My name is Hank. I am a writer and podcaster, and these are some of my essential tools to do what I do.
I love to geek out on tools and I am kind of a process nerd. One of my favorite things to do is try out new software, and while you have to be careful that you don’t allow “tool surfing” to distract you from doing the actual work, sometimes you find something that makes all the difference in your process.
My days consist of recording podcast interviews, writing, editing podcasts for the next day, and a few hours of contract web design work. I stick to a fairly rigid schedule because I am a creature of habit. Here are some things that are essential for me.
Standing Desk – I have a standing desk that is just the right height for my hands to fall at a natural typing position. The standing desk allows me to stretch my legs and keep the blood flowing. I have a chair close by that raises pretty high so I can alternate between standing and short bouts of sitting. This works really well for me and keeps me from getting fatigued.
Laptop – I use an Asus laptop with a 2 terabyte hard drive and external usb 3.0 hard drive for backups. I backup regularly to a cloud service and my own physical backups. Backup often and trust none of them, that is my motto. My laptop sits on a stand that raises the screen to eye level which keeps my neck aligned in a natural position. This little tweak makes all the difference.
Lamp pen, and knife – On my standing desk are a lamp (because I’m getting blind in my old age and I need more light), a very good quality pen, and a yellow legal pad. All through the day, I make notes of things I don’t want to forget. I know there are much better ways to track notes, but this works for me. I also have a pocket knife close at hand. UPS comes pretty often with books for the podcast and having a sharp knife handy just makes life easier.
Books – My desk usually has several books stacked on the edge. These are almost always books from a future guest. At various points during the day when I need a break from working on the computer, I’ll pick up a book by one of my next guests and read. I get comments from guests all the time that they appreciate the fact that I have actually read their book. That floors me. If I am lucky enough to get to do this, and an author takes the time, effort, and expense to send me their book, the least I can do is prepare myself to have a conversation with them.
Headphones – A set of Audio-Technica full size over the ear headphones. I listen to podcasts and music as I work, and of course, you need a good set of headphones to edit audio with. These are essential.
Mechanical keyboard – I swear by my Das mechanical keyboard. It’s loud, but if you spend a lot of time typing, I promise you will tell the difference. If you’ve gotten used to the spongy feeling of most modern cheap keyboards then type on one of these beasts and you’ll find your speed and accuracy shoot up. It did for me, at least. Not to mention, who doesn’t like to get lost in the mechanical clicking that connects writers to some early primal typewriter gene inside of us?
Wireless Logitech mouse – I use the Logitech M557 mouse. It fits my hand perfectly and has a set of programmable buttons. One is set to switch apps, and one is used to minimize all apps to the desktop. I use each of these numerous times a day.
Software – I have a few programs that are part of my core workflow.
Windows 10 – I’m a PC guy and even though the newest edition of Windows isn’t perfect, for the most part, it just works and is manages resources quite well. I’m actually really happy with where Microsoft is these days.
Photoshop CC– I use photoshop to make show graphics and in the contract web work I do. I’ve tried to replace it with GIMP or other apps, but nothing compares to the real thing and I know way too many keyboard shortcuts to switch.
Write! – I love this app. Write! is a plain text editor/markdown editor. I draft everything in it, from blog posts to books, to show notes. I’ve used MS Word for years and with every revision, it gets more bloated and is to the point that it’s just sluggish and I find myself getting frustrated. Write! runs in about 50mb of memory, and that’s with a 60,000-word novel open. It’s super fast, has a dark theme which is easy on the eyes for long periods, and removes all the bloat of a full word processor. It also is tabbed which allows me to have multiple documents open and refer back and forth.
Word – I know what I just said about Word, but editors prefer Word and using the track changes feature is essential. I draft in Write!, but editing and working with editors happens in Word.
Email and calendar – I use Outlook to manage email and Dawn and I have a shared calendar (several actually) where she tracks upcoming interviews, release dates, family commitments, and all the stuff that keeps me on track. In a social media, instant communication world, I still prefer email to communicate with people. Good old email has stood the test of time for a reason.
Skype – Skype is a must for conducting interviews with people from all over the world.
Audio editors, plugins, DAWs – This really should be another post sometime. There is a lot of specific software and hardware that I’ve accumulated over the years. Some of it is multiuse and some do a specific task, but they all are critical to my workflow.
Web browsers – I have been a long time Chrome user and I think it is the standard that people design for. I also use the Brave browser that squashes a lot of the tracking that websites do. I use Brave for social media because it cuts down on all the tracking that Facebook and others do. It’s pretty nifty, you should check it out.
I’m sure I left something out, so I’ll update as I think of things or if my workflow changes, but these are the basics.