The Writing Life

The Automatic Writer

My coffee maker is on a timer. My thermostat is programmed to different temperatures at night and by day. My computer screen even dims to a softer hue as the day progresses.

I try to automate everything I can, believing that the fewer tasks I have to remember every day, the more I can focus and achieve. That may or may not be true, but I’m convinced that automation has helped me—and many of my friends and clients—as a writer.

For example, I write and publish more than a blog post every day. Most are quite short, but I use recurring scheduled tasks in my to-do app to tell me what posts to write on which days. I use the scheduling function in Blogger and WordPress so that I never have to remember to post. I program my blogs to tweet my posts automatically, and I use Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule tweets throughout the day (some of my followers and friends think I’m on social media all day, but much of my activity is automated; I check my accounts only a few times each day). But those are just a few examples of an “automatic writer.” Here are some others from some writer (and client) friends of mine:

Tez Brooks (tezbrooks.com) says he uses “Boomerang,” Google’s free email function, which allows him to schedule an email to be sent in the future. He writes the email while he’s thinking about it and schedules it to send it later. “For instance,” he says, “recently a publisher asked me to send her 15 devotionals, but she wanted only 5 at a time over the course of several months. So I wrote and sent the first 5 and scheduled the others to send at intervals.” Other apps do the same thing. Just search for “automated emails” and find the best one for you.

Kathryn Sue Moore (kathrynsuemoore.com) says, “I use an app called Evernote on my smart phone and on my Mac (it’s free for up to two devices). When I think of things to add to my story, I always have my phone handy so I can easily add it to my Evernote note (in 12 pt Times New Roman font, of course). Then when I resume working on my manuscript I can cut and paste my ideas right into my Word doc on my Mac.

Kathryn also uses audio to automate parts of her process. She says, “I use the microphone feature on my smart phone all the time, to dictate texts and emails and to add story ideas to Evernote. And, in the final stages of self-editing, I use the reader tool on my iPad to have my manuscript read to me. There’s a setting that allows me to adjust the speed (though it only allows me to select a limited number of words at a time). I also use this tool for large articles or training materials that I can then have read to me while I’m driving.”

Leslie Devooght’s fiction (lesliedevooght.com) benefits from the use and reuse of lists she has compiled to make her writing process more efficient. “I like to write fast, so I need a quick reference to keep my phrases and vocabulary varied. I type the lists and place them in page protectors. I can flip to them quickly and slide the page out if I want to add something. I have lists for look, walk, smile, kiss phrases, heart warms, heart breaks, Southern phrases, and I just made one the other day for everything eyebrows can do. I also have editing lists with words to search for and eliminate or change.

These are just a few ideas, of course. What are some ways you automate writing tasks for better efficiency and effectiveness?

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