Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Writing Crutches


I used to be able to write anywhere, given even the smallest bits of time. Doctor offices, on line at the DMV, lunch breaks, meetings when someone boring was talking, mornings, evenings, afternoons, full and partial eclipses, zombie apocalypses — you name it.

But oh, how things have changed!

Over the weekend, my laptop monitor went kaplooey. After much weeping and wailing, I took it to the shop, and the Apple folks now have it for the next 4-10 days.

(I will now skip past the twitching, beating my chest, shaking my fists at the universe, and general rocking back and forth in the fetal position portions of the story. But I assure you, it was far worse than that.)

Chris, saint that he is, is lending me his computers while mine is in the shop. A glorious 27″ iMac and a serviceable old 13″ MacBook. I am incredibly lucky that he has such computers, and that he’s happy to lend them to me, and yet…

They aren’t my computer.

Gone is that person who could write anywhere, on anything. I have fallen prey to routine and comfort. To familiarity. In short, I have developed more writing crutches than I ever thought possible.

Things I apparently had to load on to Chris’s computers before I could start breathing normally and even consider using them:

1. Scrivener 2.0.

Word? Google docs? Are you crazy??? I am now so attached to Scrivener that I feel like a parasite. A novel doesn’t even look like a novel unless I see it in the familiar Scrivener panes, unless I have all my resource files and drafts and outlines and inspiration photos happily located in the same Scrivener file, just a click away.

2. Chrome browser.

Using Safari or Firefox actually makes me twitch. (What do you mean I can’t type my search terms directly into the address bar. Is this the STONE AGE?!?)

3. LastPass extension for Chrome.

It remembers my passwords so I don’t have to. All six billion and three of them. Without it, I can only stare at my browser and remember the heady days when I could use it to pay my bills, manage my finances, and communicate with my friends.

4. Nambu Twitter client.

Can’t use Tweetdeck. Or Or even Tweetie that you can now get from the Mac App Store. I must have Nambu, and it must be configured the way I want it.

5. Quicksilver.

Without Quicksilver, I continue to try to launch programs with keyboard shortcuts, and just stare balefully at the screen when nothing happens.

6. And then, of course, I must have the right wallpapers on my desktop. The dock must be hidden, and there should be minimal (if any) icons marring the beauty of the desktop. I must write from a sofa, not a chair, making the beautiful 27″ iMac a pretty fallback, but not comfortable in the slightest. (Yes, you all weep for me, I’m sure.)

What am I surprised not to need? ITunes. Apparently I can work with or without music, a surprising discovery. I can also get by with music from the stereo or an iPod, or any other source. In a jam, the TV turned to a boring station can provide the requisite background hum.

I also miss Photoshop and CorelDraw, and World of Warcraft — although I find their lack frustrating, but not a huge barricade like the items listed above. Heck, maybe it’s not so bad that my “must-have” list is only 6 or 7 items long.

So tell me — do you have any writing crutches, or can you do it anywhere, any time?

I kind of miss the old me… but not as much as my miss my laptop.

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • I am used to writing in between caring for kids, while grading papers, perched on the couch, at a desk, in a coffee shop, in my in-laws' garage–whatever. But I did notice over vacation that I was working on revisions and suddenly I could NOT THINK with the noise of kids or husband playing the Wii or people carrying on conversation or the television or the stereo going…and I felt like tearing my hair out because COME ON, PEOPLE, I'M TRYING TO WRITE! and of course they're like, "Yeah, what else is new?" and they continued their normal loud behavior because it never bothers me any other time, right? arghhh I almost went insane!

    • Elissa, I find this fascinating! What do you think made the difference? For me, I know the revision process requires a totally different part of my brain than the original writing process — I tend to overeat during revisions, for example, but not when I'm writing the first draft. It's so weird!

  • Amen to Scrivener and Chrome. So odd how we can become so used to something new that we can't conceive of how we managed without platforms/programs before they existed.

    • Yeah, it's weird and a little scary! I'm not sure how I feel about being so dependent on a program like Scrivener. Thank goodness they don't charge an arm and a leg, or I'd be in big trouble.

        • I think it's much, much faster than Safari and Firefox, but not everybody likes it. You can also put your search terms directly in the address bar at the top — and that just feels intuitive and *right* to me. (Although Deb informs me you can do that in Firefox too, but whatevs.)

          Also, LOL on J.'s comments. Yes, my favorite software is all very Mac-oriented. :-D

          • Safari does seem slow, and not because of my wifi connection. Also, I suspect that gmail and safari are not friends. Hm! Maybe I'll give it a try. Thanks!

  • Oh, woe for the baleful staring!!

    Given that I didn't know what an "app" was…

    The computer IS a crutch for me–I can't imagine hand-writing, ugh–but the programs themselves, beyond basic Word, don't matter.

    • I do think many of my crutches have to do with me being a computer person, not just a writer. My computer is my home, in as much as my house is. Setting it up the way I like is like painting the walls, buying the right furniture, and *nesting*.

  • I've been using Chrome for about a month and, um, it's not working for me. I find I'm having to go back to Firefox or Safari to print some of the MUST-HAVE coupons that my valuable vendors are shooting my way. (Do I hope that changes? Yes, but until then, I fear I'm going to have to change back to some less evolved browser.)

    It's been a long time since I was tested on any of your other paramaters (and I pray it continues to be so). I like quiet, so iTunes is not an issue. And for drafting, I don't mind longhand (I know! amazing!), though it's slow. I'm ignorant about shortcuts and don't give a damn about desktops (mostly). In fact, I'dprobably be MUCH more productive w/o electronic connectivity tempting me to check email or follow links from my Twitter pals…

    Oh, dear. I sound like such the Luddite.

    In any case, I offer hugs on the temporary loss of your primary writing tool. May you be reunited sooner than expected, and may your reunion bring a burst of renewed creativity!

  • Hmm, writing crutch…I probably believe the lie that I need huge chunks of time to write, so I don't even start if I only have forty-five minutes or ten or an hour. That's a lie, right? You all write in little chunks of time when you need to, right? It's possible? People with kids do it all the time?

    Grr. Lies are dumb.

  • This is one of the things that makes me wary of Scrivener–I don't really want to become "dependent" on a piece of software to write. I know it's supposed to make things easier, but I should just be able to open a new document and type, right? (The other problem being my experiment with Scrivener for PCs was a dismal failure, though I have yet to try the latest update.)

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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