June 23, 2016
I have found that I must love the tools I am working with in order to really become great at anything. Once I started writing all my code in Sublime Text, it took my code to the next level.
I think the same can be said for writing. There are a number of different ways to write. Some people still like to use pen and paper, and there are about 45 different web, desktop, and mobile apps that you can use to complete your projects.
The key with writing is all about habit and setup. If you don’t like the workspace and the tools, it will be hard to work with.
I wanted to make sure that I found that zone where I did work that I was proud of and was worth sharing. I went on a search for my perfect writing solution.
For a while, I experimented with writing with just a pen and a paper. It seems like an almost silly sentence to type out, but there was something great about sitting with a notebook and just writing. There was no way to get distracted or start noticing other things. It’s the ultimate moment of singularity because you can’t just go to the next tab and start looking at Twitter. I even tried to use an app to OCR my text, but that didn’t turn out well. But, the thing about writing longhand was it was always hard for me to go back and look at the old text. Handwriting was just too hard to consume and keep in a safe space.
Google Docs is something that I have used for a number of years. It is the default word processor that I know how to use. There are a number of great features and if you are collaborating with someone to help you edit or work on a document, the experience is second to none. But, the thing about Google Docs was that it is browser based and everything was too close to me. I was distracted and I kept switching tabs. There was something about it that never really stuck with me during the process. Google Docs was the best for storage, sharing, and editing, but I need something else for crafting.
Markdown is a plain text syntax that can easily be compiled into HTML. I have played around with Markdown at my job because I had to compile a ton of Word docs into HTML. I was able to convert them really quickly by converting them into Markdown and then bringing them back into HTML. This allowed me to get up to speed with the syntax very quickly. There is something about the syntax that just clicked with me. I found myself starting to write most of my text in this manner, even emails.
Ulysses was one of those Mac apps that always seems to get featured and written about. The app was pricey, but I loved the look of it as it reminded of a Sublime Text for writing. I bit the bullet and I immediately fell in love with it. The layout is a three panel system where you can expand and collapse what you need. There is also iCloud sync built in, which is something that I never trust, but you can open a folder on your dropbox and work in there. There are also plenty of syntax highlight options for your markdown and plain text.
I found a tool that made me comfortable and that worked well for my style. That is the key for me. Some people can kill it in Google Docs, but I like the options offered in Markdown and being able to make an app full screen. Workflows and tools need to be tested and discovered. If you are trying to develop a writing habit and can’t seem to get it off the ground, play around with some different tools.
Written by John Siwicki who lives and works building interesting things. You should follow him on Twitter