The Work Standard

Music and whiskey are the secret secrets, folks. Music and whiskey

My NaNo Workspace in 2011

You’d think that writing would consist of only a pen or pencil and paper or butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. It’s a  little more than that, sometimes and every writer that works on a computer has his favorite piece of software or favorite kind of pen. We all have rituals and peccadilloes that help us get into the Zone, where all the best writing happens. We use physical tools to trigger the necessary mental state.

Yeah, it’s weird. Stay with me, though.

The Physical Tools:

Pens – I’m very partial to a certain kind of Uniball pen, black and micro point. It writes smoothly across all sorts of papers and runs about $2.28 or so per pen. For a disposable it’s damn good.

Paper – I’m okay with just about any kind of spiral notebook that’s cheap but I like Moleskine notebooks, too. Also little scraps of paper I pick up here and there. Napkins, the back of my hand…

Computer – I use a MacBook Pro. It’s about two years old now and decrepit in all kinds of ways but it’s got to last me another year or so. Maybe longer. I’ve always been a Mac guy because when I was a poor kitchen worker back in the old days of the mid 90s I could get a computer financed through my job. It was a great deal and I’ve had – let’s see –  three computers since the fall of 1995. I’m a fan.

Software – I wrote exclusively in Word until 2010 when I discovered Scrivener. Wow. This program runs Word off the reservation for functionality. Seriously, just try it. You can test drive it for 30 days to find out if you like it or not. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and I’m still discovering things I can do: like keep all my notes with the story I’m working on so I don’t have to flip through thousands of pieces of paper.

As for routine – I’m a morning guy. I get up with the chickens, go through the same morning rituals everyone else does and eat breakfast before I sit down to write. One important thing is that I get dressed for the day job before I start writing. This is important because it helps me get my head in the proper space to slip into The Zone. Typically I have anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes to write before the day job calls and I can crank out anywhere from 500 to 1000 words in that time, depending upon how quickly I can get into The Zone.

Once I’m there, I lose all track of time and that’s where something like FocusBooster comes in real handy. It keeps track of time for me and rings a nifty little bell when time’s up.

That’s not everything, though. I have to have some secrets to keep. Ask me when you see me. Maybe I’ll tell you something that no one else knows but works for me when I’m writing in the evenings…

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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