Finding the Right Tools

Getting any work done isn’t always just a matter of having the will and the ability. Sometimes you need something extra. The right place, the right time, the right tools.

It may seem odd, and silly, and something that shouldn’t be much of an impact, but – and like similar posts I’ve made in the last few days – I’m sure I’m not the only one who has this problem.

There’s the obvious ones. Most of us crazy writers can’t get by without our drugs. In my case, there must always be an ample supply of caffeine, nicotine and albuterol. That’s always on hand at Casa De Andrews; they have to be. The caffeine keeps me going, the albuterol means I don’t die, and the nicotine makes sure nobody else dies, either.

Then there’s the lighting. I prefer it dark, honestly. The only light the glow of the tablet or the computer screen. Part of that is the nerve damage, but even when my eyes were theoretically fine, I preferred it that way. It keeps me focused, for one. Gets rid of the twitching dancing shapes in what remains of my peripheral vision, for another.

The surface itself doens’t matter, so long as there is room enough for all my assorted drugs, drinks, devices and garbage, so that’s handy.

But the biggest thing is the keyboard.

Keyboards are an odd thing, to me. They all have the same basic design, all serve the same purpose. To most people I suspect a keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard. It’s just a device. I imagine folks have similar relationships with pens. But to me, having the wrong keyboard, or if you have the right one but it begins to develop the wrong feel, nothing works.

My computer keyboard is a gaming keyboard. Not because I game – though I do – because I don’t particularly care about having 15 extra function keys and programmable macros and the ability to have six keys pressed at once and all of them register. I have it because it’s the only way to find giant keyboards with proper mechanical keys that can survive the abuse my broken hands will heap upon it.

I need the audible sensation of a key click; with my hands the way they are, I can’t always tell if I actually pressed the button or not; having the click to tell me so helps. The deeper key wells help in that regard, too, since it takes more effort and a deeper push to trigger a key. Then I know I pressed it, which as a touch typist is at least a little important. Having big keys with curved surfaces helps too, making sure my fingers are on the keys I think they are and not rolling onto other ones.

That was all fine and well until a coffee mishap. Now some of the keys aren’t so clicky, and don’t always respond properly. Unfortunately they keyboard’s a trifle pricey, and since it still technically works, I can’t really justify replacing it. But since the incident, it’s been stupidly difficult to actually write for any period.

Now, I’m not totally delusional, and I am aware that depression, anxiety, general health issues, scheduling changes and just plain laziness and Bartleby syndrome (“I should prefer not to,” says the scrivener) also factor in. But having the right tool, the one that just feels right when called to your hand, matters. A lot.

Enter my new shiny. T’was upgrade time on the Verizon contract, as I had previously mentioned. The iPad Pro and keyboard (though, also as noted, I went with the Logitech rather than the Apple model) have taken the leash off my creative impulse. Not beause it’s portable, because I still get most of my work done at the same desk with the same utensils in front of me; I’m writing this right now, sitting in front of my computer, with the tablet on my lap while the overpowered PC is sitting there playing Criminal Minds. But just because it feels right. The keys respond to me, and I want nothing more than to keep pressing them and watching words fall out of it.

It’s silly, it’s crazy, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter one bit. I’m scribbling, even if it isn’t always on the project I want it to be on. I’m trying to be social and accessible on various sites. And it’s all because I have the right tool to type on.

Am I crazy? What about you other writers out there? Is there something you simply must have just right to write? Some scavenger hunt you’ve engaged in to have access to a tool, device or product that, regardless of the sense or lack thereof, seems somehow necessary to pursue your craft? Or are you one of the lucky ones who can work with anything, at any time, under any conditions? What’s the secret? Let us know in the box below!


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