Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Anna Pickard
Photo by Bobbie Johnson.

Anna Pickard

Writer (The Guardian, Glitch)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Anna Pickard, I do words. Mainly typed words. I have typed words for newspapers like The Guardian and games like Glitch, as well as giving voice to megalomaniacal polydactyl cats and butter gods for the social media arms of advertising campaigns and any other kind of writing anyone wants me to do. I have also for the last ten years or more typed words for My Blog, though I admit I haven't written nearly enough of those since giving birth to a tiny human at the beginning of this year.

What hardware do you use?

My one and only pooter is a 13" MacBook Pro, which I've had for about two years, a bit of a record for my recent run of laptops. I love them hard. This one has had the hard drive swapped out after it mysteriously died, the lid replaced thanks to a defective camera, and several keys swapped out after they got chocolate brownie batter under them while cooking, and still it lives on, the frankenstein's monster of MacBooks. I think it knows that I've been secretly wishing death on it so I can get my longed-for MacBook Air, and is therefore stubbornly refusing to die just to spite me.

My iPhone 4 has been indispensable particularly since having a baby, a beautiful inconvenience that tends to pin you in chairs and on sofas with your computer just out of reach. There's also an iPad which has proved marginally useful, as it tends to slide off things. And a Kindle which is currently a very neat little repository for books that I intend to read but probably never will. Oh, and a Nike Fuelband, which is making me feel comforted about not having time for exercise, as apparently looking after a small baby racks up the fuel points (although I may be cheating by wearing it on my rattle-shaking hand...)

And what software?

A very boring standard set of basics: Gmail for email and videochats with family and friends, Skype for work phonecalls, Adium for IM, IRC, etc.

For writing, I've discovered I tend to fit the programme to the type of writing I'm doing. For some types of copy I'll use Word, for stuff that I need to lose my head in completely, Writeroom; for things that I want to get done quickly and with a conversational tone I'll open a draft blog post in Wordpress, as that gets my brain in the mood; and for large or complicated projects with lots of research materials, Scrivener.

Visual Thesaurus, while having an occasionally annoying UI, can really help to send my brain on useful little tangents.

Using Freedom, cutting off all Internet connectivity for a specified amount of time. Which stops me from wasting hours upon end obsessively watching things like tourists crossing the road at Abbey Road (more addictive than it sounds).

And Twitter. An inveterate (and veteran) twitterer, I try to curb my easy-distractibility by keeping my following list to a strict one-in-one-out list of 99 people that I actually know. It seems rude to some, but is the only way that I can keep myself from clicking on the constantly updating Twitter(+N) tab. I am also a grudging Facebook citizen, but only because I found I was missing out on parties entirely arranged on the facebook.

In terms of apps, the usual maps, tweetdecks and games that everyone mentions - but also (utterly indispensable for the last six months) iBaby Feed for timing the duration and intervals between breastfeeding, Baby Log to record and display precisely when and for how long my baby naps (raw data is good, charts are even better), and White Noise Ambience, an app that will play the noise of a tumble dryer to my child when he refuses to sleep, so that I don't have to bother installing a tumble dryer next to his crib.

What would be your dream setup?

A lighter laptop to carry around the house one-handed with a baby on the other arm. Basically I'm lusting after a MacBook Air.