How an iPad made me a more productive writer

I’ve never been a really gadgety guy. I’ve been using the same computer for the past six years and still don’t carry a cell phone with me unless I’m traveling. And before I bought an ebook reader, I spent at least a year slowly coming to the decision.

But I did buy a Kindle a while ago, and I wasn’t too surprised to find that I really like it. It’s simple, useful, unobtrusive. It does exactly what I wanted it to do and no more. (Sure, there’s a web browser, but the experience of surfing the web on a Kindle is so terrible that I never repeated it after my first attempt.) It’s a gadget that knows its limitations.

Then, about nine months ago, I got an iPad 2 from work. This is a gadget I never would have bought for myself — partly because of the price tag, but partly because it seemed too much like a computer. And it is. Or, more accurately, it’s a lot like the hypothetical device I have always treated my computer as.

Here, for instance, is a complete list of things I have historically used my home computer for:

  • Checking and replying to email
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Interacting with social networking sites
  • Watching streaming movies and TV shows
  • Listening to music
  • Occasionally playing games
  • Writing and editing stories

 

And here’s a complete list of things I have used my iPad for:

  • Checking and replying to email
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Interacting with social networking sites
  • Watching streaming movies and TV shows
  • Occasionally playing games
  • Reading books and magazines

 

I haven’t used the iPad to listen to music yet, but that’s largely because I haven’t been listening to much music at all over the past year. Otherwise, the iPad had essentially become the device I use for fun, steam-venting, time-wasting things. The iPad is just more convenient than my computer for most of that stuff — it’s portable, it’s faster, it’s seemingly not as vulnerable to viruses. So color me surprised: I actually really enjoy using my iPad as well.

But there’s another benefit too. Now that I’ve moved all the fun stuff to the iPad, I’m less distracted when I sit down at my computer to work. A pretty common piece of advice for people who work at home is to make their workspace a real dedicated workspace — to set aside a whole room if possible that acts as the home office where the only thing that happens is work.

It makes sense, but I live in a one-bedroom apartment. The only rooms I have that are dedicated single-use rooms are the kitchen and the bathroom. (And even the bathroom is really dual use, since I use my toilet and shower in remarkably different ways.) But now I have, more or less, a dedicated single-use computer. It’s probably not as good as having a whole home office, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.

I don’t think I’m going to turn into a gadget lover because of this. I don’t see myself carrying a cell phone or buying a GPS anytime soon, and I still need my fiancee to troubleshoot my home network when things go wrong. But I’m starting to see the benefit in having different devices for different uses.

In fact, I had almost this same thought about ten years ago, but in reverse. Back then, I actually went looking for a dedicated word processor — a device I could use only for writing, with no distractions or extraneous bells or whistles. But such a thing didn’t really exist anymore, even at that time, and the inability to edit on the fly made a typewriter a no-go.

So, ten years ago, I went back to using my multi-purpose computer for writing and everything else. I’m still writing on the computer today — but the everything else has moved. That’s a solution I wouldn’t have predicted back in 2002, but it seems to work nevertheless.


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