Writers should have at least two screens to work from. See why!

Writers should have at least two screens to work from. See why!

When people find out I work with three monitors, they’re always curious. Here’s how that works for me and why I think it makes me a more productive writer and editor.

Why all that monitor space?

As a writer and editor, I frequently need to work on things while referring to or researching other things. I might be reviewing a document against an email checklist; writing a blog post while looking up new articles to add as links; creating a PowerPoint presentation while referencing a document or searching for photos; looking up references and content to insert into a document or citation; comparing two drafts; referring to numbers in a spreadsheet as I write, or reviewing a document and summarizing items in an email.

Naturally, you can do all of this with a single laptop monitor, but it requires maintaining context in one document while referring to something else. I find it extremely helpful to have the document I’m working on up where I can see it at all times while I track down other bits and pieces to put into it. This, more than anything else, is the benefit of multiple monitors in an extended desktop for me.

I frequently do videoconferences. The camera is in the MacBook, which is in the middle. This setup makes it easy for me to see the other participants, but to share content from one monitor or the other (for example, a document we are working on together). You have to be careful when you do this, so you don’t inadvertently show another client’s work, or your latest medical test results, or your email inbox.

Long ago, I would sometimes work while referring to paper. That’s rare now because everything I want to refer to is online. About the only time I do that is when entering content from a physical book. (I won’t even work with people who do red-pen corrections on paper.)

Should you set things up like this?

I think all writers should have at least two screens to work from. It preserves flow, and flow is crucial to good writing.

Monitors are cheap. Monitor quality is less important than having enough surface available to create virtual spaces to work in.

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