I like reading about the tools other writers use while they’re working at home or on-the-go. I’ve gleaned more than my fair share of ideas from this look inside the lives of other professionals. With that in mind, I present a look at the “weapons of war” I can’t live without.
My Primary Workspace
My home office. In the cold basement of my house. It needs a bit of an overhaul. Needs to be modernized quite a bit. It’s spacious, though, and has a nice, big window. It contains my library of books and graphic novels, more than a few old toys (I call it flea market chic), a small TV, a recliner, and a fireplace (which is really nice this time of year). I work at a decent-sized desk (facing away from the window and TV so I don’t get distracted) that gets waaaaaaay too cluttered the busier I get.
My Seconday Workspace(s)
When I just can’t take the idea of sitting at my desk any more, I head to the recliner and work with notebook or laptop in hand. Sometimes, later at night, I work from the couch upstairs. In nice weather, I like working outside. We’ve got a new deck I’m just aching to try out.
I also work at Starbucks or a nearby bar when the mood strikes me. (As a side note, if you’re a comic book writer who works with comic book artists in public places, be prepared for the typical passerby to be WAY more impressed with the talents of your colleagues. Being a kick-ass artist is apparently a much better conversation piece than being a writer.)
Right now, I’m working with a Galaxy Note II. I wanted to try something a little bigger than an iPhone when out and about. I like the battery life, the big screen, and the note-taking abilities. It is a little unwieldy sometimes, so I’m not sure if I’ll go back to the iPhone this year or not.
My primary desktop computer is getting a little long in the tooth, but it works just fine. It boots up slowly, but works fine once it wakes up. It gets a little clunky when it comes to connecting to Bluetooth devices and such. It doesn’t really play games (which is fine by me, because I don’t need the distraction). I work with a two-monitor set up, which is so nice when comparing documents or doing dialogue passes on comics. I just throw the art on one screen, the script on the other, and I’m good to go. I don’t think I could live without two monitors.
I also use my laptop (an HP Folio 13) quite a bit. It’s fast and works great when I’m sitting around the house or on-the-go. I almost always have it within arm’s reach in case something strikes me and I just have to get something typed up. Keeping it around me while I’m watching TV or the like often leads to me getting an extra couple of pages written for the day.
I have an iPad and a Kindle Fire. The iPad works as a great backup to my laptop, and it’s nice for reading comics on ComiXology. My son, though, has pretty much claimed it. I use the Kindle primarily for reading books (naturally) but I do check e-mail on it occasionally. When traveling these days, I often leave the iPad behind.
Word is my most-used piece of software. I use it for all my comic scripts and prose. When I write with my iPad, I use Pages.
Final Draft is my software of choice (and the industry’s software of choice) for screenplays.
More and more frequently, I use Skype to communicate with collaborators (especially groups of collaborators) and to participate in podcasts and interviews.
I use a couple of FTP programs for sharing files with publishers.
For e-mail, I prefer Gmail.
For keeping myself on-schedule, I use Todoist and Google Calendar.
Right now, I’m using the simple Adobe Reader for reviewing comic book mock-ups. I’ll probably go back to the full version sometime this year.
These days, I couldn’t live without Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote. Dropbox is indispensable when it comes to organizing files and working on multiple devices or on-the-go. I love how easy it is to share files through Google Drive. Evernote is a must-have for me. My pal Mike Oliveri recently wrote about it, and I think he sums up its value fairly well.
Twitter is my social media outlet of choice. I check it a lot during the day. I also use Tumblr (although nowhere near as frequently) and (grudgingly) Facebook. Of the three, Twitter is the only one that feels natural.
I use an Epson printer/copier, a Neat document scanner, and a Pitney Bowes postage meter. All of them see a good deal of use.
I keep a little cooking timer on my desk, and it is a life-saver when it comes to churning out lots of work in short periods of time. I have a small 5-minute “hourglass” but I more frequently use it as a paperweight instead of a timer.
And, yeah, I have an old-fashioned Rolodex on my desk. I keep contacts on my other devices, too, but I can’t get rid of this thing.
Writing Implements, Journals, and Organizational Supplies
I like Uni-Ball Vision and Pilot Precise ink pens with a 05 mm point. I’m pretty picky about those. Sharpies (silver, black, and gold) are always in high demand.
I love Moleskine journals and keep a bunch on hand. I’ve tried knock-off brands, but they always fall apart on me. I have a little memo/project pad that I keep right in front of my computer for jotting down notes during calls. I also keep a handful of composition books nearby. And I have a desk calendar to keep appointments right in front of me (and to doodle on during long calls).
I use index cards for organizing scenes or comic panels, and I have a Levenger index card bleacher nearby.
Each project I’m working on has its own folder, kept within arm’s reach. These folders contain everything from deadline schedules to handwritten reminders to printed outlines.
When I’m on the go, I typically throw my gear in a messenger bag or backpack. I have a messenger bag that has a built-in charger for my cell phone, which is nice but heavy. I have a backpack (with lots of pockets) with a trolley sleeve, which makes it ideal for airport travel with an accompanying roller bag.
I tend to travel with a large Moleskine notebook, a pocket-size notebook, my Kindle, and my laptop.
I have a few travel kits ready to go at a moment’s notice. These kits, stored in plastic pencil boxes, include business cards (they’re so important, I have two different cards–a typical business card and a “buzz” card to promote The Sixth Gun), index cards, a few sharpies, some pens, a small pad of Post-Its, chewing gum, Migraine relief medicine, and hand sanitizer.
For me, traveling often means going to signings or conventions, so I also carry a Square credit card reader.
Diet Mountain Dew is an Office Supply, right?
It sounds silly, but I also have a mini-fridge near my office filled with water, soda, and snacks. Going upstairs to the kitchen means breaking my stride and possibly getting distracted. I want to avoid that at all costs!
What am I Missing?
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things. After all, I’m writing this under the whip-cracking tick of a cooking timer. I’ll probably add to this list as I remember other necessities. If you have suggestions for software I should check out or office supplies I should pick up on my next trip to OfficeMax, please let me know!