Let me restate that. I really, really, really like to write. Over the last 20 years, it has become almost second nature to me. Admittedly, there have been times—sometimes rather scary to me—in which my mind is blank and my keyboard dusty, but these times have been, praise God, relatively rare.
An acquaintance of mine from over a quarter of a century ago—who also really liked to write—once told me that a good writing session was the most uplifting thing in his life, a pure adrenaline rush of satisfaction. Let me just note, I hope that a good writing session is the second most uplifting thing in life. The first? Well, that’s a subject for a different time and a different audience!
During the annual breakfast of the Free Enterprise Institute, held on October 22, 2019, our beloved editor and my great friend Winston Elliott kindly noted that my pieces (or columns, whatever term is best here) posted at The Imaginative Conservative accounted for just around 10% of the total pieces published in the website’s nine years of existence. A quick calculation reveals that this equals a number just shy of 1,000,000 words I have written just for TIC. As I mentioned to the audience—after Winston’s gracious remarks—it’s almost as though I’m infected with some kind of disease, typing so fast, merely to keep at least three feet ahead of the devil. He’s a fast one!
Much to my pleasure, I often get asked what tools I use to write. Some ask me this as a writer, while others (the majority, my students!) ask me as a professor. Here’s my list. And, yes, get ready to pull out the credit card (not for me, for the good and whole merchants who makes such great tools).
The iPad. While I proudly have been a Mac user since 1984 and still own a Mac laptop, I now type almost everything I write on my iPad Pro. I’ve had this specific model for a year now, and it’s as powerful as any laptop I’ve used over the past two decades. Indeed, it zips along mightily. It’s also as portable and light as one can possibly imagine. That it looks beautiful doesn’t hurt, overall, but I think this is really a case in which form follows function.
For as fast as it is, the iPad Pro has one severe drawback—it’s designed better for consumption than for creation. In this sense (and only in this sense), the Microsoft Surface is superior. This situation is slowly changing as Apple and her competitors make all kinds of new input devices, from electronic pencils to keyboards to mice and trackpads. I have tried several keyboards for the iPad, but the one I like the most is the keyboard that comes with the Logitech Slim Folio Pro. The Apple-made keyboard case is an excellent product, but I’ve found that constant use makes the keys (in particular the command/Apple key) stick at the most inconvenient times. The Apple keyboard, I fear, was never made for prolonged use. I have also used the Brydge Pro keyboard which, more or less, attempts to turn the iPad into a MacBook Pro. While the Brydge is aesthetically just gorgeous, the keys are cramped, and the metal hinges are so stiff that I often fear I will be scratching the surface of the iPad. When the rubber protectors on my Brydge disintegrated a few weeks ago, however, the company immediately sent me free replacements.
The Logitech Slim Folio Pro is, sadly, anything but slim, and it adds considerable weight and bulk to the iPad experience. But, it’s worth it, especially given the protection that the folio provides. Even more important, they keyboard is one of the best keyboards—of any sort and for any device—that I have ever used. I actually look forward to typing on it.
And, this brings me to what I consider a critical point when it comes to writing. Buy the best keyboards you can afford. You’d never expect to attend a rock concert and see the guitarist play on some ratty, thin, old thing with barely any pickup. Why, then, would you expect a writer to type on a ratty, thin, old thing with barely any travel? For a writer, the keyboard is the main instrument, and the writer should treat it as such.
When I’m writing intensively, my favorite keyboard is the Das Keyboard for Mac. A mechanical keyboard, it lets me just fly when typing. Additionally, it’s a mechanical keyboard, which is much healthier for the fingers and the hands. Made of wood, the key switches offer a bit of shock absorption. If you’re just typing an email, a keyboard with low travel and plastic switches is no problem. If, however, you’re typing a thousand or more words a day, you definitely need to take care of your fingers and hands. Imagine walking 10,000 steps (or more) a day in mere loafers. Again, just as with the rock guitarist and now the walker, the keyboardist should treat his art and his body well. The Das Keyboard for Mac also provides USB power hubs as well as a volume knob and special keys for music. To be certain, I love to listen to music when I’m writing, and having all of the typing tools as well as access to music all in one spot is especially helpful.
About a year ago, only a couple of mechanical keyboards were on the market. As I write this now, however, a number of East Asian companies have entered the mechanical keyboard market (sometimes labeled, oddly enough, as gamer keyboards), and the competition has driven the prices way down. A year ago, a good mechanical keyboard coast between $150 and $200. Now, good mechanical keyboards starts at, roughly, $40.
Next up? Tools for Writing: Software.
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The featured image is a photograph of a typewriter by Thanapat Pirmphol, courtesy of Pixabay.