“I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.”
Today was the second of the two-day course in teaching students how to write. There were a lot of exercises and I am still forming my impression of the course. But one thing really struck me — there was nothing on using software to facilitate the writing process.
Perhaps it’s a German phenomenon — that people who develop interventions or courses for writing are not that big on technology. I’ve worked now for 7,5 years at an institute that deals with media for knowledge exchange and learning — so affordances of technology are usually on my mind. Even prior to this job, I worked with computers a lot, I used them to create creative works, and in all this time, I tried out a lot of interesting software.
And some works beautifully — for me and others.
For example, in the course we worked by writing per hand. There was some side-talk about LaTeX, but I was the only one who recommended Scrivener — personally, the best writing software I ever encountered. Just brilliant. Made by an author for other authors. But it was not a topic.
Reference managers — nope, not the topic either.
Nor were digital outliners, which are only possible with computers as they allow you to fold in whole sections to quickly compare parts of the text pieces that are otherwise very far apart.
When I gave presentations/workshops on writing this and last year, the focus was mostly on these issues.
Of course, being able to write scientific texts requires a tremendous amount of skills — you cannot cover everything. But it makes me wonder — as software is an easy way to support writing.
And in the case of digital outliners like Circus Ponies Notebook or Scrivener — a damn good one.
I’ve written more about these topics in
- “Organizing Creativity” (see sections on Circus Ponies Notebook, Scrivener, and How to write a book)
- the (German) script “Oh, du weißes Blatt, inspirier’ mich … oder besser nicht!”
- the workshop on scientific work, esp.:
- Workshop: Scientific Work – Finding & Selecting Literature
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Ideas
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Managing Literature
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Possible Academic Literature Workflow
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Reading & Using Literature
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Topic Notebooks
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Writing #1 Getting Down to Write
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Writing #2 Knowing What To Write
- Workshop: Scientific Work — Writing #3 Re-Writing
- Also see the category on writing.