D. A. Howe

I Write What I Like

I was just young enough back in the old days to find myself forced into having to attend typing class in high school. We were taught on solid metal typewriters designed for the office. They were so heavy it took two people to move a typewriter to another desk.

You also had to hit the keys hard. This was mainly to compensate for the use of carbon paper sandwiched between several sheets of paper. The only way to transfer the carbon was to hammer the keys with fingers that became freakishly strong over time.

At the time I hated it. The teacher was a stickler for posture and the ability to touch type without looking at the keyboard.  As part of our training to be future office workers in a secretarial typing pool, the typewriters had plastic covers that sort of looked like shower caps. It went over the keyboard, and you put your hands underneath to type. No peeking allowed. I failed this course and was told I had zero chance of a future in a secretarial typing pool.

Oh, no, color me upset.

By the time I left high school, offices had started to move to electric typewriters and shortly thereafter, computer keyboards.

Rather conveniently the class I hated the most (apart from math) saved me. Moving to computer keyboards after a manual typewriter was a doddle, and more importantly I was a faster typist than the other computer operators. Bonus number two was that I never experienced repetitive strain injury (RSI). Remember that? Everyone was trying to type on keyboards with shitty typing skills. I was fine no matter which keyboard I encountered because the correct wrist and finger positions had been drilled into me by the drill sergeant of a teacher.

However, over time I realized that my heavy handed pounding of the keyboard means that I break them. Regularly. I think I’ve broken a keyboard every year since I started using a computer.  Mechanical keyboards seem to last a little longer but not by much. The ‘n’ key stopped working on my last one yesterday, and six months ago the cursor keys started flying off and pinging around the room.

Anyway, I bought a new keyboard today and I look forward to this one surrendering sooner rather than later. I think my only practical solution is to buy a reconditioned IBM keyboard or something similar. I used them back in the day and they were impervious to everything, including a data entry operating pool that consisted of heavy smokers dropping ash onto the keys.

Other things I am grateful for: I never had to use Pitman shorthand in real life.



Here’s my latest blog post. Well, it’s not my post. It’s an article from Wired magazine about all of those embarrassing times that you published something and you read it a few weeks later and you cringed when you spotted the 20 typos that you should have picked up, but it’s too late, and now you have to reload it on Amazon and Smashwords, and it’s a big pain in the butt, and ruins your entire evening.

I’m not even going to copy the copy. Just click on the link and behold! Words and images appear in a new tab.




As a busy writer (stop it–you know you are, even if you really just watch Netflix all day), you may sometimes wonder what sort of app you should use that shames you into writing more. Or at least lets you see how busy (or not) that you are. Or means you’ll never miss another birthday ever again.

Here’s my simple decision making list that should help you decide which productivity app meets your needs. And save you from watching 90 million YouTube videos about the subject.

  1. Do you have a good memory, and/or like writing in a day planner and/or loathe technology?
    • If the answer is yes, then stick with pen and paper. If no, then go to point 2.
  2. Do you have a minimal list of things you need to remember, and/ or you don’t have a budget to pay for an app?
    • If you really like ticking items off your list then Microsoft To Do will work for you. It’s free, and does a good job of organizing tasks. However, it doesn’t integrate outside of the Microsoft ecology. That means there’s no direct sync with Google calendar. I liked Microsoft To Do for the weird satisfaction I got when I ticked off an item and it made a very pleasant ‘ding’ sound.
    • If you don’t care about ticking things off and just need a list, you can try Google Calendar. Google Keep and Tasks might also work but I’ve never been able to stick with either of them.
    • If the above ticked all of your boxes then stick with Microsoft To Do, and/or Google Calendar. If not, then onto point 3.
  3. Do you have quite a few things to remember but hate lists? Are you are Kanban board enthusiast?
    • Trello serves all of your purposes. The free version should get you going, but you can always pay for the power-ups. Personally, I’m not a fan of Kanban boards for writers because I think writers need a start and end date to push them. When I’ve used a kanban board, some items have remained in the Doing column for an embarrassing amount of time.  One item stayed in the Doing column until I was so ashamed of myself, I deleted the item and pretended it never existed.
    • If the above allowed you to move all of your tasks into the Done column then you’re done. If not, then onto point 4.
  4. Do you have a budget to spend on an app, but you don’t require a team of people to ghost write your books?
    • I like Todoist and TickTick in this category. You can try them for free without having to fully commit, although the features in the free versions are both fairly limited.  They’re much more usable if you pay for all of the features. (If you can’t afford to pay for either, I’d give them both a miss and use Microsoft To Do. There’s nothing hiding behind a paywall with Microsoft To Do. What you see, is what you get.) I’ve been with Todoist for a while but I’m also currently trying the paid version of TickTick, and I’m liking TickTick a little better for the in-app calendar view. Each app has its particular strengths but both should make scheduling your tasks a whole lot easier. They also allow you to share tasks with other people. This is ideal if you want to assign housework tasks to your teenagers, who never listen to you anyway. Both apps are a similar price, but TickTick is currently cheaper. Todoist is $36 US a year and TickTick is $27.99 US a year.
    • If those two apps will let you schedule to your heart’s delight, then you’re scheduled to schedule. If not, onto the step 5.
  5. Do you have a team of people (or a family) to coordinate and lots of tasks along with a touring and speaking schedule that won’t quit?
    • If your schedule is heavy, and you need people to assist you, or already have a team, then you probably want to move to a project management type application. These apps can get very expensive, especially when you start paying for your team member’s accounts.
    • ClickUp and Asana seem to be solid entrants in this category and they also offer a freemium model. Both seem to have a ton of features and have a reasonable monthly price per user that can make it affordable for a small team that consists of less than five people. If you are particularly good at bending an app to your will and using it for other purposes, you could also try Jira. It’s specifically designed for software development but it charges a flat rate of $10 US per month for 10 users or less.  It consists of the same basic features as everything else (kanban board, due dates for tasks, assigning tasks to people in a team) so this may allow you to schedule for a team with a flat charging rate.

And that’s it. Five steps for deciding how you’d like to organize your life. BTW, If none of those suggestions work for you, you could try using only pen and paper. That includes making your own kanban board and sticking it to a wall. Try lists and boards and see what works for you, then when you’ve settled on the technique that works, move to using an application.

Lastly, remember that you rule your schedule, not the other way around.