Writers and Blackberries et al?
December 15, 2006 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Writers: do you benefit from Blackberries, PDAs and other nifty handheld devices?

I was just wondering if many freelancers use handheld wireless devices and find them very useful. Or are they more just a fun toy that's not really that necessary?

posted by clairezulkey to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have one, and while I recognize the inconvenience, I also recognize the freedom it affords me. Because I like to be available via e-mail during regular business hours, I have to stay close to home during the day; I won't leave for more than an hour because I want to make sure that I am responsive to written communication. On the other hand, everyone I know who has a Blackberry ends up answering e-mail all day and night. My laptop gets shut off promptly at 5:00pm and isn't opened again until 8:00am the next morning, and that's just how I like it. I don't want to know if someone's written me in the evening, because I'll feel compelled to respond. I vote no on portable devices, but I'm also in the minority; most of my colleagues have them.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 11:12 AM on December 15, 2006

I find mine (hiptop3) useful in various indirect ways.

For example, by responding to email or doing other necessary email or web-based tasks during odd bits of free time during the day, I have larger blocks of truly free time at home to work on projects.

I also find using IM via the device is a good way to keep in casual contact with a network of people who someday might be able to help me out professionally. Again this is easily done in little bursts of minutes here and there.

More directly, I often use the device to jot down notes/ideas, or take a picture of something I want to remember for some bit of future writing.

Importantly, I don't feel compelled to answer any email or IM I might get once I am writing something that requires my full attention.
posted by mikepop at 11:57 AM on December 15, 2006

No. I don't need (or want) an e-mail device attached to my hip, and I have no use for a digital calendar; I keep my appointments on a slab of cork board. The only remaining use I could imagine would be to "jot down" ideas on the fly...and, well, that's just not something I do.

When I was writing full-time as a jazz composer, I tried to remember a comment made by Bob Florence, who said that he wouldn't write down anything unless it stuck in his head overnight — on the logic that, if he couldn't remember it the next morning, then it wasn't worth keeping. Hemingway, who only worked during the morning hours, made a similar comment.

For writers, falling in love with your own prose is a filthy habit, not unlike smoking; and in my opinion, toting around a little notebook to record your impulses constitutes an unhealthy step down that road. I'm sure that it works well for plenty of successful writers, but I like keeping a bit of distance between inspiration and my pen.
posted by cribcage at 12:23 PM on December 15, 2006

Are you asking about using a handheld for writing, or for communication and scheduling-type tasks that writers do? For the latter, my Treo definitely helps me keep on top of stuff, but I could certainly do without it.

For writing, though: it's great for taking notes when I don't want people to know I'm taking notes -- they assume I'm emailing or webbing or whatever business people do. For actual composing, it's not terribly helpful unless I'm in a time pinch and need to finish an article on the subway or something. The small keyboard and screen make it not such a comfortable way to generate ideas.

But it's handy to my writing in one other important way. When I'm feeling easily distracted, I like to take my laptop to a non-wireless cafe and get some real work done without being constantly lured by the intrigues of the web. I hate to be totally cut off, though, so on those days the Treo becomes a way to keep an eye on email without having to look away from my word processor. I can also use it for quick web fact-checking without being sucked into lengthy browsing breaks -- and for listening to music if the cafe's selection is lousy.
posted by Eater at 12:29 PM on December 15, 2006

I take notes on paper, with a pen. I date each cluster of notes on the top of the first sheet and generally put a "topic" next to the date, so that during my organizational periods I can cut the notes out of my spiral-bound notebook, staple them together, and file them or act on them as appropriate. If I have muliple topics in one notebooks, I fold a couple of pages in half between the subject areas so I can navigate eaiser.

If I don't have a notebooks, I've always got envelopes, napkins, loose slips of paper, business cards, receipts and other random items that I can write on when inspiration strikes. No need for expensive gadgets, here.

I also keep my calendar on paper. For things I'm worried about forgetting, I have calendar.google.com e-mail me a reminder, but I don't use it to track most of my appointments or events.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2006

My partner is constantly borrowing my hiptop when we're out to send emails to herself about the brilliant idea that just hit her.
posted by trevyn at 1:39 PM on December 15, 2006

I've been using portable computers for writing since 1988, and have ended up with a Treo 650 which does everything I need. I use it for organising (the built-in PDA software plus Note Studio, a desktop wiki that syncs automatically with my PC) and writing (Documents to Go), and in a year it's paid for itself many times over.

The one thing I don't use it for is checking/sending email or web-use, except in emergencies. I have plenty of other ways to procrastinate, and UK data tariffs are horrible.
posted by Hogshead at 2:06 PM on December 15, 2006

One other thing -- unless you're on deadline, don't use a PDA to research or fact-check via web or email: you're wasting typing time. Mark the missing data with 'XXX' and fill it in later.
posted by Hogshead at 2:08 PM on December 15, 2006

I'm not a freelance writer, but I did write an awful lot of papers for school, and had a fairly ridiculous amount of email coming to me for various music-type stuff.

I had a Sidekick 2/Hiptop 2/whatever (I would still have it, but I'm not currently in the states) for about 10 months. In that time, I grew completely and totally addicted to it. I think a great danger of owning something like this - Blackberry, Treo, what have you - is that you may very well end up wasting more time than you're supposed to be saving by having such a handy device.

That said, I loved my Sidekick. I had totally customized the text replace function, so that words/phrases like "about" or "the" or "Los Angeles, California" could be entered by simply typing "ab" or "t" or "laca", respectively. There were a few times when the computer lab at uni was full, and I'd just sit outside and start writing a 3-4 page essay on the sidekick, aided by the aforementioned text replacement function. Not as fast as a normal word processor, but I could probably beat out a hunt-and-peck type person any day.

In my uneducated opinion, it depends on how you work. If you're on deadline often, having one of these might help you to fire off a draft to somebody. But if you're working at a slower pace, you might just want to go lo-fi and invest in a nice Moleskine or something.
posted by dihutenosa at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2006

dihutenosa: "I had a Sidekick 2/Hiptop 2/whatever (I would still have it, but I'm not currently in the states) for about 10 months. In that time, I grew completely and totally addicted to it. I think a great danger of owning something like this - Blackberry, Treo, what have you - is that you may very well end up wasting more time than you're supposed to be saving by having such a handy device."

Hence "Crackberry".

I'm a freelance writer and I have no devices but my laptop. The thing is, I just found out I have ADD and I'm now curious about how such things could help me keep track of... everything. Right now I'm using paper notebooks as always, but I'd love to be able to sync my calendar and task lists from iCal at home to XP at my day job, and also be available on the go.

Or maybe I just want a new toy? Because paper and pen already do all those things.
posted by loiseau at 5:26 PM on December 18, 2006

« Older Girl with burnt angel wings - what's the movie...   |   old people + radiation = disturbing graphic novel Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.