Writing on my iPad

I know writers who prefer to sit at an ornate old desk with a topographical landscape of nicks, cuts, stains, and worn-away lacquer. They sit at these desks filled with character and they use a pencil, to write. Sometimes they might use pen but their labor is 100% analog and they love it.

I am not this kind of writer.

My handwriting is terrible and within minutes of any form of steady writing my hands ache. Minutes after that the carpal tunnel from the years spent writing computer software makes my wrists ache. The idea of using a pen or pencil to produce a 100,000 word novel is to me as herculean a task as building the pyramids without the aid of diesel-powered construction equipment and laser-accurate measuring devices.

Ever since the iPad first came out I have wanted so badly to be able to use it as a writing device. Not as my main editing platform but more as the device that is virtually always with me whenever a great line of dialogue or an intriguing scene strikes me and begs to be given form. Up until recently, this has been impossible because writing using the on-screen keyboard is nearly as much of a pain in the butt due to typos as using a pencil.

Now I have an iPad2. In addition, I have a “Book book” iPad case. I love this thing on so many levels, but my favorite part is that my iPad case looks like an old book, an icon for which I hold a tremendous amount of reverence. The other thing I have is a fairly small wireless keyboard.

For the past few days I have noticed that when I feel the urge the write, the typical counter-urge to stay on my ass and do nothing is not as strong because it takes so little effort to just pull out the iPad, turn on the wireless keyboard, and start typing.

The software I use on the iPad for writing is iA Writer. I use this software specifically for something that it calls focus mode, where everything but the current paragraph is grayed out and there is nothing on the screen but my words. Nothing. No distractions, no blips from IMs or e-mails and most importantly for me, no temptation to fire up a code editor and start doing something technical.

This software also has iCloud support so that when I’m done spewing stream-of-consciousness raw prose into the iPad, I can take it over to my Mac, put it in my desktop writing application, and refine it later when I am in that mode. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I have very different needs and desires in terms of the way software looks and behaves when I’m creating something new versus when I’m editing and revising.

If you’ve been resisting the idea of writing on your iPad, then you might want to try again with this combination of software and hardware as I’ve found it very comfortable and easy to use. If you have your own favorite software/hardware for using the iPad as a writing tool, I’d love to hear about it.

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