Last week a writer pal of mine sent me a link to an app that slows down speech* (designed to help journalists transcribe fast talkers).
I was grateful (despite what my shorthand teacher told me, people do not talk at 100 words per minute) but it got me thinking – there’s a lot of technological tools out there to help writers, but there’s also tried and tested simple tips that I use every day.
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction, craft news articles or scribble poetry. There are certain things every writer should have in their creative toolbox, and none of the following require apps.
1.Read it aloud
I have a very effective post-writing routine that’s served me well for the past decade. It goes like this:
- Finish writing
- Put writing aside for at least an hour, more if I’m not on deadline.
- Come back to it and read it aloud.
Writing is like music. It has a rhythm and a flow. Hearing the words aloud allows you to see if that flow works. You’ll be able to spot the trouble areas immediately because they’ll sound disjointed and clunky.
And choose your audience carefully. Another human is not always the best idea since they tend to give noisy feedback and noisy feedback is not what you need at this stage.
I like to read my work to my dog – he has a very good listening face:
2.Use a Muse
We’ve all been there. You sit (or stand) at your desk, you open up a new text document and….nothing. Inspiration has taken a holiday.
Whatever you do, don’t panic. The blank page can smell fear. And besides, there are lots of easy and simple ways to reboot your internal writing software.
I work from home, so my preferred remedy is a long shower. There’s something about turning your brain off for the mindless task of washing that unsticks the gears. It’s so effective that I keep a notebook in the bathroom cabinet.
If you’re stuck in an office and showers are not an option because they would violate both professional and social norms, try the following:
- take a leisurely walk
- savour a cup of coffee
- listen to some music
- phone a friend
The point of all that is to get away from your work and take a break. No tech needed, just you and your brain on pause.
3.Don’t ditch the day planner
In my home office, there are two things permanently in my eye line.
One is a very large analog clock, the other is an equally large calendar, with space for notes.
Yes, I’m aware that both calendars and clocks have been in-built into every digital device since Steve Jobs first looked at a fruit bowl and felt a revolutionary idea coming on.
But I continue to rely on the real world for these things because:
a) When I’m in a word/text document, I hate switching in and out of apps and other windows – it’s distracting.
b) There is something about the physical act of writing down my meetings, interviews and big events on actual paper, on an actual calendar, that hardwires them into my brain.
Day planners are cheap and readily available (for now). I’d suggest that even the techiest of tech-heads go buy one and try it for a day. I guarantee it will make you a more organised writer.
*It’s called oTranscribe, here’s the link if you’re interested.