Tools Are Important

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Reminder
* Tools Are Important
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Committee: A cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured, and then quietly strangled.” Sir Barnett Cocks, New Scientist Magazine (as reported by Dr. Mardy Grothe in his newsletter)


All you folks in the Bradbury Challenge get your story info in to me sometime before the Journal goes live tomorrow morning.

The correct format is

Title of Story 1234 Name of Genre


Tools Are Important

Writing Surface

For me, the ideal height for a writing surface is exactly 27″ off the floor. That’s what’s comfortable for me, and comfort is all-important if you are going to spend hours writing fiction or nonfiction or whatever.

Now, if you can sit on a couch or out in the yard or at the kitchen table or in a coffee shop or cigar salon with your laptop and work comfortably, go for it.

But if you’re going to be in one place for hours on end (with regular breaks) don’t be stingy about your own comfort. If you do, you will regret it.

Writing Chair

Also for comfort, I just bought a new office chair. Amazon is convenient, so I buy from them. But before I add anything to the cart, I check measurments (seat depth, lumbar support, and whether the armrests are 4-dimensional (up, down, forward, back, and able to turn at an angle). Blade wheels are nice but not essential.

I’m a stickler. If there are no dimensions in the listing, I don’t read it. If the chair is missing any of my requirements, I pass. I winnow the field, then select from the remainder the one that looks the most comfortable for the best price and order it.

If the chair arrives and it doesn’t fit me like a glove, I send it back and order another one.
Comfort is that important, mostly for health reasons. I’ve never had carpal tunnel, and I don’t want it. I also have severe arthritis in my lower spine, but when I’m in my chair, I don’t notice it. You can’t write fiction or anything else if your attention is constantly shifting to focus on discomfort.

A Way to Transfer Files

I also have Dropbox (just my preference but definitely another tool of the trade) installed on both computers. That’s so when I finish a story on the writing ‘puter I can open it on the business computer and design the cover, write the promo doc, post or publish it, etc. All the business stuff.

With Dropbox, you can also have different folders on one laptop than you have on another one. For example, in my business computer, my Dropbox folder contains a file folder with four or five other folders inside it. The big folder is labeled Pro Stock Photos. That folder isn’t even on my writing ‘puter.

Some writers who use two computers also use a flash drive to “manually” transfer files between computers. For me personally, that doesn’t work too well. Your results might vary.

Business Computer vs. Writing ‘Puter

A couple days ago another writer and I were talking about computers. He asked whether I recommend using a separate writing ‘puter for fiction and another computer for everything else.

My answer was probably a little vague. For me it works, and for that reason I do recommend it. But I know at least one professional writer who uses one computer for everything.

Having a separate computer for writing is something DWS recommended in his blog way back in early 2014. He said it would signal my creative subconscious that it was time to play. That made sense to me, so I tried it. And for me it worked.

That said, the last time my writing ‘puter died, I switched to my business computer without skipping a beat and finished what I was doing. It wasn’t quite as comfortable or fast or clean (different keyboard) but it worked.

My Business Computer

My business computer is a “large” 14″ HP. I always used 14″ HP ProBooks (I like the keyboard) until this one. I don’t remember the model off the top of my head (Envy, maybe), but it has a large-capacity solid-state drive (SSD) and 16GB of memory.

It sits on an old and very large mahogany desk I was fortunate to find at an estate sale. It looks like the deck of a small aircraft carrier. It’s five feet wide and three feet deep. The drawers are almost 28″ deep. And yes, as soon as I got it home, I trimmed the legs so the working surface sits exactly 27″ off the floor. Because it isn’t furniture. It’s a tool.

Notice that everything about my business computer and workstation is big. That’s because it’s for the big, “important” stuff. (More on this later.) I use it to write the boilerplate for this Journal and publish it, check and respond to emails through the day, buy things online, design covers, publish my work, go “live” on YouTube, etc.

Or as my writer friend said, “everything else.” Now and then I play a game of Spider or Mah Jong on it if the Journal is filed and I’m not quite ready to plunge into fiction yet.

My Writing ‘Puter

To my left, about two feet away (a turn of my chair to the left) my writing ‘puter sits on a tiny little typing table. I don’t think they even make those anymore. That’s shoved up against the left front side of my “big” desk, strictly for my convenience. I can turn left and start writing fiction. It’s that simple.

As I mentioned above, the idea behind having a separate writing ‘puter is that when you open it, that action sends a signal to your creative subconscious that it’s time for the characters to come out and play.

I’ve found that it’s also a subliminal signal to the characters that I trust them, that they’re important to me. The writing ‘puter is all theirs. When I turn to the left, my fingertips on the keys are also all theirs.

Now, a little psychology:

Little vs. Big

1. The writing ‘puter is small. It’s an 11.6″ HP X360 tablet/laptop. I never use it as a tablet, but I love the keyboard. The vertical and horizontal spacing between keys is perfect. I seldom commit a typo on it. Maybe ten or twelve in a 40,000 word novel.

2. Even the name is small (abbreviated). When I think or talk about it, it’s always a “writing ‘puter,” nothing more. The “small” references reinforce for me that the story on it at any given time is not important. Only writing is important.

3. As I mentioned, the writing surface (typing table) is also small, and for the same reason. There’s room only for the little laptop, my mouse pad, my mouse and my Coke or water.

4. Notice I also write in The Hovel, an old, slowly melting adobe shack about 150 feet from the back door of my house. But it’s “a room of my own.” Writing is important to me, but what I write doesn’t matter. Being in the Hovel helps me play down the importance of what I do in my fiction.

5. The writing ‘puter has a relatively small 118 GB solid-state drive (no overheating, no fan, no noise) and only 4 GB of memory. Plenty to do whatever I want, but super fast for my fiction. It almost always has a novel-in-progress open on it.

6. Like Harlan Ellison with his Olympia electric typewriters, the writing ‘puter is only a tool of the trade. I have three or four more of these X360s in unopened boxes on a shelf. So if this one dies, I have options.

I got each of them for between $150 and $400 on eBay, always from an authorized refurbisher. But remember, they’re only for writing. You can buy one (if it works and will hold Microsoft Word or even WordPad) at a garage or estate sale or junk shop for a lot less.

Okay, the writing surface, the writing chair, the interactive cloud storage, and the laptops. That pretty much covers the tools of the trade on my end. Any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Oh, and remember, words are only tools too. Not even tools. Words are to a writer what nails are to a carpenter. If one or a bunch of them don’t work for you, throw them out and write some new ones.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See Tiffanie Gray’s Comment on FindAwayVoices

“Warning” by Jenny Joseph

Yet Another Blow to Copyright in Canada Coming soon to a nation near you?

Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week An invaluable resource for writers and readers.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1450

Writing of Blackwell Ops 21: Johnny Mercer

Day 1…… 4190 words. To date…… 4190
Day 2…… 2599 words. To date…… 6789
Day 3…… 3380 words. To date…… 10169
Day 4…… 2812 words. To date…… 12981

Fiction for March…………………….…. 6192
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 170784
Fiction since October 1………………… 473839
Nonfiction for March…………………… 2890
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 102080
2024 consumable words……………… 263782

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 86
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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