A writer’s phone doesn’t have to be just cat gifs and Twitter. It can actually help.
Top productivity tip for writers everywhere: put down your phone and write.
Everyone has heard this advice – and it’s not wrong. Our phones can become huge time sucks and the quick dopamine of phone apps are powerful lures away from our creative work. Social media, hypnotising games, endless video content… need I go on? And I am as guilty as anyone.
Yes, more often than not your phone is a terrible distraction and can derail almost any good intention. But at the end of the day it is a tool and can be invaluable if used well.
Here are just a couple of the ways your phone can help with your writing.
- Research – access to information on, say, how long a corpse takes to decompose. Right there at your fingertips. But beware the Rabbit Holes of Research…
- Rough first drafts. Typos don’t matter and your notes app is perfect for capturing ideas and making notes no matter where you are. Not always great for editing, if you need to see the big picture, but for creating drafts and getting words on the page, it’s hard to beat.
- Testing different formats eg ebooks or blog posts. So many people consume content on their phones, it makes sense to make sure your content fits well.
What’s the biggest problem most writers face?
Finding time and space to write.
How many times have you told yourself you’ll write when you have two hours to sit and write? Or ideal conditions? Sadly, it’s rarely going to be the perfect time; carving out time and space is difficult when so many of us have busy jobs, young families, aging relatives, or friends and a social life.
Using your phone doesn’t solve that – sometimes you do need dedicated focus time. But slicing out a few words at a time in spare moments can add up to surprisingly effective results.
What do I need on my phone to help me write?
My teachers’ favourite saying when I was at school and we all complained about maths was, “When you leave school, you won’t have a calculator in your pocket all the time.” Forget a calculator; we carry a full desktop publishing suite in our pockets, along with filing, world maps, gazetteers, newspapers, encyclopaedias, dictionaries…
Online storage services like iCloud, Google Cloud or Dropbox (or countless others) mean you can have your book with you at all times. Having your book with you means you can write in the queue at the supermarket or on the bus or even while walking. And we’re increasingly so used to typing on our phones that it’s almost second nature.
Useful apps that I use include Scrivener for iOS, Notes app, Notion; any plain text editor. Even Word has a mobile version. I’m obviously an iPhone user but Android phones have similar apps; arguably a greater range in fact, with the more open source nature of the Google Play Store. Apps are most useful when they can sync across mobile and desktop so you can pick your work up wherever it suits you most.
You start to clock up your word count. You begin to think more about your story in between “proper” writing sessions. You make use of dead time to squeeze a little more out of every day.
Who doesn’t want that?
I’ve been there myself. I’ve found I get further with my story when I make use of Scrivener on my phone in spare moments than back when I felt I needed “writing time”… which was almost always impossible to get. I have children, a business, housework, and I need rest and family time too. If I waited for the perfect moment, I would never write anything.
But when I’m making use of my phone for writing, I find myself thinking more about my stories, working through problems in my head or coming up with ideas. And as a by-product of writing on my phone I find myself consuming mindlessly much less frequently, because I have a more engaging activity.
This won’t work for everyone. But give it a go and challenge yourself to see how you can turn a distracting toy into a key weapon in your arsenal.
As always, the important thing isn’t how you write. It’s that you do.
What stage are you at in your book journey? Check out my Services page if you’re wondering what to do next or email if you’d like some conversation about your writing! I’m always happy to chat to people; you can message me on Twitter or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions.