I’m a writer, and I don’t carry a notebook around with me. Heck, I don’t even carry a pen. Do people even use those anymore? Pens. So old school.
Instead, I just use my cell phone. In my life as a writer, there’s been no tool more useful or worth the investment than a smartphone. For such a small device, its benefits are enormous. For writers, the benefits might not be as obvious as they are for, say, money managers, but they‚Äôre no less fantastic. Since owning a smartphone (mostly meaning a phone with a functional Internet connection), I’ve become a far better writer, and in this case I’m convinced it’s the tool that made the man. Here’s why.
The blessing and curse of a writer, or anyone creative, is the constant stream of ideas coming into, and then immediately out of, your head. Maybe you see something that you want to write about, or suddenly get a brilliant idea for how to kill your protagonist. No matter how good the idea, it’s astonishing how fast they disappear.
With a smartphone at the ready, you’ll never forget anything again. Whip out your phone and enter your thoughts into an application like Evernote or Simplenote, and you‚Äôll never forget what tickled your creativity. Unlike paper, which for me is as likely to get lost as not to, these apps stay synced to your phone, your computer, and the Web, meaning your ideas and inspiration are with you and accessible anytime you need them.
Every once in a while I just get in a writing zone. Problem is, 95% of the time when I’m in the zone, I’m about a million miles away from my computer. While it might not be the fastest writing solution, my smartphone has proven a great way to crank out a couple hundred words when I’m feeling the juices flowing.
When you get an app like Dropbox or Sugarsync for your phone, you can even access your files on the go, writing and editing whenever you feel like it without having to carry a computer around. Having your files accessible everywhere means you’e free to be anywhere, because you can always get done what needs to get done in a pinch.
One of the most often-quoted things about writing is that to become a better writer, you have to read. A lot. In a world where we’re constantly on the go, that’s harder than ever. If you pair your smartphone with applications like Instapaper or Read it Later, you can save yourself a personal ‘to read’ list.
With one click in your Web browser, you can save articles or stories to your smartphone, and they’e available to you wherever and whenever you get a minute‚or in line at the grocery, waiting for the doctor, or anywhere else. You’ll be amazed how much reading you can do in 5-minute spurts.
Social media’s all the rage these days, with Twitter and Facebook quickly becoming the de facto ways we communicate with each other. One of my favorite uses of these services is what I see comedians doing: testing material on their friends and followers. They come up with a joke, and tweet it. Immediately, people comment on the joke, critique it, and decide if it’s funny or not. Over time, the comedians shape the joke with the help of their fans, and the end result is a better joke that goes in their set.
For me as a writer, that would be huge! If I have a great blog post idea, or interesting thought about the world, instant feedback on whether it’s interesting, or true, or totally moronic, is an amazing resource. Twitter and Facebook, in particular, are available on most smartphones, and let you tap into that huge network of fans, critics, and colleagues.
This might be just me, but I hate the ‘I wonder if’ questions. Not the big, deep questions we should all think about, but questions like “I wonder if the Giants won the Super Bowl in the 70? Thanks to my smartphone, I don’t have to wonder anymore. I have the Internet, the most incredible research tool in the history of the Universe, right at my fingertips.
For us as writers, whether we’re looking up mundane facts or boning up on Darwinist theory so we can debate it better, constantly learning is crucial to continuing to improve as a writer. In a way that was never before possible (short of carrying an encyclopedia on your back – and if you do that, I applaud you), we have access to information, research and knowledge at a moment’s notice. You’ll write smarter, sound smarter, know the answers to everything, and be a champion cheater at trivia.
We’re living in an incredible world, where you can record all your thoughts and ideas, read others‚ and answer any question you could possibly have, all in a matter of seconds. In the palm of your hand.
What about you? Are you a high-tech writer, or do you appreciate the good ol’ pen and paper?
A heads-up for WTD readers
Leo and Mary will run the next A-list Blogging Bootcamp, How to Create a Blog that Rocks from 13-17 February. Everyone had a blast last time! We’ll be emailing some great articles on blogging. Get yourself on the mailing list by clicking on Leo’s report below.
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