My Desktop

[See the larger picture]

I’m fascinated by the series My Desktop, which is a Guardian column by my friend and writer-abite-tine Ben Johncock. The series features a snapshot of a writer’s computer screen, which allows the word-botherer in question to riff on their workflow and habit; something all writers itch to know about, I would suggest.

Here’s mine. You’ll notice that I use a Mac. This is OS X Lion running on my dad’s old Mac Mini. My writing is done within a separate user account. (I have an exact duplicate of this account on my MacBook Air.) This means that (i) I can set it up in a way particular to my wordly habits (it does not, for instance, have a configured email client) and (ii) it provides an uncluttered environment that I can rely upon, no matter how untidy my main user account gets. The background was a monochrome grey until last year, when I changed it to a more friendly, physical grey. The text ‘Be original’ is a reminder that I would like to write books that stand apart from others. The image itself comes from InterfaceLift.

At the bottom of the screen, in the OS X dock, there are no ‘pinned’ applications. Minimally does it. The blue compass is the Mac browser, Safari. I keep this running for quick checks of Google maps, Wikipedia, and various pages relevant to the current work. I try to observe Stephen King’s excellent rule that you write with the door closed and edit with the door open, so Safari gets an outing only when I’m editing, as I am now. Otherwise, I enter [‘TC’] in the text if I feel that I need to insert something that I can’t at that moment. ‘TC’ means ‘to come’. For instance, I can never remember the full name of one of my characters, so I often write ‘[TC Pasha’s name’], which I’ll replace with Pavel Eduardovitch Nakhimov later.

The pen-and-ink icon is Pages, where I keep the text of the work. I’ve tried writing in applications like Byword (where I’m writing this post) but I prefer the feel of Pages. To the right of this is a strange, double-paned icon: OmniFocus.

OmniFocus is a task-manager application that I find useful for maintaining lists of edits. Although I haven’t opened it for a few weeks, it was great for working through the edits suggested by my agent. I categorised them as major or minor and kept a record of what I’d done.

On the left of the desktop, in the window called ‘Amber Rooms 101’, you’ll see three files. One of these is my current draft. Another is the previous draft, which I’m ransacking. The third is a text file containing notes about what I want to do with the current draft. This folder is actually a search. It’s looking for ‘AR101’ in the title of the file. When I move onto another draft, I’ll create new files with ‘AR102’.

In the Finder bar at the top, you’ll see a small blue box icon. This is DropBox. I use it to synchronise files between my machines. I have a Writing folder accessible to this user account, but my other DropBox files are hidden.

Music? Never listen to it during writing or editing. The only other things on my physical desk, at which I stand rather than sit, are late-nineteenth-century maps of St Petersburg.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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