Do apps like iA Writer and Ulysses really help you write?

I promised myself six months respite between finishing my first novel and starting on my second. The idea was to take some time to research and test drive various writing apps.

Having a mechanism that facilitated the organization of my writing was of primary importance.

Having a writing environment that facilitated the writing process was a plus.

I mean, who doesn’t hate Microsoft Word?

On the other hand, who doesn’t use Microsoft Word?

When it comes to writing, it’s easy to come to see Word as the devil you know which is nearly always preferable to the devil you don’t. Word is not anathema to the creative process. If it was, no one would get anything done with it and there are plenty of writers who do the majority of their work within its environment.

I’m one of them.

But, Word is distracting. Word is inscrutable. Word is ugly.

I narrowed down the initial candidates to iA Writer and Ulysses.

I’m prone to breaking promises I make to myself so rather than a six month respite I’m already working on my next novel. The fun part is that I’m alternating its among Word, iA Writer and Ulysses. You’re right…fun’s not the right word.

I compose for a while and then I cut and paste the copy into Word as a back-up. I also email the copy and dump another copy into A Google Doc but now I’m giving you a bit too much insight into how much I hate the idea of losing my work.

So far, I’m not sure if iA Writer or Ulysses will be of much help to me, anyway. I do like the stripped down nature of the interface but, at least so far, I’m not seeing it as transformational of either my writing process or of my ability to maintain organization of elements of plot, characters, scenes and timeframe.

Initial nit picks about Ulysses include the use of jargon like sheets rather than text or copy. I mean, I know about a sheet of paper and about rain falling in sheets but why use the word to describe something that a sheet isn’t? But, I’m not giving up on it yet.

iA Writer takes the stripped down feel a step further. This can lead to wondering about what, exactly, the app is supposed to be doing for the writer?

I’m going to give both apps more time and copy before I decide which of them (if either) to use.

Today, I am unconvinced about iA Writer and Ulysses but I’m still open to using something other than Word. If any of you use either of them (or any other writing app) I would love to hear your views and experiences.

Do apps like iA Writer and Ulysses really help you write?

My novel is done, done, done.

My novel is done. No, you can’t go buy it yet.

I’m preparing it for submission to a handful of publishers and it turns out they don’t fancy looking at books that are already in the throes of a self-publishing campaign.

I’m quite certain that’s where my book will end up and that’s OK by me. I’m glad I wrote it. It took a lot longer than I had hoped but I learned so much about the kind of long-form writing thought that a novel requires that I now regard the span of time as something of a necessity. That’s another way of saying I’m a slow learner.

I had written a great deal over a very long period of time before I decided to write a novel. Now that I’ve done it, I want to do another and to do a better job of it. I can look back on my book and can see it clearly for its good and bad. Something about writing it broke away a kind of resistance that had set in to that kind of writing ambition. Suddenly, writing a book seemed like something I could do and do with meaningful results.

I think often of Steve Earle’s dark years in Amsterdam when he was addicted to heroin. When he had finally clawed his way back into the light, he had a creative boom of sorts, making records and writing books and plays with a speed and intensity he never showed before. He attributed the burst of work to his release from smack.

Even though I wrote for both pay and fun I avoided the idea of writing a book until I hit my 50s. Rather than being addicted to heroin I had instead succumbed to the belief that I didn’t have anything to offer; that I wasn’t that kind of writer. It turns out that I am…

So, I’m grateful that I simply had the idea to write my book. Obviously and as always, it is the idea that made everything possible.

Now I have another idea and it’s led me start writing my second next novel.

Here’s hoping it moves along faster than the first one.

 

My novel is done, done, done.

Horizontal Banding in Untitled 29

Someone at Flickr was kind enough to point out that Untitled 29 suffered from horizontal banding. I hadn’t noticed it, to be honest, but there it was staring me in the face.

Kind of…

Actually, even after the banding’s presence was called to my attention its presence didn’t really matter to me. Still, I fooled around with the photo for a while in an attempt minimize the banding’s impact.

Untitled 29 Small

Nope, it’s still not close to perfect but I really don’t have a preference between the original version and this one. The photo still means what it means to me. It would be the same if it had been shot on film and the negative was scratched. Absent its qualities and faults I still like the photo and, to me, the photos of an amateur photographer only need to please one person and I think you know who that is.

Obviously, I’m not one to hide work that might be less than my best. I believe we learn from our successes but often much more from our failures. I try my best with each photo I take in the very same way I try to use words to precisely convey my thoughts and feelings, yet knowing my efforts will often fall short.

I once heard a writing coach say something that I think about often.

I’m paraphrasing here but this is the essence of what he said:

Let’s say that in your career as a writer you will write seven novels, three of which you will eventually regard as good. There’s a natural temptation to ask, why did I even bother to write the four novels that turned out badly? That’s missing the point: The bad novels had to be written so that the lessons that created the three good novels could be learned. Try as you might, you cannot decide or decree to only do good work. You can only work and hope for some success.

I take writing seriously. As much as I love photography, I know somewhere in my bones that I will never reward it with the kind of devotion needed to create genuinely good work. Still, that’s what is so cool about photography. You don’t always need to be that good to take enjoyable and sometimes beautiful photographs. And, sometimes, the rewards for a humble photograph come as a happy surprise long after it was taken.

And, so it is with Untitled 29, horizontal banding or not

Horizontal Banding in Untitled 29

What’s Special About This?

