It started back in 2008. My 15 inch laptop screen felt cramped, and I was tired of dealing with all the printed notes that spewed forth as I was trying to write a feature. What was the name of that paper again? Where had I last seen those highlighted notes? Too often they were hiding somewhere in the middle of one of the many piles of papers that littered my tiny Brooklyn office nook. And clicking around to different applications on my computer screen disturbed my flow when I desperately needed to get some words, any words, on a page.
Determined to print less, save my sanity, and lighten my recycling bin, I purchased a 22 inch widescreen monitor right after New Years. Though it felt big at the time, it now looks modest compared to the 27 or even 30 inch models that I could buy today.
Since hooking it to my laptop, I have become a two screen devotee. The 22 inch screen is primary, where I do most of my writing, and my laptop screen has files with my notes and papers. Maybe I’ll pull up a web browser as I’m looking something up.
Though the second monitor can serve as a den of distraction, a place where email, Facebook, or Twitter can tempt me with everything that I could be doing instead of writing, I mostly think of my second screen as a godsend. I don’t have to click through multiple applications and windows. I can spread out without printing out. Instead of investing in a gigantic desk, I’ve put my money in a large digital desktop.
Though the idea was trendy when I started, I’ve stuck with it for 6 years because it works for me. Some early adopters of the second screen have now changed their minds. In 2009, multitasking was good, but in 2014, distraction is bad. And a second monitor isn’t the only way to have a productive writing setup, some writing tools such as Scrivener have come up with useful ways to split a single screen.
If you’d like to try a second screen, they aren’t hard to set up. If you’ve ever used your laptop in projection mode, it’s the same principle, except that you keep both screens active. (Second screen setup tips for Mac and for PC.) And tablet users, you can turn your iPad or Android device into a second (or third) monitor with a variety of apps.
I could go bigger or add my iPad mini to the mix, but for now I think I’ve found my two screen sweet spot.
Image Credit: Sarah Webb