I rescued my old netbook computer from almost certain doom earlier in the week – it had been sitting on the corner of a counter in the kitchen along with a few other bits and pieces to be sent off for recycling or charitable donation. We finally made it to a charity store today with several bags of clothes and brick-a-brack, but no netbook. It’s back in my bag, re-installed with Windows 7, and a copy of Scrivener. If you’ve never heard of Scrivener, it’s a writing app – kind of like the digital version of a typewriter, moleskine notebook, and binder full of notes all wrapped up in one piece of software. Apparently writers swear by it.
Here’s the thing – whenever I launch Scrivener I feel like a fraud. I feel like a weekend cyclist pulling on sponsor laden lycra for a training ride. I’m not a writer – I’m not paid to write – it’s just something I like to do. I’ll never be famous for my words, and my words will never be sought out (well… other than by one or two friends, and one or two stalkerish maniacs that have quietly tracked my every move for years – yes, I know you’re out there if you’re reading this. If there was a way of waving and embarrassing you in front of everybody I would).
I suppose in some ways having a copy of Scrivener installed on the computer is no different than a hobbyist photographer dangling a top of the range Canon or Nikon camera from their shoulder. It will almost always be left in fully-automatic mode, just as four wheel drive trucks very rarely get their wheels dirty while being driven by trophy wives on the school run.
Reverting to the old netbook to write anything of consequence consigns the Chromebook to a temporary limbo. It’s great for consuming the web, passable for writing (if you like Google Docs), and lasts all day on a charge. I suppose there is another option too – the Amazon Fire tablet I bought myself for Christmas a couple of years ago. While it spends most of it’s life tucked in my work bag to watch movies and TV shows while away with work, it can also pass as a pretty good word processor when allied with the Evernote app, and a cheap bluetooth keyboard. I’ve used it on trains and in coffee shops several times.
Just to maintain the fence sitting contrary position most people expect of me, it’s probably worth noting that I write nearly every blog post in a text editor – a programmers editor on the PC. Each post gets written in plain text, and copied into WordPress and Tumblr. I save every post prefixed with the date in a folder structure, and check it into version control – just as I would with programming. I know it’s insane. Think about it though – I get a free backup with version control, and the ability to clone every post I’ve ever written to a new computer at the drop of a hat. What’s more, because my backup posts are written in plain text files, they will never be incompatible with anything.
I give this rubbish far too much thought, don’t I. Rather than write about my day – standing on the touchline of my middle-daughter’s football match, and then making a trip to the rubbish tip – instead I write a load of introspective drivel about old netbooks, chromebooks, software, insane writing workflows, and idiotic nerdiness.
It’s Saturday night. Surely I should be out getting drunk with friends? Instead I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room, listening to some wallpaper music on Spotify, typing this. Being honest, I would rather be here than out wasting money I don’t have, but that’s just me.
p.s. I threw away the 9 year old Macbook today.