Mario Villalobos

The Right Tool for the Right Job

There’s the past, there’s the future, and then there’s now. Today is the first day of a new month, and I can’t help but think about where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I’m hoping to redirect a few hundred bucks this month toward paying off my credit card debt, and I plan to do that by being a bit more frugal on my groceries. I hope the Paprika app can help me plan my grocery lists along with my meal planning in a very efficient, fun, and lasting way. I did the math, and I’m planning to write an additional 9,300 words at least toward my novel. That’s a couple of chapters. The image I want to see is me sitting by my desk, Scrivener opened up on my MacBook Air, Vesper opened on my iPhone, OmniOutliner opened on my iPad, my Confidant notebook opened to my notes, and my printed novel in the center, holding everything together. That’s what I want. I want to use every single tool I have and that I’ve used contributing toward finishing the best work I can physically produce.

A few years ago I would have cringed at the thought of having so many tools scattered around me. I would have preferred to have just a laptop and that’s it. In a way, that would’ve help me focus on not only the tools I used but on the work I was trying to produce. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that all-in-one tools aren’t very good. Scrivener is fantastic for keeping the actual novel together and organized, and it has an awesome feature called Snapshots, where I just click a button and it saves everything written on whatever section of my novel I have open. I could then rewrite everything, and later, if I didn’t like my changes, I could revert back to that snapshot. That’s amazing. But Scrivener isn’t very good at outlining, no matter how hard I tried to force it to be. Instead, that’s where OmniOutliner comes in. OmniOutliner is made for just one task, and that’s to make and manage outlines, and it’s very very good at it. It’s not very good at anything else I might want it to be, like holding my novel or as a task manager.

Throughout the day, I may come up with an awesome idea I don’t want to forget. Something a character does or says or a motivation for a character or just a cool image or something are all the sorts of things I want to remember. That’s where Vesper comes in. All I have to do is press the + button, type out my thought, and tag it with Novel. Next, when I’m ready to refer to these ideas, all I have to do is press on my Novel tag, and I’ll have a list of all my ideas, nicely organized and easy to access. On the analog side, I’ve been spending the last two weeks writing in my Confidant notebook on a daily basis. I’ve written notes and thoughts and ideas and outlines and anything else that had crossed my mind that day. Many of these ideas are quickly incorporated into my daily writing sessions, but others aren’t. Some are ideas for earlier chapters or later chapters and not on the one I’m writing now. There’s something different about writing by longhand than tapping on a screen or typing on a keyboard. I access a different part of my brain, and the ideas or thoughts I get are different than when I use my digital tools. There’s science out there that describes this phenomenon more fully, which I find very interesting.

Finally, my printed novel. It’s one thing to know I’ve written 54,000 words words; it’s an entirely different thing seeing 54,000 words printed out. I’ve come to enjoy reading my work on paper and making notes or crossing stuff out or adding stuff in with my mechanical pencil. My job then is to make everything better. Make each chapter better, each paragraph better, each sentence better, each word better. And I can’t do that without all these tools I love to use. I can’t imagine trying to do it any other way.

Sometimes I hesitate to write about my writing because I haven’t shipped anything. Like, who am I to talk about my writing? I’m a nobody! I’m some poseur trying to seem more than I really am! First of all, to them, fuck off. Second of all, I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for myself. I’m learning. I’m learning what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, all in an effort to produce my best work. I’m loving this setup today, but next week? Next month? My next novel? I could do something completely different. All I know is that I want to finish my novel, and all these tools are helping me do that. Just do what you love and nothing else matters.