Tag Archives: proper tool

How an Alphasmart 3000 Helped Me Conquer NaNoWriMo

Alphasmart 3000In the year 2010, I was facing the fourth year that I was to attempt National Novel Writing Month or as it is affectionately known, NaNoWriMo. The goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month is a daunting task, but I knew if I wanted to become a novelist, it was a skill that I needed to learn. For my fourth attempt I needed to make a change in the way that I wrote, otherwise I feared that I would fail again. My main problem was not being able to write away from home where my desktop remained. I work on the road for many days in November and I always lost far too much time in my hotel room stays.

On the forums of the NaNoWriMo website, there were recommendations for an Alphasmart 3000 and the Alphasmart Neo to use instead of a laptop. These were writing tools that were designed for young students to write compositions in the classroom. I had never seen one before, but I was intrigued. I could take one of these with me on the road and do my writing and then use the “send” feature to upload my work into whatever word processor I was using. Learning that an Alphasmart 3000 was around $30 on eBay, I was sold. I did not want to invest in an expensive laptop only to discover that I did not enjoy writing away from home.

In October 2010, my AS3K arrived in the mail. The device was a transparent teal with grey keys and had a small window for digital text. I was not sure if I liked having such a tiny window as I worked, but since this was an experiment, I was willing to give it a try. I did not bother to buy the AS3K a protective sleeve. I simply tossed it into a cloth tote bag along with my pocket thesaurus. It was rugged enough to hold up to such abuse. When I went to my first write-in, I was amused by the number of people that stopped to ask me what I was writing on because they had never seen one.

Due to the small screen size, I was not certain if I would like writing on the Alphasmart, but became a convert to it. The screen is 4 lines high and 40 characters in length. The LCD screen has a high contrast and is easy to read. Since I am able to scroll up and down and do minor editing, I am able to keep my train of thought as I wrote, leaving the main editing to my desktop at home. During the write-in, I was not distracted by websurfing as the writers with netbooks or laptops were, all my time was funneled toward the written word. At the end of the evening, I discovered that the final word count of my project was much higher due to this. I also liked that I did not have to fight for a chair near a power outlet as the other writers did. My Alphasmart 3000 has all the power it needs. The biggest surprise was the satisfying click of the full sized keyboard that reminded me of the old-fashioned typewriter that I had back when I was kid. It was a joy to write on compared to the soft keyboards of more modern computers. After the write-in, I was able to come home and upload the text into my computer via a USB cable. The only drawback to the unit was that it did not have a word count feature and the word processing software is somewhat primitive.

I was able to conquer NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2010 and I credit this success to the acquisition of my Alphasmart 3000. It became my main writing machine when I was away from home for two years. I like the Alphasmarts for rough draft work. The small screen size helps prevent your inner editor from interrupting the flow of your writing and you get more words down that way. Later, in revision, I work in Scrivener on my desktop. Late in 2011, I decided to upgrade to the Alphasmart Neo and it is the machine that I use for my rough drafting today. The Neo has a slightly more comfortable keyboard, a screen that can hold up to 9 lines of text and it can hold more text. The word processing software is better and it has spell check, a thesaurus and a word count feature.

If you are a new writer in search of an inexpensive machine to use for NaNoWriMo, I recommend that you look into the Alphasmart 3000 as your first writing tool. Get a feel for the keys and the non-distraction writing format and you will never look back.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

I have a nice assortment of writer theme links for you this week. Some feature scrivener, my favorite writing program and others are general writing tips or marketing tips for writers. Enjoy!


Why I use Scrivener for business writing

Word Count: Murdering Your Darlings and King’s 10% Rule

Tab Fancy – Dividers for Filofax

3 Myths of Guest Writing for Big Websites … and 6 Tactics for Doing it Well

5 Strategies For Reviving Your Freelance Marketing Plan

Enhance Your Freelance Writing Career with These 5 Tips

The End of an Era for “The Encyclopedia Britannica”

How to Read a Book Contract – Contempt

How To Boost Your Writing Confidence

Can the Right Tools Help You Write Better?

The Everyday Carry Obsession for Writers

EDC 2010A year or two ago, I had taken my key ring out of my purse. It was a jumble of extra rings, keys that I had no idea what they opened, and a heavy fob that had worn smooth until it was just a hunk of metal. I decided that I was going to update my keyring and make it more functional.

I began research to find ideas on how to organize my keys better. What I discovered is a fad called “everyday carry” or EDC. This is a hobby where people take preparation for life’s little needs to a new level. Intrigued, I scanned photos of what other people carried in their pockets and read about their ideas of preparedness. There was a wide range of people that did EDC including Survivalists that were preparing for the next nuclear war. Yet, there were many others like myself who simply wanted to function in an urban environment in more comfort.

So what makes a basic EDC? It turns out that there are a couple of common items that most people keep in their pockets.

    phone
    keyring
    wallet
    flashlight
    pen
    multi-tool
    knife

The phone and wallet seemed normal enough to me, but the rest I sort of scratched my head at.

My first EDC addition was a leather key fob with a clip that could attach to my purse. I put my car keys and regular keys on the new ring. It had a flower concho on it for decoration and I loved not only the look, but the inexpensive price tag.

