Simple writing productivity tools

“We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us” M. McLuhan

I believe that many of you who are professional bloggers, journalists, scientists, researchers, scholars, strive to become more productive and efficient writers.  Having in mind the fact that writing is one of my top five professional activities, I would like to share some of the simple and practical tools that I use in the writing process, and that can facilitate your productivity. I use different tools for writing – both online and offline, trying to avoid numerous computer applications and features that may be distracting. Below are some of my favourite tools and web applications that offer some basic features you need for writing.

Making things simple

Notebooks. Not digital but paper notebooks. I use several notebooks for different purposes, projects – from writing down new ideas, thoughts about something, things to get done, daily/weekly notebook, travel notebook, etc. I am a huge fan of all Moleskine notebooks, and almost all of them come from the Moleskine family.  It’s very important for me to have either daily pocket diary or plain Moleskine with me. That way I can in a non linear way scribble down, just in case I am somewhere where a wi-fi is not available or if I am in the airplane silent mode. It is crucial to have a notebook and pen next to you as you work to jot down lots of ideas for ‘processing’ them later on your electronic devices. This is a system that works for me and for the brainstorming process. Currently I use ruled/lined Moleskine notebook and daily/weekly pocket notebook, though I prefer plain notebooks as they are very useful for brainstorming and free-form ideas and thoughts.

Writing programs and text editors

I myself use different text editors, at the moment Libre Office, it is free, open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Mac and GNU/Linux, and Scrivener (there are versions both for Mac and Windows). I love Scrivener for many reasons; it enables different management structure for documents, notes and metadata. It enables you to keep the non linear track of concepts, notes, research and documents for reference. It is especially useful when I do some research, write a book chapter, or when a publisher requires certain citation style; Scrivener includes text, PDF, images, multimedia and web pages. If you prefer to take notes online, I recommend tools like OneNote for Windows (which has similar concept as Scrivener but different layout and features) and Circus Ponies Notebook for Mac. Some people swear by Evernote, designed for notetaking and archiving, but somehow I didn’t use it actively and cannot share my experience.

Web based text editor

750 Words is the online plain text editor that facilitates your “stream of consciousness”, allowing yourself to write whatever you want to write about. I know that this may sound a bit contradictory, but the point is not to think too much about what you are writing, just to get your ideas and thoughts out of your head and onto 750words minimalistic editor. The concept is similar to my first tool (notebooks) for jotting down ideas, brainstorm and thoughts, but this tool is useful for people who are coping with writer’s block, and procrastination. The point is that you write 750 words per day about anything you want (it can be a diary like text, whatever bothers you, or maybe some creative brainstorm) and gradually build a habit and discipline of writing.  What I really like about 750 words is that it encourages you to write by sending you daily email reminders to complete your 750 words for that day. Also, there is a community, creative badges to inspire and reward you for keep going with a writing streak. This web based text editor gives you many export options so you can archive your writings later on. It’s a good tool for someone who is constantly online. I have dropped out as when I’m travelling or when I do not have an internet access, I lose the writing streak and then have to get back to start.

These tools are just a few of the many available online tools to help you focus your attention and boost your writing process. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. What writing tools do you use to facilitate your creative writing process?

Flickr image by peteoshea

Danica is an internet researcher, consultant and speaker on social media and digital inclusion. Her academic research is rooted in her own practical experiences breaking down digital walls in central European society. She is Tech, and Research editor for Australian Science. Read more of her work at her blog, and follow her on twitter @DanicaR.

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