The core of how I write is purpose. I write to organise and formulate a set of ideas. While this is closely allied with why I write, purpose in this sense is more technical than philosophical. Though it ultimately provides the psychological tool set for me to realise my philosophical ends. But to write at all requires technology. Be it pen and paper or computer and keyboard. So today I examine how I write – technology.
This is because writing extends my capacity to remember. In that I can juggle more concepts on the page than I can readily hold in a train of thought. Think about it a little like being in a long meeting. An idea occurs to you, but now is not the time to roast that chestnut on the fire. Try and hold the idea in your thinking while actively listening and it slowly fades like smoke. But write it down… and you can return to the notion when the moment is ripe.
It also means I can compare several competing ideas and reject the ones which don’t stand up to repeated scrutiny. This process of selecting and discarding slowly sharpens my ability to think and leaves me better armed when I engage with new ideas. Much as writing allows me to harness a number of difficult ideas, the technology I use to write is a key part of the process.
I use a large widescreen monitor to provide the necessary real estate, but two smaller monitors can do just as well. The key is to ensure you can have any articles or other references from which you may be working available at a glance without having to toggle back and forth. Much as if you have your train of thought broken, too much switching has a similar effect on concentration.
Mouse and keyboard are also important. They should be an extension of your thinking so that typing or mousing isn’t effortful. Learning keyboard shortcuts helps the writing process as it keeps your thinking focused on the text instead of finding the relevant icon to click. For a keyboard, I always prefer a mechanical action and Cherry MX are my key switches of choice. I currently use the K70 Low Profile from Corsair as it gives me the remeasuring mechanical feel I love, but a low profile which helps my fingers glide across the surface as I type.
Desk and chair also matter. More hours than I case to remember are spent at my desk and comfort is a key part of keeping me concentrated. I am fortunate to have an adjustable desk and quality chair. But so long as you can get your setup at a comfortable angle, your productivity will be better than hunched over a screen sitting on the couch.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Finally practice. When I first sit down, my thinking rebels against the act of concentration. A day spent being pulled in a myriad of directions does not for a focused mind make. Removing visual distractions, perhaps some suitable music, and a cleared work space to leave just the text I am writing and any texts I am working from. Then I start putting words on the page, draft quickly and get a flow going. The polish comes later.
Tomorrow, I will take a look at language and structuring ideas.