The tradition goes that every writer has a notebook to scribble in. The contemporary twist is that the notebook is now in a digital medium. But there are more places to arrange ideas and words than in a notebook.
Article by Sam R.
Do you feel creatively cramped? Keeping all of your ideas and thoughts in one place may be limiting your potential as a writer but there’s good news: there are other options. By using these untapped mediums, you can tap into a well of creativity that you may never have encountered before and even up your productivity.
These are the places that are totally disconnected from technology. They require only two things to work: a surface that can be written on and a writing instrument.
The Notebook is the all-time classic. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, ruled or blank, and can be picked up for a few quid or fifty, depending on how precious you are about them. Over time, they become a historical log of your projects and progress as a writer which is why they will remain such a valuable resource.
A Post-It may appear innocuous but these multicoloured beauties are perfect for jotting down big ideas. Stick them all over the place, use them as notation markers in a book you’re reading, or arrange them into narrative structures on a blank wall to help build the foundations of your work. Quick and easy to utilise, the noble Post-It will be sticking around for some time to come.
Revision Cards are the next step up from the Post-It. Serving a similar function, they allow you to formalise your ideas and hone in on details. They can be arranged on a wall or in a filing system for easy reference later, making them ideal as a way to store and adapt ideas over a long period.
The Dry-Wipe Board is possibly the most understated writing surface ever. Nothing allows you more time or space to think about your ideas and what you’re writing than a large blank space to go wild with. Use it to create giant mind maps, flowcharts, lists and plotlines – even art sketches of settings. And you can photograph your work, store it digitally and use it for later reference. Bonus!
Pros of Hard Copies:
- If dropped, they won’t stop working.
- Affordable and easily replaced.
- No annoying updates that cause crashes and erase work.
- No internet means your focus is on your work.
- Light and portable.
Cons of Hard Copies:
- No search capabilities and randomised entries, unless you’re ultra-efficient.
- Uses a lot of paper so not 100% environmentally friendly, even when recycled.
- They can take up a lot of physical space if your project runs over several books.
- Lose a full notebook and there is little chance it will ever be recovered.
- Smaller notebooks tend not to survive a spin cycle when left in jeans.
We’ve moved on from the age of the stone tablet and into the silicone epoch. Digital devices offer just as diverse a range of options for where to put your words as hard copy does.
Simple note-takers like Apple’s Notes and Samsung’s S Note are quick and easy ways to get your ideas down whilst on the go. Save and back them up instantly and access them anytime, anywhere.
Scrivener is the Daddy of writing software, providing starter templates for short stories, essays and novels. You can also create your own. This program is so diverse in its usage, you can set up storyboards, character profiles, import research and organize everything with a few clicks of your mouse. A must for the hard-core writer in everyone.
Voice Recordings aren’t new tech but they have been upgraded since smart phones crashed into our lives. These are ideal for writers that have a sudden flash and can’t get it down quick enough. Instead, you pick up your phone (or digital Dictaphone) and say it out loud, saving it for transcription later.
Writing Apps are in abundance on both Android and Apple devices. Which one you choose is down to personal preference but the important thing is that they provided a convenient digital space for you to draft your initial ideas. Apps such as Write or Die also act as the proverbial whip, putting the pressure on so that you produce work when you feel yourself flagging.
Pros of Digital:
- Easy back-up to USB devices or Clouds.
- Faster recording capabilities and highly organized.
- No cramp from holding a pen for ages.
- Flexible structures to meet writing needs.
- If devices are damaged or stolen, data can be secured and recovered.
Cons of Digital:
- If you drop your device, it will break.
- Expensive to replace if damaged, stolen or lost.
- Not all software is compatible across devices and platforms.
- Too much screen time causes headaches which inhibits productivity.
- Candy Crush Saga.
The options listed above aren’t exclusive. People devise their own systems and new apps for writers are being developed every month. With so much available, there is no reason why you can’t become a writing magpie, picking out the methods that shine the brightest for you.
For example, you may currently scribble down ideas on Post-It notes and take it from there, though it’s a bit of an effort to develop your ideas from a few key words. Why not throw them onto a dry-wipe board and brainstorm the idea to give a fuller picture?
If you’re working solely from a notebook and are finding it hard to get the structure right, splash out on some writing software like Scrivener and use it to divide up long, soul-devouring manuscripts to manageable sections. Then you can work on each section, chapter and scene individually and physically trace where the story is heading.
The special thing about using more than one place to put your collection of words is that it will make you see those words differently. Letters become doodles, doodles become memory triggers, memory triggers become new perspectives and, at last, new perspectives become concrete ideas.
Keeping digital documents, voice recordings and a physical notebook for one project can help stop the writing equivalent of cabin fever, that point you reach when you can no longer look at your computer or folder full of drafts because you’ve exhausted the medium and yourself.
Writing on a new surface like a tablet or a revision card is like finding a new place to sit as you write. It removes you from a stagnant place into a fresh one. Experiment with the options you have, don’t be afraid to try something new, like writing on yourself, and roll with it. See what happens. Writing traditions ground us but it is up to us as writers to grow and develop.
Where do you write your primordialal ideas and how does the space impact your creativity?
Article image by Emma Larkins