like a waterfall or ocean waves) when I start a writing session, I slip into a work state more quickly than if I just sit down and try to write. There’s a lot of interesting articles about it on the internet and some free apps/YouTube videos to check out if you’re interested. Just know, it’s not for everyone.
The last thing on my list is my go-to inspirational book. I know a lot of people turn to Anne Lamott and Bird by Bird with things get tough – and I love it, too, but my go-to break-out-of-a-slump book is one by novelist Steven Pressfield.
It’s a small book and a quick read. And it’s usually the tough love reminder I need to walk through my fear and get back to work.
So, that’s my current list of favorite writing tools. I’m still testing out a couple more – like the list-making application Trello and a bullet journal style calendar/day planner. Maybe I’ll update this post when I’ve sorted those out. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your favorite writing tools. What can’t you live without? And what are you going to change or try this year to make the day-to-day work go smoother? Please share in the comments below!