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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