Little Writing Tools that can Make a Big Difference

Sep 4, 2018 | Better Writing

A couple of years ago, the fence on one side of our back yard fell over. We hired someone to rebuild it. According to the online service we used, the worker was experienced and capable.

When the work was complete, the tops of our fence posts were all slightly different. When I called the worker’s attention to it, he explained that he didn’t have the right saw to do the job correctly, so he made do with what he had. I wish he’d rented the right saw or borrowed one from a buddy.

You’ve probably got the basic tools to get your writing done. There’s writing and editing software of all kinds. And there are reference tools, like dictionaries, thesauruses, and style manuals. Those are the important, essential tools. You need them to get your writing done.

There’s another class of tools, though, that can make a big difference in your writing. They’re not essential. They’re like that special saw that could have cut my fence posts straight. They’re inexpensive. They’re easy to use. And they can make a big difference in the quality of your writing. Here are five little tools to consider.

Index Cards

Index cards come in a variety of sizes. Some are ruled, some look like little bits of graph paper, and some are blank. There are lots of ways to use them..

You can use them for taking notes, especially when you have to be quiet, like in church. Stick a bunch in your pocket or in something like Levenger’s pocket briefcase. Make notes to capture your ideas. Sort them as you need to.

Index cards can also be great organizing tools. Put your key points on them. Then, put them on a table or on the bed and move them around until the order makes sense to you.

Digital Voice Recorder

I love my little digital voice recorder. My family calls it my “Idea Catcher” and that’s its most important use. As I go through my day, I capture my ideas with that recorder.

If you dictate some of your writing, a digital voice recorder will work for that, too. Record your material, then send it digitally to a transcriber. Here’s the transcriber that I use.

A Journal

Ideas are a lot like thunderstorms. Some are “pop-ups.” You can catch them with your digital voice recorder.

But, just like some thunderstorms are big and take time to develop, so are some ideas. A journal is the perfect tool to develop those ideas. You don’t need something fancy, here’s a link to the journal I use.

A Door

If you want to do your best writing, you need to eliminate interruptions. Having a door you can close is the simplest way to get the privacy you need. When you’re ready to write, turn off electronic interruptions. Then, close the door and get to work.

Writing Rituals

A ritual is a series of actions that you perform the same way every time to serve a larger purpose. My morning and evening devotions follow the ritual of the Daily Office from The Book of Common Prayer. I have writing rituals, too.

Most successful writers have rituals that govern how they write. Like religious rituals, they are performed in the same way every time. If you’d like some ideas of rituals that you can use, check out the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, or Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

When it’s time to write, I silence my phone and shut the door. I start one of my work playlists and put on my headphones. Then I read the last few paragraphs I wrote on the project and start writing new material.

I quit writing when I can decide what I’m going to write in the next session. If it’s the last session on the project for the day, I make some brief notes on what I’ve accomplished and what’s next. Then I put materials away and take a break.

Bottom Line

The little tools in this blog post can make your writing better, but only you can determine which ones will work for you and how to use them best. Don’t just read about them, try them out.

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