Tech tools for a 10-minute writing practice: Evernote

For years, Evernote, the note-taking/organizing program, was on the edge of my consciousness. I scanned articles about it, heard people rave about it, and then ignored it. Anything with whole books and websites devoted to its nuances, I figured, was probably more trouble than it was worth. But it turned out to be exactly what I needed for key writing tasks: keeping my notes together, collecting inspiration and retrieving what I’ve gathered and written.

Evernote, which is available free as an app for phones, tablets and and desktops, uses the metaphor of the notebook as an organizing device, and you can create one or many notebooks for your work. Label one “daily writing” or “my book” or “the novel” and you can open it to write a new piece, play with old ones or see research and inspiration you’ve gathered.

Helpfully, you can install a “web clipper” on your browser that will copy web pages, images, PDFs or whatever you come across in your web travels into the notebook you choose. I’m working on a poetry project that has to do with the history of zero and the making of Persian carpets (among other things), so my notebook for that contains background articles, museum images of carpets, which I turn to when I’ve got a few minutes to write and need a starting point. The notebook also holds a growing number of lines and paragraphs from my daily writing.

If you’re so inclined, you can tag items for easier searching (I could, for instance, create a "knots" category).

Capturing notes on the run

Using the program to type notes on your phone and send them to a notebook, or write within the notebook itself, takes the impulse to text yourself a bit of writing and improves on it by putting your lines in a place where they can commune with each other. You can feel your writing grow when it hasn’t disappeared into a stream of unrelated text messages. If you’ve started, say, tapping lines into your phone after your workout at the gym, Evernote’s a handy place for them.

You can dive in and learn as much as you like about the program; it’s apparently got a million uses. I'm a minimalist. I spent a few minutes labeling notebooks, installing and trying out the web clipper, and tagging a few things for practice. And that very basic level of familiarity is all I really need. You can find more detailed information here and here.

One downside: I recently got a note from the Evernote folks saying they’d been attacked and that I needed to change my password. If you use a web-based program for your writing, be sure to back up your work and take the usual precautions to protect your privacy and online security.

Have you tried it? How'd it work for you. Let's compare notes in the comments.

P.S; If you're an early adopter, you may also want to try Google's brand new Evernote-like note-taking program, Google Keep, reviewed (and compared with Evernote) here.