In which I fall out of love with Ulysses, rebound a bit with iA Writer, and finally just go back to Google Docs.
What is it about spring cleaning your “systems” that feels like work, but is really procrastination?
It’s the feel of my fingers flying across the keys, typing out what I’m doing instead of what my characters are doing somewhere else.
I’m not nearly as interesting as they are, but still, here I am.
I have been wanting to keep my files as close to plain text as possible. Being able to access, export, import, and move simple text files somehow makes me more secure in saving them in, say, Google Drive or Dropbox.
I’m pretty sure this desire comes from a place of fear as if being able to control the format in which I write will somehow allow me to control the writing. Writers don’t talk enough about losing control during the writing. We call it “flow” or the “zone,” but it’s scary. I digress…
I’ve been testing out a few different applications and am working on a trial with iA Writer. I have to say, I’m intrigued.
The interface is pretty bare-bones, but I’m not looking for a publishing app (I have one of those). I’m looking for relatively distraction-free writing. I want a visible word count as I go and the ability to take my laptop offline.
I know I can do all these things with Google Docs or Office 365, but mostly I want a simple text editor that recognizes Markdown.
Future Betty here: I’m editing this in Google Docs because I am fickle and I recognize a diversion when I construct one. This is a blog post because there are a lot of already generated words that I can use, but also because I see you, writer, who is interested in writing apps.
I often wonder why we can be so particular about the software we use. We have a near-infinite ability to adapt and adjust, yet, here I am, squirming around trying to find something that is almost Notepad, but not Notepad+. Perhaps I am still yearning for the old Word Perfect days.
FB: I am, in fact, not yearning for those days. I am currently sitting in a beautiful library writing this on my laptop, in a cozy chair. These days are better.
I’m rambling and I’m only hitting 250 words. What on earth am I talking about?
I can write in Markdown and preview its output on the right-hand side of the screen. That’s nice, but I wonder why I have to hit Return twice to get a proper paragraph break. Will I have to remove a bunch of extra returns later on? That’s odd.
I can preview hidden characters and while there is still a single return, the paragraphs wrap together. Not just stacked on top of each other, but wrapped together as one paragraph. I don’t think that’s a Markdown thing.
A lot of these apps have some sort of “typewriter” feature, whether it’s part of the focus or the way the page scrolls. It’s fine, but as someone who spent time with actual typewriters, I have little nostalgia for them. I will turn this feature off.
What happened to underlining things? Is it because hypertext links are natively underlined?
I exported this document into Word and the “double” returns render as single returns. The space is there, but fixable by removing space before and after paragraphs in the line height selector. That’s good. Double return for readability and minimal formatting adjustments later. I can live with that.
FB: I could not live with that.
I think iA Writer could be a good fit for me. I particularly like that they have Mac and Windows options. Though, I think for a while I’ll just keep this trial on the home computer.
I’m not completely sold yet–and that has more to do with my quirks than the software–but I’ll let you know if I pick up iA Writer or stick with Notepad as my writing workhorse.
I never really used iA Writer again after that, nor did I stick with Ulysses. Both of these are fine apps and have their advantages, but, I was kidding myself that the plain-text file was what I wanted.
What I wanted was to feel like I was writing, without writing. I see what I did there. I ended up switching back to the old stand-by so I didn’t have to think about it anymore. It’s easy to export a plain-text version as a backup.
Stop fiddling about and get writing. You too!