Next, I discovered a tiny keychain sized flashlight called a Streamlight Nano. I found that having a flashlight on your person all the time was a godsend. No more having to fumble with my key when I came home at night because my husband had forgotten to turn on the porch light. It helped me feel safer when going to my car after the end of a night class. After a few weeks of using the flashlight on my keyring, I knew that developing a useful EDC was the right way to go.

My next purchase was a Fox40 safety whistle. It is quite loud, lightweight and sturdy. Because it is pealess, it will not freeze up in cold weather. I wanted a whistle since I’m alone at night on campus or when I’m out in the park walking my dog. I never used it at school in the end, but I did use it once for an emergency. I had fallen in our garage and injured myself. I tried to call out for my husband on the other side of the property, but he could not hear me. I had my keys and the whistle with me. I blew on the whistle and this brought my husband to me. I will always keep a whistle on my keyring for now on.

The whistle, flashlight and keys are all I keep on my main keyring. It can go through the airport security or into any building. With these items and the tools with me every day, it gives me a little added help with my day to day life.

For my pen, I purchased a Fisher Trekker Space Pen. It came with a lightweight carabiner and that little black clip became the main holder of my “tool keyring”. The Trekker has a ring on the pen cap so my space pen hangs in my purse in a place that is easy to get to. Now I always have a good quality pen where ever I go. I added a small moleskine notebook in my purse to go with the pen. When I go to seminars or have a writing idea, I can capture ideas on the fly and go back to it later when I’m home on my computer. I recommend carrying a pen and a moleskine to all writers. It makes a difference.

I did not have much trouble deciding on the multi-tool. I bought a little $20 Leatherman Micra for the job. Its main tool features a good pair of scissors, but it has a nail file, nail cleaner, a bottle opener and assorted screwdrivers. It also has a tiny blade, but I seldom use it. The multi-tool is 2″ long and takes up little room. I find that I use it quite often, especially when I travel, or when I’m in a class or workshop.

The knife was a difficult decision for me. I had never carried a dedicated folder before. Women of my generation were not encouraged to do so, although I’ve been noticing that younger women think nothing of it. The state I live in has stricter knife laws than other places, so in the end I chose a sub 2″ blade from Spyderco called a Ladybug. It helped that the knife scales came in many color choices, including purple! The blade is super sharp, of a high grade of steel and it locks for added safety when using it. I use it to open packages, slice sandwiches in hotel rooms, or to cut twine. It is an excellent beater blade and has been my main pocket knife for two years. It still looks like new.

I have purchased a few more EDC items since then, but these items that I’ve listed are my core items and go with me everywhere.

By adding tools to my everyday carry, and learning how to use them in my daily life, I feel more confident in the way that I tackle the world.

When was the last time you updated YOUR keyring?

Bicycling Preparations

One weekend morning, I heard my husband banging in the tool box out in the garage as I was wrapping up a review of a story on one of my writing sites. “Where is my socket wrench?” he called to me across the house. I paused to think where the proper tool for the task might be.

“Why don’t we use mine in the back of the SUV?” I replied to him. I closed the browser on my computer and started a search for my shoes. Aha! They were still under my computer desk.

“But I want to use a socket wrench,” he exclaimed far more loudly than necessary. I heard more banging. “I found it!”

I slipped into my leather sketchers and tied the laces. “Wouldn’t it be easier to use the small wrench that I keep in my SUV?” I made my way down the hallway toward the garage. I heard strong language coming from the garage as I arrived. I looked at my husband who was holding a small wrench and its accompanying sockets. He looked irritated. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t have a 3/16th socket! I have everything else!” I shook my head and took the box of sockets from him. “Let’s get the bike rack and give my wrench a try. It’s adjustable.”

We walked outside to where my SUV was parked in the driveway. I noticed that my husband had taken the new bike rack out of its box and it was waiting there for installation upon the rear tire of our vehicle. He read the instructions on how to install it, but then confessed that he didn’t understand them. My husband has trouble thinking visually, so I looked at the illustration and at the bike rack myself. I lifted the rack and placed it on the tire. “I think that it goes on like this.” We both played with the contraption on the tire, discovering how the bolts moved and the straps might be placed. When strength was needed, I directed my husband where to pull the straps.

When it came time to tighten the rack on my car, I took out the six inch adjustable wrench that I always leave in the back of the SUV for camping purposes and twisted the bolts to secure the rack as my husband watched. Before I finished, he took the wrench from me and made sure that the bolts were tight enough. “I hate these wrenches,” he muttered as he worked.

I admired our handy work. “It doesn’t look bad at all,” I remarked. “Are you ready to go riding in the park with me tomorrow?” For me, riding a bicycle is a time of meditation, when I tap into ideas for new plots as the wind blows through my hair. Maybe it is the regular motion of the pedals, or the sense of freedom while zipping along the bike paths, but cycling is a true creative time for me.

“Yes, I can’t wait!” He handed the little wrench back to me. I took the wrench and the bungee cords that went with the bike rack and put them into a little pocket on the back of my SUV. They would all remain there until needed again. I smiled at my husband. It was going to be fun to have a riding partner. Bicycling is always more enjoyable when you have someone to join you.