I know writers who never scrimp on their tools: top-of-the-line Macs with huge screens, pricey ergonomic chairs and desks, and elaborate offices.
But recently as wildfires blazed a few miles away and I decided to take detailed photos of every room in the house, I realized how easy it can be to write on the cheap.
I don't mean just legal pads and pencils—as handy as they are for jotting ideas that come in the midst of another project. I mean outfitting a twenty-first century writing space.
In this past weekend's newspaper, an office supply store advertised a fifteen-inch laptop for about $300—just a bit more than I paid for my netbook three years ago. If I were editing videos, I'd need more horsepower, but for writing and text editing, I can't complain—especially since I connect to a seventeen-inch flat screen I got at a garage sale for twenty dollars.
What about software? That depends on your preferences and pocketbook. For years I've used the word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software offered for free download from Open Office. For any project I've ever tried, they're compatible with the products from Redmond, Washington. Recently I've been hearing I'd be even happier with the free office suite from LibreOffice. I like having choices.
But free software doesn't stop there. People say my GIMP photo editing software isn't as user-friendly as the program Adobe sells. But they also say it's just as useful.
Then there's virus protection and anti spyware and malware software. Same price. Unsure if free software is worth the cost? Ask a computer geek. If they're good enough for a programmer to use on his own machines …
Printers? I've had great success with the black-only laser printer from Brother that I bought for significantly less than a C-note. And it performs just fine with the fifteen-dollar compatible cartridges I order online.
Paper? A few times a year my wife and I visit a big office supply store, coupons in hand, and come away with several reams that end up costing a dollar each.
Desk and chairs? I'm fussy about those since I'm taller than many. But at garage sales in upscale neighborhoods, I've recently seen nice ones for ten to twenty dollars. As long as they're adjustable enough to get comfy, who cares about some scuffs? My eyes should be focused on the screen.
If you've splurged on your equipment, I hope you enjoy it—and that your sales more than cover your costs. As for me, I enjoy writing on the cheap.