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I try to attend as many poetry readings and book signings as possible. Each time, there will be a Q&A session, and inevitably, someone will ask the question, “What do you write with? Like, a computer or paper?” The writer usually answers with their personal preference, and I began noticing some patterns. So let’s clear up the question once and for all, by exposing the clear writing tool hierarchy.
Here’s a scientific* ranking of writing tools, listed from worst to best:
*By scientific, I mean my own opinions and which pieces of technology have failed me in the middle of writing a scene.
If you are one of these people who writes exclusively in the Notes section of your phone, I mean no disrespect. After all, everyone had different methods. What works for me might not work for you. But also, I think you’re insane and I seriously question all the life choices you’ve made.
Let’s face it. Writing on your phone is terrible. My autocorrect now changes the word “something” into “someth!ng” every time I type. Isn’t it supposed to work the opposite way? A phone screen is too small to see a lot of words at once. Writing something down on a phone is better than not writing at all, but it should be your last option.
5. Computer (Pages/Word)
Full Disclosure: Word has failed me like no other. Once, while writing my first book, Word crashed and I almost lost thousands of words. My parent’s smart tech friend was able to save me (Thanks, Mike!) but I haven’t trusted it since.
Pages and Word are not specifically designed for creative writers, they’re only accessible from the computer you saved the work on, and they don’t save automatically. They might be a cheap option, but in this case, you get what you pay for.
I know what you’re thinking. “But typewriters are so cool / wicked / aesthetic / fun / authentic!” I own two typewriters. I am so grateful for that. Every time I look at them, I feel a little bit happier. Guests love to try them out, and I love to free-write on them. But I must say, typewriters just aren’t that practical.
Ribbons and maintenance can quickly become expensive, there’s no back button, they’re VERY loud, and if the paper that you’ve written on is destroyed somehow, all your work is gone. If you’re brainstorming or writing haiku, then a typewriter is perfect. But anything longer than that, you’re running into trouble.
(Although I can’t speak for electrical typewriter, since I’ve never tried one! Maybe they’re the perfect balance between vintage and modern.)
3. Pen and Something That Is Not Exactly Paper
“All right, Vivian,” you may be thinking at this moment, “Why would you put a photo of water bottles AHEAD of the incredibly majestic typewriter?”
Hear me out. Sometimes, the famous and fabulous poet Emily Dickinson became so overwhelmed with inspiration for a poem that she dropped everything she was doing and wrote it down. She wrote several poems on the back of recipe cards, because she was in the middle of baking when lines came to her.
Haven’t you had that moment of sudden realization? Haven’t you never had an actual piece of writing equipment with you when it happened?
Whenever I get unstoppable ideas, I’ve realized I left my journal at home. So instead, I wrote down the poems on water bottle wrappers. On paper towels. On the back of my hand. On my math homework. (My math teacher liked the haiku, luckily.)
The pen and the “not quite paper” go splat in the middle of this list. They’re not pretty, but they’re useful. They’re authentic. They’re the best symbol of what being a writer is all about: the words, before anything else. The words.
2. Computer (Google Docs)
Sure, Google Docs doesn’t sound as majestic as a typewriter, but it’s easy to use, saves automatically, and you can access it from your google account. That means you can use it on any computer you go to! You don’t have to lug your laptop around with you like most other word processors. You can access your document from almost any device.
Google docs is probably the most convenient and efficient writing tools, and though that might not sound very fun to whimsical writers, when you don’t have a lot of time to get the words down, it means a lot.
1. (TIE) Pen and Paper & Computer – Scrivener
FOR MOST WRITING: PEN & PAPER
Not much can beat pen and paper. I’m not sure about you, but I feel distinctly honest and vulnerable when I am writing by hand. I’m forming each letter, and it is all remarkably physical. I’m turning misty ideas from my head into something I can actually hold in my hand.
I think for short stories, poetry, and rough drafts of anything except novels, pen and paper is the way to go. It’s cheap, convenient, and special, and though it can be frustrating to only have one copy of something, you can always type it up later when editing.
FOR LONG PROJECTS: COMPUTER – SCRIVENER
Okay, Scrivener is the thing that can beat pen and paper. But just for novel-writing and scripts. I admire all my writing friends who can work on full-length books by hand, but I’m not one of them. My hands cramp too easily, I need to be able to cut and paste things, and also, I can’t read my own handwriting. Luckily, I found a word processor that really works for me.
Scrivener has a bulletin board, separate sections for chapters, and character descriptions that you can look at while writing. (Don’t judge me, I can never remember what color eyes my minor characters have.) It’s more expensive, but for me, it was worth the splurge to be organized while working on a book.
Thanks so much for reading! If you haven’t already, go ahead and take my survey. What do you usually write with? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest or Instagram…which also might be getting some ~theme changes~, so follow now to watch the transformation.