I’ve done it! Five bastard years of broadening my already swollen noggin. A couple of weeks ago I sent off my final essay for my Open University degree in English Language and Literature (with hons). I am now totally educated and shit. It has happened at a weird time though.
Some background is needed as this site isn’t normally a blog (just occasionally). Mrs Wordofward and I wisely decided to go to Thailand for two months at the end of February and gave up our flat in sunny Belsize Park and put everything into storage. We are now back and have been working freelance in TV. My current client only books me a day or two in advance and as I write this I have nothing booked. Currently, we are staying in a friend’s lovely two bedroomed flat (she’s away for a few months) as are looking for our own place.
So now I finally find myself with a degree and I am technically homeless and unemployed. I’m pretty sure that is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.
On the plus side, I am now realising I have no excuses not to write more. Before, I always had this nagging guilt that I should have been studying – a guilt I have to admit I was able to ignore a lot – but now there is no excuse. I am writing this in a sunny garden on a Macbook air with a cup of tea and an increasing portfolio of shares, so it’s a bit of a stretch to class myself as a starving writer but fuck it, I like the imagery.
Why am I saying all this? Firstly, it is my website so I’ll write what the hell I like. Secondly, I read a book called 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman that proves if you announce things publicly, you are more likely to actually do them. (I wrote about this before here.) I have been writing 1000 words a day as I vowed before but only on days when I wasn’t working and most of them were for my degree. I now vow to write more fiction and badger the hell out of all of you lovely readers to buy it. Thank you in advance.
So, er, I had better dash. Next entry: something more interesting that isn’t so self absorbed.
I have now had my lovely iPad for almost a month. A friend suggested I write about it, so here we are. How does the iPad work as a writer? How is it generally?
When I originally bought my iPad, I was actually on my way to buy a netbook. At least, I was going to look at netbooks with a view to getting something I could travel and write with. My main laptop is still superb and state of the art and I love it lots. It’s just that it is big and heavy. I wanted something portable that I could carry everywhere and had a decent battery life. In short, I’m very demanding.
Buying the iPad
At the new Apple store in Covent Garden you can have a play on the iPads. There is a whole section dedicated to it, largely peopled by tourists grinning in wonder at the iPad like small children staring at fireworks.
Having elbowed a few children and tourists aside, I had a go on one. I tried writing on it and was impressed. Very impressed. It seems to suit someone such as myself who types with the “two fingers and a thumb of each hand” typing technique. In landscape mode, I really can’t tell any difference in my typing speed. In portrait, it is slightly more fiddly but some people seem to find no problem with it at all.
Keyboard Docking Station
As well as the iPad, I bought a keyboard which also doubles as a docking station. This is what I am writing on now as it happens. For sustained periods of writing, this is a seriously good option. A few critics have complained that this means carrying around an extra bit of kit. They are right but I have found a cunning way around it – carry a bag. The keyboard doesn’t weigh much after all. The keyboard is great if you intend on writing for hours at a go. Plus, with the docking keyboard you can see more of the screen than with even a conventional widescreen laptop.
Another problem I was worried about was with writing for the internet. This isn’t the only site I write for and nearly every site requires you to write in a window in a piece of third party software. This site uses WordPress for example, and other sites like Suite 101 require that you write in these little windows. This is because a lot of writers aren’t savvy when it comes to things like HTML. We’re creative and all that crap.
For some reason Safari doesn’t seem to like these interfaces. There was no need to worry though. As it says on the adverts – there’s an App for that. One option is called ‘Split Pea’ which allows you to open a document in one half of the page and a non-Safari browser in the other. Another option for this site, is the WordPress App. Does what it says on the tin, although it is a tin with a few bugs in it. A third option is called iTeleport which allows you to control your PC/Mac through the medium of magic as far as I can tell. It’s a bit weird seeing your PC on your iPad, but it is cool being able to manipulate files and so on. It means your laptop has to stay on and there can be trouble with firewalls, but it is possible.
