I try hard to do everything I possibly can from my keyboard. A lot of time is wasted when you're constantly moving from keyboard to mouse to keyboard, and if you're writing a difficult passage, taking the time to put your hand on your mouse can break your concentration just enough to pull you out of the writing.
For that reason, one of my favorite writing hacks is what I call the "Ctrl+S tic." I developed it while working in a particularly buggy but useful piece of shareware, Transcriber, which I use for my Linguistics work. Transcriber has a nasty habit of crashing after you've put in several hours' work transcribing an interview. So I got my fingers into the habit of pushing Ctrl+s (save) nearly every time I pause to think. It's pretty easily to train your left hand to run this function, and the shortcut works in almost every application (Mac users, you'll need to pull your pinkie finger in a bit and hit the Apple key, but same idea). The gesture has now become so automatic for me that it's rare that I go more than a few paragraphs without getting a new hard save in.
It's inevitable that you'll have a power surge, or a program crash, or a feline who loves to rub against the power button right when you've just had your stroke of brilliance. Making Ctrl+S an automatic habit means less data lost any time the worst happens.
Jessica S. Schley was once a pusher of very important papers for a small commercial nonfiction house. Nowadays, she divides her time between bookselling, being a grad student, and writing contemporary fiction for young adults.
- ► 2012 (33)