Do you write on the go? In this era of the portable digital device, e-reading and writing tools often overlap and intersect.
I got started thinking about this when I ran across a pair of reviews of the Freewrite (nee Hemingwrite) $500 digital typewriter lately—one on Gizmodo and one on TechCrunch. Both reviews explicitly pointed out the same handicaps I’ve remarked on before—in particular, the limited nature of the editing interface. Gizmodo even called it “the worst computer money can buy” in the headline. But both also suggested that, for a first-draft writing tool, such a thing might not be so bad. It focuses you on the simple act of writing your draft, simply getting the words down on the screen—and it’s light enough that you can do that wherever you are, as long as the mechanical keyboard isn’t too loud for your neighbors. It’s not an editing tool—you’ll use something else for that. As a simple, concentrated, focused writing machine, the reviews suggest, it’s a little overpriced but otherwise might not be a bad idea.
Another thing that drew my mind back to writing was getting a notification from Steam of what one of my friends was doing. While Steam usually lets you know what game they’re using, in this case it said a friend was using an app called “Nimble Writer.” A little further research found that this simple, customizable text editor was listed for $9.99 in the Steam Store. Now when did that happen?
But as it turns out, it’s a clever way to distribute a writing tool. Not only is the Steam Store pretty ubiquitous among PC gamers, but that also lets it save writers’ documents in the Steam Cloud—the same place other games store their save data. I already use Dropbox for a similar purpose with Scrivener, but Nimble Writer has its own cloud-saving service built right in with no external apps necessary.
Speaking of Scrivener, its developer Literature & Latte hasn’t exactly been standing still, either; it recently released a version of Scrivener for iOS, which will synchronize with the version on one’s Mac or PC. I don’t currently have the funds to buy and try it, but I’m looking forward to it. It will be interesting to see if it makes it possible to use my iPad Mini 2 as a full-featured mobile writing machine.
And speaking of mobile writing machines, that’s another reason why different methods of writing are on my mind lately. My desktop computer has abruptly given up the ghost, refusing to power on at all—so I’m writing this post, as I did my last one, from the same Kindow hybrid tablet that is my main choice for e-reading these days. I’m sitting at a food court table in the mall downtown, Kindow booted to Windows with Open Live Writer open, and my iPad running Pokémon Go sitting next to it. And so I write. It’s not a problem. (Though I’ll still be glad when a new motherboard some friends are sending along arrives tomorrow.)
In a way, it’s actually kind of a problem that I could write so freely anywhere—because the fact is, I mostly don’t. I stay at home in front of my PC, where the bigger screen makes it easier to do things—but also means I can be tempted into playing a video game or doing something else instead of things I should be doing. And packing up and going somewhere else seems like too much trouble—especially when I don’t have any actual money to spend there.
In 2006, Charlie Stross wrote a novel on a smartphone, just to see if he could. He determined that the smartphone wasn’t quite there yet as a dedicated word processing platform, but it was close—and in the ten intervening years, I imagine it’s finally managed to get there. In 2011 he noted that the iPad didn’t make a good writing machine because of its terrible on-screen keyboard—and even if you paired a Bluetooth keyboard with it, it lacked sufficient cursor movement options to work properly. I had similar problems with writing on Android. But it’s funny how having a full-fledged Windows desktop on my tablet changes things.
Effectively, whether you use a Freewrite or a phone or tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard paired, it is now more than ever possible to have all the tools you need to write wherever you go. So, do you? Do you find yourself getting out of the house and finding a nice distraction-free place like a coffeehouse or mall or library to do your work? Or does that just seem like too much trouble?