Sage Park survived…

The Woolsey Fire is now all but out. The evacuation area got as close as a mile from my home. I got out toward the end of last week and saw some of the devastation along the north-bound 101.

Most of the oak trees I have photographed on many of the trails I hike have burned. They stand now like charred skeletons on the fire-darkened slopes. Compared to many of who live not very far from where I do, I was very lucky.

The fire started to the south and west of Sage Park. For days, I wondered if the prevailing winds would allow the dried grasses and oaks of the park survive the inferno and they did.

There’s always something to be thankful for and today I’m thankful for all of the oaks and all of the wildlife and all of the rare open space of Southern California that came through the Woolsey Fire unscathed.

Snapseed (1)

What’s Special About This?

Tragedy has struck my Sinn 103

Tragedy has struck my 103…

While setting my beloved Sinn 103’s date wheel this evening it got stuck between numbers.

If I was still the man I was 15 years ago I would not be bothered much at all. I would simply box it up and send it off to its makers in Germany. While it was being repaired I would simply wear any one of my other watches.

I wonder if I would have missed it at all back then?

But now, today, I am very dismayed. It’s not just that I’ve been a one-watch-man since I’ve owned it. Over the course of those seven years my 103 has been quite nearly bonded to my wrist and to the rest of me. I have worn  it everywhere…during all activities save for sleep and bathing.

The truth is that it’s been due for service (and a new crystal) for quite some time, having been made back in 2008. Still, I have grown accustomed to resetting it once a week, owing to its loss of 8 seconds a day. I enjoy and look forward to being involved with it, even in that small way. In other words, I have come to appreciate its weaknesses, to be endeared by its age, at the very same time as I so often try to push away the effects of my own advancing years. My guess is there’s a lesson buried somewhere in all of this.

I trust the good folks at Sinn will take good care of it.

Tragedy has struck my Sinn 103

Trump Thinks He’s Jason Bourne; 21st Century Action Movies & the Deep State

Three Days of the Condor is one of my favorite films and one of a very few performances by Robert Redford I’ve ever enjoyed. Redford’s character is One Guy going up against a deep state version of the CIA. In Condor, even an Alsatian assassin played by Max Von Sydow behaves more honorably than anyone at the agency.

Then came Matthew Broderick in WarGames. Then-president Ronald Reagan was so alarmed by the movie that he was inspired to create the Strategic Defense Initiative, then disparagingly referred to as Star Wars.

Today, we have Donald Trump and he’s been raised throughout his middle age on the less-artful successors to Condor, films with characters like Jason Bourne.

The Bourne films are predicated on a hero who is a true rogue…someone rejected by the very deep state agency that created him.

In film after film, this lone man against the deep state hero has become the most consistent, commercially reliable action-adventure plot vehicle of our time.

Donald Trump believes, down to the marrow of his bone, that he is Jason Bourne.

Now, the final irony.

Each of these films are the creation of the very same left-leaning entertainment industry that now despises Trump but also created Donald Trump the reality television star and, eventually, Donald Trump the viable political candidate, and now the president of the United States.

Well done.

In the days of WarGames Reagan was excoriated for the SDI. But, SDI was a rational response to the general message of WarGames; that complex systems are prone to unanticipated failure, no matter how well intended the governmental agency behind the system may be. Reagan may have been wrong or misguided, but his concerns were derived from a reasonable fictional construct.

Trump is unbound by such constructs. His fantasy about a deep state, even a deep state that he is the head of, is complete.

And, we have Hollywood at least partly to thank for his certitude.

Trump Thinks He’s Jason Bourne; 21st Century Action Movies & the Deep State

I’m Old Fashioned…More on Flickr’s Explore

I confess.

I took a photo of food (a cocktail to be sure) and posted it to Flickr yet again. I try like hell to avoid doing stupid shit like this but I couldn’t resist. The Westlake Four Seasons serves up an excellent Old Fashioned during their Thursday Happy Hour. The angle of the dark tile under the glass looked good as did the filtered light coming across the hotel’s garden. Man, it was a good drink…so good that I had two.

When I got home I was impressed by the color, the lighting of the image and just how much the camera on the iPhone 8 can do when there’s plenty of light.

I also confess that I had a pretty strong feeling this photo would have a decent shot at getting onto the hallowed servers of Flickr’s Explore. It had a lot of the qualities I think Flickr’s algorithm looks for.

First, the title is unambiguously associated with the image. In other words, I’ll hazard that the algorithm has a dictionary that includes a list of cocktails (that obviously includes the Old Fashioned) and that the algorithm could readily correlate the discernibility of the image to the title of the image.

Second, the image was sharp, saturated and unambiguous.

Third, I used tags that localized and described it completely (down to the name and location of the hotel, the exact camera used and the fact that the Snapseed image processor was employed).

Old
I’m Old Fashioned (not really)

So, what does all this mean? Not much. As I have said before, any notion of knowing what a proprietary and very likely evolving algorithm values will never ascend beyond pure speculation. Still, the criteria I listed about are common to every photo of mine that’s gotten into Explore. In the end, we can deduce some elements of what appear to be valued criteria but there’s no way to know all of them or even to know whether any elements of a kind of computer-generated randomness are part of the process. What I do know and say with more than a touch of irony is this; none of my photos that I consider good have ever made it into Explore.

I’m Old Fashioned…More on Flickr’s Explore