1:7:19 One Writer's Tools

Some time ago, an uncle commented on his son's ambitions to become a writer: He said competition meant few could make a living doing so. Anybody could afford the cheap materials. What do paper and pencils cost? Far better to try a steel mill, the entry cost for that high enough, his son would have little competition.

Of course, my uncle was talking figuratively. When did a writer last submit a manuscript in pencil on paper that was published?

Nonetheless, I've always written more for love, less for lucre. Yet in this age when manuscripts are on electronic media, I've resisted the idea spending more on writer tools (a MacBook Air, anyone?) will enhance prospects for my writing.

My hero in the Department-of-Writer-Tools-on-the-Cheap is Lars Eighner, who famously published a memoir--Travels with Lisbeth--reviewed in the New York Times, no less, but written on a laptop he fished out of a Dumpster at the University of Texas, Austin, no doubt a discard by a well-heeled student!

Cheap & minimalist is my approach. My writer tools tend to express that.

ed screenshot

When I'm drafting, writing something original, like this post, I use a free text editor that's been around since early mainframe days: ed (pronounced as two distinct letters and created in 1969 by Ken Thompson for then-emerging unix systems). Available for linux (also free), I described my adoption of ed in an essay I published at slashdot.

The ed text editor is a minimalist's dream, a blinking cursor on the terminal screen, approaching as pure a writing experience--when I'm pushing on my 1,000 words a day--as a manual typewriter.

But my keyboard is my luxury. A SIIG with honest, mechanical key action (gamers also love click-clack keyboards) and tactile feedback close to a typewriter's. My $80 SIIG cost as much as the recycled Dell tower PC to which it was first attached.

My word processing software is LibreOffice (a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office and free) & it's what makes my ed text files into acceptable DOC files publishers will look at.

Alas, and unexpectedly in recent months, I've had to replace many of my writer tools. So a $100, new ASUS monitor. A $60, factory-refurbished Brother laser printer. For $145, another recycled Dell tower PC, but with the Intel Core i5 CPU @ 3.1 GHz.

Total came to about $300 for writer tools, but then recently I sold my vintage, sea-green Hermes portable typewriter to a collector in Northern California for about that. He was glad to pay much more than what I paid for it in a pawn shop a long, long time ago!

Image credit: the author


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