NSFW: What's your favorite tool to write with?

NSFW is a weekly op-ed column in which I talk about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes it'll have something to do with the technology we cover here on iMore; sometimes it'll be whatever pops into my head. Your questions, comments and observations are welcome.

Now that it's November, it's officially the start of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. Once again I'm going to be on the sidelines, though I alternately envy and pity those participating. NaNoWriMo has me thinking about the act of writing and how technology plays into it, both for me and for countless others.

I first caught the writing bug in grade school. I remember writing stories in fourth or fifth grade for my English class, and enjoying writing and telling them so much that I'd go home and do the same. I was also fortunate enough to have a string of English teachers in middle and high school who encouraged me.

Some writers love to write longhand, flowing script from a pen or pencil onto lined legal pads. Others prefer the satisfying feeling of a manual or electric typewriter. George RR Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books, told Conan O'Brien about his penchant for using an ancient DOS-based computer equipped with WordStar 4.0.

For as long as I can remember, the Macintosh has always been the way I've loved to write. My first Mac, a 512K "Fat Mac," came with MacWrite, the word processor Apple developed to show off the then-novel concept of WYSIWYG — What You See Is What You Get.

It wasn't too long before I switched to another Mac word processor, called WriteNow. WriteNow borrowed what was great about MacWrite and improved upon it, adding things like spell check and footnotes. It was fast and compact and every bit a Mac app. I loved it.

Using WriteNow I wrote countless compositions for my high school English classes, essays for college applications, the newsletter for the sci-fi club I helped start my sophomore year in high school, resumes for jobs and more. WriteNow was more than just a utility for me. It was a tool of creative expression, the same way that a blank canvas and a brush might be for an artist.

After school my career didn't immediately go down the writing path. I spent years doing tech support and IT management for a string of companies before I'd eventually get a job writing full-time.

I had to adapt to the tools used in the office, so I got a copy of Microsoft Word. I used Word for a very long time, through good and bad times when Microsoft actively supported the app and seemed happy for it to wither and die on the vine.

Eventually the web came along, and I discovered that I no longer needed to use a word processor to produce the text that people read. That's about the same time I started using BBEdit, which I've been using ever since.

To me, opening up BBEdit is a great way to focus my mind and get down to work. Just as with WriteNow, BBEdit's blank page is a canvas, an opportunity to get my thoughts out and to put them in some sort of order.

What I've been writing about has changed over the years. When I started out, writing for me was a creative vehicle: Something to use to express my thoughts, dreams, fears and expectations. My writing has become more utilitarian since I've been actually paid for it — nowadays I mainly write about the Mac and iOS, two things I deeply love and care about. Combining what I love to do — write — with subjects I love means that I really enjoy what I do, and feel very privileged that I get to do it.

So my hat's off to you, all the writers who use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to flex their creative skills. I hope I get a chance to read some of your efforts, too.

If you're going to be taking part, our own Ally Kazmucha has rounded up the best tools to use for the job for Mac and iOS, so make sure to take a look:

And if you have any thoughts on NaNoWriMo or writing in general, please drop me a line in the comments, I'd love to read what you have to say.