Necessity is truly the mother of invention and the kick in the butt procrastinators such as myself need. It was through desperation that I began using two tools that every person should be aware of.
My PC was having issues so I’d moved exclusively to working on my MAC. I usually try to make a habit of emailing my work in progress to myself regularly so that I have a back up copy stored on Hotmail’s servers. Not the perfect system at all, particularly when I go days without remembering to do it. That is how when the MAC started acting up and I couldn’t even log into it to get the latest version of my WiP out, I started to look for a better solution and found Mesh.com
What is it? I am totally not equipped to explain it well so I suggest you go check out the site yourself, but here is how I see it, and use it. I opened a free Live Mesh account and from there I have 3 (soon to be 4) options. I can store files (Word docs, excel, JPGs, MP3s, anything) on their servers and log in to access them from any computer with an internet connection. The free service places a limit on the size you can store, the pay service does not but they write that unless you store huge files, you will never exceed the limit on the free account.
Okay, so you see that is good, especially since my friend who had no back up just lost all her photos and docs thanks to a power surge that blew her desktop. BUT this storage is NOT the exciting part. Oh no, it gets way better than that. I also installed the Live Mesh on BOTH my MAC and my PC. I set it to log into the Mesh automatically. Then I created a folder on each computer that syncs to the Live Mesh servers and guess what?? Any changes I make to any file in those synced folders automatically update versions on the Live Mesh servers AND on the other synced device (IE my MAC or PC). So this means if I work on my book on the PC, but then tomorrow boot up the MAC and open the file on that computer to continue working I will automatically have the most recent version.
How cool is that?!?! Gone are the days where I have an old version on one computer and have to email the newer one to myself. No more having two laptops in front of me. No more putting docs on a thumb drive to transfer between the two computers, and then having a heart attack when I can’t locate that thumb drive which contains my entire professional life. AND if my computers are lost or stolen, or blown up by a power surge, my docs are still safe on the Mesh.com servers and can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, even on vacation if I don’t want to carry my laptop with me.
The site says the support for smart phones/PDAs is on the way which will make this service even more amazing. One word of caution, it is a Beta edition and my friend had trouble finding where to add her MAC to her network of synced devices, so it takes a bit of navigating on the site and some clicking and searching on your part, but I assure you it is there and it is incredible!
Okay, so onto the next tool. Where that last one has obvious uses for everyone with a computer and digital files to protect, this next one is probably most useful for writers only. I’m talking of course about the amazing Dr. Wicked and his wonderfully evil Write or Die.
I’m a big procrastinator (as you made have heard). I can also find myself with my work in progress open all day and only add a few hundred words to it. Not a good use of my time. However, thanks to Dr. Wicked, I can log into Write or Die (for free), set a goal by either length of time or word count, and I can produce a minimum of 500 words in 15 minutes. That is 2000 words in an hour. That is more than my typical daily word count goal. Imagine how excited I was to realize that I could get all of my writing done for the day in an hour. I had time to cook. I had time to clean. I could play on Twitter and Facebook later in the day and not feel guilty. It was quite the epiphany.
How does it work? Well it is like an online version of an electrical shock. If you stop typing it gently reminds you to start again by turning the screen pink, then red, then it plays the most obnoxious loud music it can find, all designed to let you know you stopped writing. No more staring into space thinking about what to write. You find yourself writing simply to keep Dr. Wicked’s evil prods to a minimum. My fear when first using it was that I would churn out crap and have to rewrite it. That wasn’t the case. In fact, I think I wrote better by letting my mind go, letting the characters go. No it won’t be perfect or even a very clean first draft. I misspelled words and Dr. Wicked doesn’t auto-fix them the way Word does while you’re typing but that’s what spell check and self-editing/proofreading before submission is for. The increase in productivity is well worth any extra effort using this requires to get the work perfect later on. In fact, Dr. Wicked is mentioned in the dedication of the book I just finished. I think I love him!
The online version is free and perfectly adequate. There is a pay desktop version that is said to have more features and can be downloaded and used without internet access, but to date, I’ve found the free version fine for my needs. One word of caution, the formatting from what you write on Write and Die and then copy and paste into your WiP won’t match, so you’ll have to reformat it. A small price to pay in time and effort in my opinion. Another warning, you do have to copy and paste your words from the Write or Die site before you close the window or you will lose them. And be careful because when you click the ‘Tweet this’ button to brag to your friends about your productivity, it sends you from the Dr. Wicked site to your Twitter page so make sure you copy your words before you leave, as tempting as it is to go run to Twitter right away.
So there you go, two tools you shouldn’t live without.