Writing on My Phone (Android)

I had the bright idea to use my phone for writing last year when I found myself unable to open my laptop for days at a time, for various reasons. For someone whose income is tied to how often that laptop gets opened and words written on it, this was a bad thing.

I’d like to say the idea came immediately, but it took a few days of doing a few other activities that were usually laptop-specific for me to ask why I didn’t write on my phone? Isn’t that a thing right now in China, cell phone novels (good gosh, saying that makes me feel old)? I mean, I was using it for everything else. Why not?

So I tried it.

I took to it faster than I thought. It was always in my pocket, just a reach away. And during a time when I was never sure where I would be at any given moment, it allowed me the freedom to write without having to lug my laptop along. It also gave me peace of mind. I felt far more concerned about someone trying to steal my laptop than I did someone trying to steal my phone.

Because it was even more portable than a laptop, I was able to bring it into places where a laptop would have been clunky and difficult to position.

This all had a great psychological effect. It also showed me how many little bits of time could be put toward writing.

There were some issues. But, with one exception, I was able to find a way around them.

First, I was used to working in Scrivener and LibreOffice for my writing needs. Scrivener had an iPhone version, but not an Android one. And my phone uses Android.So I tried out a few free apps in Google’s Play Store that looked like they might work. Maybe. I eventually settled on Novelist for my novel-writing and Google Docs for shorter works. (As of this writing, Google Docs chokes on long-form documents like novels.) Novelist is a flexible novel-planning app similar to Scrivener that can be adapted to whatever outlining approach you use. If you aren’t aware of Google Docs or have yet to try it, it’s a great app, especially for short stories and articles.

I tend to write at night, so I used Blue Light Filter to reduce eye strain. I also am not very fast at typing on a phone. I downloaded Gboard, which remembers the words you type and uses the data to offer you the next word it thinks you’re going to use. The more you use Gboard, the better it gets at predicting. This worked great for me because, even with Gboard’s help as well as daily practice getting used to where the letters were on the keyboard, I was still at about half my usual typing speed.

Compared to no words at all, though, half was great. And I knew I’d only get better with time.

Formatting turned out to be a minor issue when I decided to self-publish what I’d edited on my phone using Jotterpad. Even with Word Wrap off and using text files, there were unwanted line breaks in a story that took a bit of time to remove, but that was the only issue I encountered.

And for those who are curious about why I used Jotterpad instead of editing directly within the Novelist export or some other app that did better tracking, I used it because I was trying to sync with a previously written novel in Scrivener and didn’t want to mess up the formatting by pulling it into yet another app (LibreOffice doesn’t have a stable Android version). I did some searching and found someone who created a way to sync files between Scrivener and Jotterpad using Google Drive.

As I said, it worked reasonably well except for the line breaks. Would I do it again? Yes, but only as a way to sync with Scrivener, and I would only use Scrivener for the export. Maybe that would get rid of the line breaks. *shrugs*

(And for those who are also curious about this process, here’s the link I used to set this up: Sync Scrivener With Android Devices For Writing On The Go.)

Though writing on my phone helped enormously during a time when I couldn’t get near my laptop, I now use it only as a backup. Why? Because I started feeling pain in my right wrist and at the base of my thumb. It turns out that this is a recognized problem called “texting thumb.” There are things you can do to prevent it and things you can do to treat it at home while still using your phone. In my case though, I had to stop entirely until the pain went away. Thankfully, by the time that happened, my life had settled somewhat and I was able to use my laptop again. I still mostly use my laptop, just because I type faster on it and I’m more used to preventing repetitive stress injuries from typing on a keyboard instead of a touch screen. But now I know how to avoid that, too, even though I’m using my laptop more.

Because my phone is always there, just in case.

How about you? What do you write with?



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