I stopped the other day to consider how many different pieces of software I’ve loaded on my computer. To my count, I had more than 20 pieces of software which I’d loaded strictly to facilitate writing. Care to see what I came up with?
- Microsoft Word 2010
- Microsoft Word 2007
- Microsoft Word 2003
- Microsoft Word 2002
- Corel WordPerfect X4
- OpenOffice Write 3.0
- Rough Draft 3.0
- Liquid Story Binder XE 4.62
- yWriter 4
- yWriter 5
- PageFour 1.70
- Text Block Writer 1.17
- WriteMonkey 9.71
- Momentum Writer 2.0
- Text Tree
- Final Draft 8
In my opinion, this created a problem I didn’t have before. I simply had too many choices.
I had a comment exchange with someone here about this just the other day. I stubbornly asserted how much I hate having insufficient choices in life. Take, as my wife and I often do, salad dressings for an example. At one time, there were so many brands and varieties of salad dressings the choices became overwhelming. Every brand offered its version of the multitude of flavors, an entire aisle in grocery stores where I grew up became dedicated to salad dressings. And if you cruised over by the produce, there’d be a few more, higher-end brands kept in with the wide variety of lettuce available, too.
Now? Well, there are still several brands, and there are about six varieties of each. There’s Italian, Ranch (and sometimes Ranch is now subtly divided into its own hair-fine splinters, such as bacon, peppercorn and buttermilk), Thousand Island, Green Goddess (if you’re lucky), Bleu Cheese (sometimes), Catalina (sometimes), French maybe. Oh, and creamy Italian, which is like Italian but more opaque and phlegmy. And there will be a wide bank of salad dressings in the aisle where they’re kept, but it’s not what it seems; there are only the six or seven major brands and their few types, but now there arranged in four or five different dispenser sizes and methods. So is there choice?
Not as much as it seems, even if we get overwhelmed looking at it all.
What happens to me is, I sit down to write and the first thing I have to do is decide which software to use to do the writing. Am I going to use one of the freeware items? Well, I’m not a huge fan of the plain text files and lack of formatting, so I probably won’t use those – but I really like the full-screen, distraction-free writing environment they afford. Well, one of my other word processors will offer something like that too. Oh, but this one is the ONLY one to offer typewriter scrolling, and I really like that feature. Oh, but it’s not going to let me format anything, so back to the drawing board.
Well, I better use one of the packages I’ve paid for. I mean, I did pay for them. I better get the mileage out of them, make them worth my cost. Oh, man, but I really don’t like that aspect or this procedure. And that one’s just flat-out too smart for me. How the hell should I know what the goal, conflict and objective are of this scene? And why doesn’t this one let me write scenes at all? This one lets me write in scenes but I have to create a chapter first. WTF with that?! Why can’t I just write all the scenes and then put them into the chapters I want later?
This one’s more of an index card system for organizing the project, you know, getting all the scenes in the right spot. But do I use this to write the book or just the synopsis? Or the outline? Or …? Hm.
Well, I love Word, I really do, but … do I use this one, or that one? This one’s going to expire eventually, I should get busy using that one. And this one is similar but not quite as cool, though still pretty cool. And this one’s not current anymore but I have it, it’s here. That one actually works a little better, it’s more stable than the newer one. Or should I use OpenOffice to support free, open-source software? Even though it’s as clumsy and slow and cumbersome as a blue whale in a wading pool? *Sigh*
Meanwhile, my fingers haven’t touched the keyboard yet.
So, over the weekend, I decided to dump some stuff from my system. I dumped all but two of the text editors. I kept the typewriter-scrolling text editor to do free writing and writing exercises with. If I don’t use the other two in the next two months they’ll be removed too.
I’m keeping everything I’ve paid for and I’ve pared down to only two version of MS Word, and the newer is a beta so when it expires, if I can’t afford to buy it I’ll just use next version down, which is functional and waiting for me to use it. The others are gone, removed without remorse or regret.
Final Draft is something I haven’t had time to experiment with; I’m going to give it a similar time frame. If I don’t use it in the next couple of months it’s gone. Liquid Story Binder and PageFour I own so they’re here to stay, no matter what. I’ll figure something out with those regardless of what else goes on.
In doing all this, I’m hoping I made steps forward in getting to a position where I can just write. I still have to decide what software to use when I sit down to write – which ain’t all that often, frankly – but now I only have to choose between the Ranch, Thousand Island and French. It’s a lot less overwhelming.
How ‘bout you? What’s your favorite tool for your trade or hobby?
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