The writing tools I use

Every writer has a set of tools they swear by when they have to put words down for people to enjoy.

Yet, I’m pretty sure there will be people who claim that tools are just tools and adapting to the tool is more important. But I know humans are emotional creatures. Our subconscious mind can be rather picky when it comes to the things we use. So when you use the wrong tools for your work, you will feel very uneasy or just don’t feel productive at all.

So I’m gonna just ignore these “rational” humans and focus on the beautiful, highly-emotional humans who can get pretty upset about having to work in the wrong environment or tools to use. I can even see myself chuckling at the sight of these emotive people.

Anyhow, here are some of the tools that I use for my writings.

15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

This is the one and only computer that I predominantly use for everything. For writing, I swear by it and highly doubt I would live without it.

With the 15 inch Retina display and combine with MacOS Mojave’s Dark Mode, written words can easily catch my attention and doesn’t strain my eyes out. It meant that I can write for hours and hours. The photo probably doesn’t do the display justice but if you own one such device you’ll know what I mean.

Throughout my writing journey, I have used Windows and Mac. My experience with Windows had been decent but with the recent rise of high-density display and poor support by Windows applications, I often had to squint just to make out the text because they are often too small. There were times when I even wrote the wrong words and didn’t realise until I have published the content. But that was two years ago when I still use Windows to do my writing. Ever since I jumped onto the Mac, I have never look back.

Now, not only the Mac’s display is great for writing, the 3rd generation butterfly-switch keyboard makes the typing experience truly phenomenal. I have typed on the traditional rubber-dome keyboard and mechanical keyboard. And the keys on this keyboard strikes the right balance between those two. The keys didn’t need too much force to press and I love the tactile feedback. Reminds me of using a typewriter.

And if you are wondering why my Mac desktop is so clean. Well, I’m a minimalist. A cluttered desktop distracts me from writing and stresses me out. I only keep those applications that I use frequently on the dock and that’s it.

iA Writer

Previously, I have always used Microsoft Word to do my writing. However, I have come to realise it’s too clunky. The non-minimalistic look with all the tools and functions distracted me from my main task of writing.

Then I went searching for the best writing tool for the Mac.

I found iA Writer. I fell in love with its minimalistic design. There aren’t a lot of options for you to mess around with. After you start up the application and choose your library folder, you are all set to begin to write.

The software also doesn’t require you to spend insane amount of time to tweak around with the fonts, text styles or page formatting. It relies on Markdown, which is a lightweight markup language for you to use to style your text. And because markdown doesn’t require you to move your fingers away from the keyboard, it doesn’t distract you.

In full-screen mode, everything else that has no purpose in your writing process simply disappear, allowing you to focus only on your content. This way, you can put all your energy in crafting the best piece of work you have ever done.

Apple Notes

The default note taking app on the Mac, iPhone and iPad. With its ability to sync across my iCloud devices, allow me to protect sensitive notes with passwords, and is really minimalistic, I don’t see why I need a whole bunch features like what you will find in apps like Evernote.

And there’s nothing wrong with Evernote. If you love the features on it, by all means use it. But it just doesn’t suit me.

Monologue A5 Notebook

With all the digital-based tools, it’s easy to get burn out. Sometimes, what you really need is to get away from all those tools and go back to the basics and use something that allow you to focus on writing. No internet means no distraction.

For me, I go with the Monologue A5 notebook and a simple ball-point black pen.

I only found the brand Monologue recently when I was searching for a physical notebook that I can bring with me to write my journals. At first, I didn’t know what I have picked from the shelf and was wondering why the notebook cost me SG$20.

It was only after I got home when I found out I actually got a high-grade notebook.

With acid-free 80gsm paper, you don’t really need to worry about ink staining the subsequent pages (if you use a pall-point pen) and the pages don’t turn yellow fast. That means you can get to keep the notebook for long period of time. Good if you want to review back what you have written in the past. Maybe even share with your future generations.

The slightly yellowish-colour of the paper also makes it easy on the eyes when you have to write for extensively period of time. For me, the traditional white-paper found in those lecture pads sometimes makes it hard for me to pick out the text if I used a lighter coloured pen due to the white reflection. And it’s the same reason why I use Dark Mode on digital text editor.

What about you?

These are the tools that best fit into my workflow but I am open to other better tools.

And what about you people? What tools do you use for your daily writing that you swear by and want to share with the world?

Musings – Software Development

  1. It’s always best to avoid rolling your own implementation of things like database connection managers, encryption unless you want to deal with the pain six or seven years later, assuming you are still working on that project. And if you are a newbie or junior developer with less than 1 year of real world working experience, do not even think about rolling your own.
  2. Troubleshooting and debugging a software bug in an old piece of software that you built five years ago without documentation or with poor code style is like hunting for a specific color of needle in a haystack but you forgot which haystack and where it is, even if it is right in front of you. When you finally found the haystack, you forgot which color of needle you are looking for.
  3. If you are a highly-sensitive person and love programming, software engineering as a career may not be the best choice for you. Projects are extremely time-sensitive, multi-tasking is required, majorly understaffed, and people are mostly logical. So depending on the level of your sensitivities and ability to manage those sensitives, you are probably better off working for yourself or do programming on the side. Of course, the company you work for and the culture could affect your choice. If your team and management totally understand it, know the strength of a highly sensitive person and appreciate those strength while seeking to help mitigate the weaknesses, then yes, you can do it as a career. Otherwise, get out and find something else to do. Cultivate a new passion.
  4. Your years of software development experience doesn’t necessary means you can be a senior developer. It is especially so if you haven’t develop the skills to be a senior developer or a lead developer. In that case, either you improve yourself and develop those skills, work for yourself or lower your ego, pride and salary, and continue to be a junior developer.

Poem – Developer Life

This attempt of creating poem about being a software developer will replace my journal for today.

Comes the night,
out goes finger,
a press of button.
A beep,
turns of blades,
room turned as cool as arctic.
You dropped dead on bed,
wishing it’s fact.

Night’s dead,
killed by the sun.
Wake up son,
Went the alarm.
Up he rises,
off the bed he rolls,
gave the alarm the blows.

walked out a zombie,
looking for his breakfast,
made it instant fast.
Sat down,
have it slow,
thinking about woe.
Dropped into the hole.

Off to work,
dealing with droves of people,
all of whom squeezers.
Off the train,
to the coffee shop,
out with coffee in hand.

Down by the desk,
faced wall of text,
requiring fingers full of dex,
to churn out more text.
You think you are mack,
give you the smack,
now you feel like crap.

Squash squash,
death to them ,
never seem to end.
You try again,
hope to gain,
some confidence but never quite back.

Time disappear,
sun gone for the day,
no yay.
Home you go,
back to the start you go,