In the frenzy of writing that filled the two months leading up to my book release, the shooting pain in my hands became so unbearable that I was sometimes forced to stop working with the keyboard for days. If I’m going to finish writing the book’s sequel this year, I must find a better way.
I’ve looked at a lot of wacky keyboard alternatives, including the iGrip handheld keyboard, but after consulting an ergonomist friend of mine, I felt that the time-tested practice of writing longhand was a safer bet.
I’ve always enjoyed writing longhand, and I’ve used it as an alternative to keyboarding when my hands have been at their worst, but it’s a slo-o-o-ow process, and I end up with an unruly stack of paper, which is just asking to be lost or shuffled into chaos. The order and ease of reorganization of Scrivener cannot be approximated with paper.
There is an upside to paper, of course: there’s none of the temptation of internet connectivity, none of the email notifications jumping out at you. Writing slowly is conducive to thoughtfulness, too, which fits in well with the early stage of the writing process where I find myself at the moment. Still, I don’t think I could write a whole book this way — not without dramatically extending my project timeline.
So I started looking for some middle ground between keyboard and paper, and I found one possible solution in an iPad app called 7notes. 7notes is equipped with impressive handwriting recognition capabilities combined with a well-conceived feature set that includes three useful input styles. I can write longhand and have 7notes convert my script to text; I can write longhand and have 7notes transform it into perfect little rows of cursive in my document (a wonderful approximation of the feeling of writing on a blank page with rich black or colored ink); or I can type with the iPad keyboard using 7notes’ predictive engine (useful if you’re typing long strings of numbers, using complex punctuation — stuff that the handwriting recognition might be having difficulty handling).
I tried out two other handwriting apps for iPad — WritePad and Penultimate — and while I found them to have a more pleasing user interface, the actual feature set of 7notes fits in better with my workflow, and its handwriting recognition was vastly better than Writepad’s when it came to my cursive script.
This video demonstrates some of the cool capabilities of 7notes, interspersed with clips of ways that I actually do use my iPad while running 7notes. (Oh, all right, maybe I don’t write while walking the dog, but it’s theoretically possible!)