Conclusion – 1 month on
I bloody love this thing. My writing levels have increased dramatically. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like as big a deal to write on a bus or in the corner of a pub. Even with a net book you probably wouldn’t bother as it involves opening the thing and going through startup and so on. Maybe it is just me. If I want a more extended period of writing then the keyboard dock is superb. Otherwise the landscape screen does very nicely.
So writing is great.
Surfing the internet is superb too. Lots of sites seem almost designed for the iPad. An evening’s telly while surfing the web has never been so user friendly.
Is anything wrong with it?
Personally, I have come across two main issues. Only one of which is of concern to me and possibly none which will be of concern to you.
One is that it doesn’t have a camera pointing directly at your face so you can’t video Skype or anything. There is a microphone socket, so it will have to be audio only. I am pleased about this as I don’t even really like the phone, I certainly don’t want the added stress of a cam. Calling in sick for work will soon be a nightmare.
The other is that I can’t play poker on it. This might not bother some, but it pisses me off that Apple won’t let this happen. I can gamble on football or horses but not poker.
Otherwise, I am delighted with my purchase. Unlike my laptop, I no longer have to worry about whether it is worth bringing it along given the weight. I carry it everywhere. As a device for other things – apart from the poker thing – there is an App for that.
Lame though that sounds.
I feel like I have been neglecting this site a little bit of late. I feel bad about that. But, your honour, it isn’t my fault. In the past five days for example, I’ve worked 60 hours plus 10 hours commuting. That has pretty much been a constant for the last two months. I’m not complaining as I get paid by the hour and was able to buy an iPad which is fucking awesome. Unfortunately it hasn’t given me much time to write.
In addition to all this pointless toil (pointless in that I just provide shite for people to watch at home), I have started writing on the internet. I know you are thinking, ‘Hang on, but isn’t that what you are doing now? You handsome genius you.’ (Just guessing here obviously but I’m sure that’s what is going through your head.)
Well yes, but even though there are ads on this site, it is hardly making me lots of cash. See above – 60 hours TV work is what pays my bills. So I have decided to spend more time writing for sites that actually pay. One such site is Suite 101. It is a ‘content site’. There are lots of these around but Suite 101 seems fussier and you have to talk about what writing work you’ve done and submit a couple of samples. I assume that means more respect and fiscal reward but I doubt it.
Some of these content sites pay a small amount upfront. Also known as a ‘pittance’. About $15 or so. Others build on what you have written.
The amount you get for this latter type is also piss poor but the money you get grows with each piece you write. What’s more it keeps earning you money even if you stop. Unless the website goes under.
If you want to read some of the better articles on the site check out these three superb examples:
These are coincidentally written by my own skilled hand but they are worth a look.
I’m not sure how long I will keep writing for the net. I will post an update here later. The advantage of writing for a website like Suite 101, is that your articles are readable for years and have the potential over time to make you more cash than something in print. On the minus side, I love having a portfolio of articles I have had published that I can touch and feel proud of. I know it’s vain but seeing your name and writing in a glossy mag is very satisfying. It’s even better when you open up a magazine and see your own face and bio on the writer’s page. As I said, it’s vain, but I write a blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The Word of Ward will keep going though. I like writing here. No style guides and I can swear. It’s really fucking liberating.
Like the sad nerd that I am, I got filled with techno envy and impulse bought an iPad. I now need to justify this purchase by writing something on it. Plus, if I review it, then I can hopefully write it off against tax.
The review will follow at a later date when I have got to grips with the typing and interface and so forth.
First impressions though. Fuck is pretty. If I wasn’t me right now, I’d be looking over my shoulder riddled with pathetic jealousy. I was worried about typing on it but I only use four fingers when I type, so it seems surprisingly easy. I also bought a docking station that is a full-sized keyboard which is pretty god-damned awesome. Haven’t used it yet so I’m pre-assuming brilliance.
The first time I saw an iPad I thought, “What the fuck is the point of that? It looks like one of those futuristic clip-boards they use in Star Trek.” Now that I’ve had one for a whole 30 minutes I realized, “Wow! It’s like one of those awesome clip-boards from Star Trek.”
The big question is whether it will stand the test of time as a writing device. The even bigger question is whether my wife will kill me when I tell her I bought one.
Only time will tell. For now though, Trek on!