Tag Archives: Communications

Say Hello to My Little Friend: the Wonders of the AlphaSmart 3000

There isn’t any special equipment required to be a writer. There’s no super secret pencil and paper combination that makes the best stories, no ultra exclusive word processor of the gods that you must use in order to craft a gripping tale.

But let’s be real here, you’re not going to be chiseling your work into stone tablets anytime soon, and neither am I. Few of us write our stories with pen and paper anymore, and the image of the writer hunched over his typewriter, keys clacking is largely an anachronism. We use computers for the most part, because they’re both versatile and powerful.

I’ve been writing on my laptop from the very beginning, mostly because it was portable and it served my needs well enough. But over the last couple of months I’ve had my eye on something a little different.

See, I like to take my laptop to work with me, so that I can write on my lunch breaks, but it can be a pain to lug it in from my car and then back out again when I’m done always slightly terrified that someone might crowbar open my trunk and steal it. I swear to you, every time I get home and open the trunk (that’s a boot for those of you who don’t live in Awesomeville aka America) there’s a tiny moment of terror when I’m sure it will have been stolen. Also, the battery life on that thing sucks. I get MAYBE half an hour out of it before it beeps at me once and promptly shuts off without giving me so much as the chance to save my work.

So yeah. Not the most ideal piece of equipment in the world. Well today I’m here to announce that my troubles are over, and to introduce you to my little friend:

Okay, okay, stop laughing. Yes, I know it’s like a ten-year-old piece of technology. My wife  told me she used to use one when she was in grade-school.

But you know what? This baby is AWESOME. Shall we go down the list?

How about a 72 hour battery life? Check.

Ultimate portability? Yeppers.

And the best part? The twenty-five dollar price tag.

I’m telling you guys, this is my new writing machine right here. I’ve been wanting one of these babies for years. Ever since I saw an article in Popular Science about how they were being used in the jungles of Africa by scientists who were away from civilization and without power for long periods of time.

But the best part about the AlphaSmart 3000 is this: it has no wordcount feature.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. “Albert, wordcount is essential. Wordcount is god. How will we ever be able to chart our progress without the manifold blessings of wordcount?”

Well believe me when I say that at first I saw it as a drawback too. And then I started writing on the thing.

And I’m here to tell you that knowing exactly how many words you have written isn’t nearly as important as you think it is. Because once you know, then you start to set goals, and once you start to set goals, you start to feel obligated to complete those goals, and once that happens there’s a hint of drudgery starts to sneak into your writing. Or at least that’s how it was for me.

But with the AlphaSmart 3000 I don’t have to worry about all that stuff. All I have to focus on is telling the story, and so far my daily wordcount hasn’t suffered at all. If anything it’s actually gone up a little.

Bottom line, if you write on the go, I’d highly recommend this little machine to you. If you do your shopping you can find a decent price for one on ebay, and it offers a convenient and distraction free writing experience.

Overall a super piece of equipment.

A Modest Proposal for the Preventing of Writer’s Block

No such thing as writer’s block.

You heard me. Don’t bother arguing. Chuck Wendig said it first, so you know it must be true.

But, but…well you’ve been there. I’ve been there too. You sit down at your computer, or with a clay tablet and chisel or whatever it is you happen to use to write an and…nothin’. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Diddly has moved into your brain and Squat is measuring for the new drapes. It’s not a pretty picture.

But you tell yourself it’s all in your head. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Gas station attendants don’t get gas station attendant’s block. Carpenters don’t get carpenter’s block.

So what’s your problem?


See, there are days when I don’t feel like going into work. There are days when I get in my car and I hate the thought of staying so long inside that the sun will be long gone by the time I come back out again.

But I do it anyway. Because I like to eat. Because I like living in a house with air-conditioning and running water. Because I like the idea of my wife not dying from acute ketoacidosis due to lack of insulin. Because I have to.

Writing is the same way for me. Every day I get up and I write a new blog post. Some days I really honestly don’t feel like doing it. But in the back of my mind there is someone out there who is expecting this post. You’ve got my blog in your RSS feed on your phone and if it doesn’t show up before you take your lunch break at work you’re going to wonder what happened to me.

Maybe the person I just described doesn’t actually exist. But in my mind he does. And I’m accountable to him. I’m accountable to all of you. But my other writing? You don’t know about it. You don’t know if I wrote a hundred words today or a thousand. I’m not accountable to anyone for that writing.

Maybe you’re stronger than me. Maybe you’ve got the self-discipline to sit down and work whether you feel like it or not, day in and day out, rain or shine. If you are, congratulations. You will go far in life.

But for me it can be a struggle. There are so many distractions available out there and even though I’ve written about staying committed to your writing before I still struggle with it myself. A few days ago someone tweeted this quote:

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

And it’s true. I do my best to encourage you all, and give you a kick in the pants when I think you might need it, but the truth is I haven’t got it all sorted out either. I’m working on it though.

I think fellow blogger The Hack Novelist is onto something. He opens his blog posts every day with the phrase “I wrote x words today.” He makes himself accountable for the work that no one but him sees.

I’m not going to do the same thing exactly, but what I am going to do is find someone to be accountable to. Probably someone out there in Twitterland. Someone who I’ll go to every day and say, “I wrote x words today.”

You may not like that specific scheme, but I encourage you to try something similar for yourself. Make yourself accountable to someone else and see if it doesn’t help you be more consistent with your goals. Because somewhere in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking, “I don’t feel like writing today, but if I don’t I’m going to have to tell Steve that I wrote all of zero words. Guess I’ll pound out at least a few hundred so I won’t look like a total bum.”

I think we’ll all be better for it. Because even though writing often seems like a solitary process, the truth is that this is the place where we need each other more than ever.