Vices and Devices: Best Tech for Writers (you might be surprised…)

Ask any group of writers what technology they can’t live without and you’ll get the same handful of answers…





The voice-recording app on one’s phone…

…over and over again.

(Rare is the astute writer who notes I in no way specified writing-related technology.  Few ever answer “my fridge” or “my stove” or “my furnace in the dead of winter”.)

The problem with writing-related tech is that it does little to account for the writing life as a whole.

As a point of comparison, consider the important markers that define a healthy lifestyle: sure, exercising five days a week will give you a hard, hot body that will turn heads on any beach.  But if you’re also an insomniac, chain-smoking stress cadet, how healthy can you truly claim to be?

Writing is no different.  Getting words down on a page is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there’s a lot more supporting it beneath the surface that’s not readily seen.

Here’s some tech that helps me, at least, take care of, not just the writing, but also the person doing the deed, to promote a more holistic writing life:

1) Quality computer speakers

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks, to help you listen to music the way it was meant to be played: with volume, vibrations, and variation in tones.

So you can you listen to music the way it was meant to be played: with volume, vibrations, and variation in tones (Harman/Kardon Soundsticks III).

Earbuds make music sound like it was recorded inside a giant tin can.  Writing to music not only helps me get into the writing “zone”, it also helps me better conceptualize the events I’m trying to create, like how a movie soundtrack intensifies the emotional viewing experience.  I’m of the opinion that bringing my story to life through the best sound quality possible will lead me to transcribe what I’m seeing with the best words and phrasing possible.

2) A white noise machine

This particular machine plays variations on one of nine different soothing nature sounds either continuously or up to two hours on a timer.  It also has a special sensor that causes the machine’s volume to turn up the instant it detects ambient noise within the sleeping environment (Sleep+Sound by Ecotones).

This particular machine has a special Adaptive sensor that automatically turns up the volume the instant it detects ambient noise within the sleeping environment (Sleep+Sound by Ecotones).

Sleep is a writer’s best friend, not only because it helps give one the energy to write, but also because many a plot hole or problematic character can be smoothed out in those ephemeral moments just entering or just departing sleep, or in dreams.

But so many writers are chronically sleep-deprived from staying up too late or getting up too early to put in the word count.  What your sleep lacks in quantity can be counteracted with increased depth and continuity via some soothing sounds of nature, particularly if various noisy disruptions (neighbours, trucks, pets, kids) further erode your zzzs.

3) f.lux

Admittedly, F.lux’s pinky-orange glow when the sun goes down and before it comes up is strange, at least until you get used to it.  But it is soooo much easier on the eyes.

Admittedly, f.lux’s pinky-orange glow when the sun goes down and before it comes up is strange, at least until you get used to it. But it is soooo much easier on the eyes (

iPhones with f.lux (right) and without (left).

There’s nothing like turning up somewhere (particularly one’s job) with computer-induced red eye and dry eye so bad, it looks more like you’ve spent the last 12 hours drinking whiskey, running lines, and running from the law.  F.lux can help.  F.lux is a program/app that adjusts the colour temperature of your computer (or phone or tablet) screen according to the time of day, reducing the blue light emitted by the screen’s display.  Exposure to blue light at night is said to delay and disrupt sleep (yet another attack on our sleep).

4) A treadmill

We all know what they say about exercise: a health body yields a healthy mind. Writing is nothing if not the ultimate mind game.

Yeah, I said it!  Don’t think of it as a torture track, but rather an ideas track.  When one’s body is occupied with dull, repetitive, distraction- and obstruction-free motions or actions (of which struggling to remain breathing counts), the mind goes off in all sorts of unknown, creative places.  Or maybe those are just asphyxiating hallucinations…

5) A pen

All roads may lead to Rome when it comes to creativity, but who knows what unexpected treasures may be found along the road less travelled?

I didn’t say the best tech for writers had to be electronic either, did I?  Every writer should go back to his/her writing roots every once and a while.  There’s something almost primal about the scritch-scratch of ink across a page, and they say different brain pathways are activated when writing longhand vs. on the computer.


Question: What other tech is good for the whole writer?

(Image source #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7)

16 thoughts on “Vices and Devices: Best Tech for Writers (you might be surprised…)

  1. Scrivener is great and I recommend it to anyone.

    I write with a pen to take notes, to write little passages to add to my WIP. But Scrivener is used for the main work.

    PS – the first pic with the tablet and the old typewriter looks awesome! I want one 🙂


    • I was only just introduced to Scrivener by a writer friend and I agree – it’s pretty amazing. I will definitely consider using it for my next novel (I’m too far along in my current one, which is in WordPerfect, to switch now).

      Most of my handwriting is actually journalling (although I journal about my WIP quite a bit), though I too write lots of notes – usually Post-It notes, which end up in a long column stuck to my living room table.


  2. An alarm clock that lets you set more than one alarm. That way you can set an alarm to wake you up from a much needed cat nap without having to completely reset the alarm to wake you up at the right time to get to your interim job (i.e. the job you have to pay for rent wnd groceries until your writing career takes off). I love that feature on my phone.


    • Good one, Rhonda. I still use an old school LED clock-radio, and am constantly changing the alarm time. Yet another reason I need to upgrade to a phone that’s a tad more intelligent that what’s I’m currently rockin’. It’s in the works. But can you make your phone wake you up with CBC Radio in the morning?


  3. I like being occupied with dull, repetitive, distractions (like sanding doors). I was just wondering yesterday what I’m going to do to replace the dull repetitive distractions when all my doors and windows are finished 😦 I know this isn’t classified as ‘technology’ as such, but it certainly helps my thought processes and sleep patterns.

    I’m a simple beast and I think I’d go into meltdown mode if I didn’t have my laptop and camera. They’re the ultimate technological gadgets for me 😉


    • When it comes to dull, repetitive, non-technological tasks, I always find shampooing my hair a good distraction, but I’m sure you already do that regularly. 😉

      I’m with you, though – a good ol’ laptop is all I really need. 🙂


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