Can the Right Tools Help You Write Better?
When I first started writing, it was just me, a ninety-nine cent pen, and a cheap spiral-bound notebook. Using those tools, I wrote dozens of poems, stories, and journal entries.
These days, I’m surrounded by far more sophisticated writing tools: fancy pens and journals, a computer with writing software, a library of writing resources, and the Internet.
My writing has come a long way since I was a thirteen-year-old curled up on the floor with a pen, notebook, and my imagination. Certainly, experience and studying did a lot to help me write better, but did these newfangled tools also improve my writing?
Yes and no.
I think a few tools do help us write better, but for the most part, tools make writing easier or smoother. They don’t improve our writing, but they do improve our writing process.
The Right Writing Tools
Some tools literally improve our writing, like the dictionary and thesaurus, style guides, and other writing references that we use to ensure accuracy in our work. Online, many of these references are freely available, and this easy access can definitely improve our writing.
Yet most tools don’t impact our writing so much as they impact our experience of writing.
Many writers have declared that they are simply more creative when working with pen and paper. On the other hand, we can write a lot faster using a computer. In many cases, the tools we use force us to make a trade-off. We might opt to spend more time on a project by writing in longhand, choosing tools that promote creativity over expediency.
Tools can also simplify our writing process. A few months ago, I became frustrated juggling several notebooks, a binder, and multiple files and folders on my computer, all of which held notes, ideas, and drafts for a novel I’m developing. It was too much and became a hassle just to open the project and work on it. Then, I tried Scrivener, which brought most of my documents into a single file. With a few clicks, the entire project opens, neatly organized and fully accessible in this awesome application. It didn’t have any impact on my writing or my story, but it sure made the process a lot easier.
Tools to Write Better
We all want to write to the best of our abilities. The tools we choose can simplify or complicate our lives, and they might directly affect the quality of our writing. As much as I love stationery and writing supplies, I try to keep my tools to a minimum; otherwise, my desk gets too chaotic and I can’t get anything done. However, there are a few tools I’ve found to be indispensable:
- Plenty of cheap pens (including markers and highlighters) in a variety of colors: I use them up quickly and they have a nasty habit of disappearing.
- Journals and notebooks: I keep separate notebooks for fiction, poetry, and business writing. I’m at my most creative with good, old-fashioned pen and paper.
- Microsoft Word: I only use it because it’s industry standard and I need it for business. It’s awfully buggy and not very intuitive, but it’s better than nothing and not as good as…
- Scrivener: the latest addition to my collection of writing tools is a gem that I highly recommend to any writer working on a complex project or a project that involves a lot of research.
- Reference books and the Internet: these might not technically qualify as tools. They might be better labeled as resources. While I could write without them if I had to, I certainly wouldn’t want to.
What are some of your favorite writing tools? Do the tools you use improve your writing or make your writing process easier? Do they help you write better?