Writing in a Taxi in Mauritania, Virtually

Now I’m earning a regular wage I’ve been able to buy a new phone. Not brand new, but a year old iPhone 8, quite an upgrade from my old 4s which was apt to randomly switch itself off, and overheated if I tried to use apps such as Instagram. Now I have all the latest apps at my fingertips, so, naturally, I’ve been exploring apps for writers.

So far I’ve got Hanx Writer, but haven’t yet worked out how to use it; Werdsmith, ditto; Unblock, more of which in a sec; Coffivity; and Brainsparker, which I’d forgotten I had until I just looked. But my favourite by far isn’t a writing app at all, it’s a music app called Radiooooo.

As you’ll see from the header image, which is a screenshot taken seconds ago, I’m currently listening to tunes that one might have heard riding in a Mauritanian taxi. Yesterday I was in Mali, and goodness knows where tomorrow will take me. I don’t know why I love this app so much, I only know I do, it has become part of the atmosphere of my writing room. I play it not too loud, so it’s rather like aural wallpaper, and so far I haven’t attempted to write as it plays. But that’s what I’m doing right now, and I don’t think it’s getting in the way.

Yesterday morning I put it on and opened Werdsmith which, every morning at seven, tells me it’s time to write. Until today I’ve ignored it, but having decided I must take myself in hand and focus on writing again I decided to look more closely at it. It appears that to do anything interesting you have to make one, or more, of those irritating ‘in app’ purchases. Unwilling to do that I looked at settings and clicked on ‘Writing Prompts’. This took me to Unblock where I was asked a series of questions* in order to discover what kind of writer I am. What could I do? Reader, I answered them:

Olivetti 82 Diaspron: Giovanni Pintori on Pinterest

Q: What are some topics that interest you?
A: Relationships; understanding; how we communicate; behaviour and motivation.
Q: What are you knowledgable about? What are you expert in?
A: I struggle to say I’m expert in anything, but I know a bit about food; fashion; contemporary art; literature and writing; philosophy; gardening.
Q: What topics are you curious about? What do you want to learn more about?
A: Why people do what they do: why are some people infinitely kind and others utterly selfish? Why do some people insulate themselves and others lay themselves bare? What does the woman who scowls at everyone want? Why do perfectly decent people turn on others? What are we afraid of, and why?
Q: What is something you believe in that most people may not?
A: That eudaimonia (human flourishing) is possible: there is enough for everyone, we just need to learn how to share, and that sharing, rather than hoarding, will result in a better life for everyone, even the super rich.
Q: What do you want to write? A story? A novel? A screenplay?
A: Everything; whatever suits the subject.
Q: What kind of genre do you want to write in?
A: Whichever one suits the subject I’m writing about.
Q: Who are writers that inspire you?
A: Lydia Davis; Amy Hempel; Zadie Smith; Virginia Woolf; Sylvia Plath; Gertrude Stein; Kafka; Proust; Samuel Beckett; Saul Bellow; W.G. Sebald; Alice Munro; Bernard MacLaverty; Frank O’Hara; and so many more.
Q: What is your favourite piece of writing? Why?
A: I’m really interested in the way certain writers use structure and language in a way that adds to the story. I recently read Kafka’s very short story ‘A Visit to the Mine’ and was blown away. How does he do that?! I also can’t get over Proust’s By Way of Swann, as translated by Lydia Davis, because of the clear picture it paints of the place, the family, the man.
Q: What kind of stories do you want to tell?
A: Stories that help us move towards eudaimonia.
Q: Why do you want to write? To tell your story? To make people laugh?
A: Writing’s one half of a conversation for me. I want to engage people, entertain them, and make them think.
Q: How do you want to make your audience feel?
A: Hopeful and bold (free from fear).
Q: When will you make the time to write? First thing in the morning? Just before bed?
A: First thing in the morning.
Q: How long will you spend writing every day?
A: Fifteen minutes on work days; two or three hours on non-work days.
Q: Who can keep you accountable and make sure you stick to your daily ritual?
A: If not me, no one.
Q: Who can read your work and give you feedback?
A: That’s what I want to know!

I assumed that after answering these questions the app would tell me what sort of writer I am, or give some indication, but it all just came to an end. Answering the questions hasn’t given me any further insight into my writing-self, I already know all these things having pondered them endlessly over the years, but it doesn’t hurt to go over them again, I guess. At least it gave me a blog post!

I realise now, too, that I forgot another favourite, Lists for Writers, which I had a great deal of fun with when I first installed it. I’ll write about that in another post.


*The grammar’s appalling, childlike, but I transcribe it here as is.

4 thoughts on “Writing in a Taxi in Mauritania, Virtually

  1. Well, yes, we found out more about you! I have to apologise for being completely distracted by the second sentence in your post and the word ‘iPhone’. I too have just bought a new phone – also refurbished, BUT Android! My last phone was an iPhone, and after 2 years of hell I could take no more. Every time I had a software update it’d need to be restored and it would take hours. The phone wasn’t fit for purpose. Last month it refused to restore, my option was to take it to the Apple store almost 2hrs away where I’d likely be told that there was nothing they could do other than, for a price, offer me an upgrade. No way, no way was I going to give Apple any more money. I now have a OnePlus, and it is a joy in comparison.
    I think my iPhone was a dud from the start [brand new] and I really should have done something about it sooner. Sorry for the ramble, but I am still traumatised from my iPhone experience!!


    1. It definitely sounds like your iPhone was a dud! Until my last one started showing signs of crotchety old age it was great, and this one is a dream. Except for the fact it’s rather larger than the last one and can’t so easily be operated with one hand. My thumb struggles to stretch as far as the shift key on the keyboard, for example. I did consider a different brand, but chickened out, and am very glad I did as all my contacts just rolled into the new one without a blink.


  2. Can one really “write” on something with such a small keyboard? I’ve got small hands and I find it exhausts my patience to write a note to my daughter sometimes.


    1. Now I’ve looked a bit more at some of these apps I find they’re meant for iPads rather than phones. Though I have seen kids typing long messages fast, and without making any mistakes. I, on the other hand, find even the briefest note trying.


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