Write: where handwriting and digital editing meet

Write is a curious product. The goal is to take your handwritten notes, and make them editable in a digital format. You have to watch the demo video to really see how this works:

I’m not sure what to think about it. I take handwritten notes quite a bit these days, so the idea of making my handwritten notes more useful to me than a static PDF or image (at the moment, I capture many of my handwritten notes into Evernote where they’re OCR’d – hypothetically).

At the same time, being able to edit my notes almost like I’d edit typed notes seems a little weird. One of the reasons that handwritten notes are helpful is because writing apparently helps improve retention, and because I don’t need to open an app on a device to take notes. I can just open my notebook and start writing.

Bringing those notes into a digital editor seems to remove some of the benefit of writing in the first place. Or perhaps a better way to think about this is to see it as a sort of post-processing stage where you take your raw notes, and finish them off in some way.

A reminder how to use a semicolon

How to use a semicolon by The Oatmeal
How to use a semicolon by The Oatmeal

Now and then I feel like I need a refresher on how to use certain forms of punctuation. Today it was the semicolon, which I have abused on multiple occasions.

The most feared punctuation on earth.

I did a little Googling and found this awesome guide on The Oatmeal titled “How to use a semicolon“. Not only is this guide really useful and worth bookmarking, it is a reminder of just how awesome The Oatmeal is, generally.

Other terrific grammar guides include:

Even people who write for a living could use a reminder now and then. I certainly do.

Source: How to use a semicolon – The Oatmeal

Blogging software and good shoes

Dave Winer commenting on his new blogging software:

It was the right thing to do. Often software only feels that way before you use it. The really good stuff feels that way even after you’ve settled in.

I like my software like I like good, new shoes: it feels good when I start using it and just feels more comfortable and natural the more I do.

Obscurity and why artists make art

Maria Popova’s post “The Great Arab-American Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Kahlil Gibran on Why Artists Make Art” includes this quote from Gibran about the birthplace of “art and artists”.

I would open my heart and carry it in my hand so that others may know also; for there is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed. We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel. The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists?

On the one hand, I can’t help but read this as saying that art is born out of a need to be seen and acknowledged, a kind of exhibitionism. I suppose that makes sense. I don’t claim to be an artist of any significance but I do often feel a need for my work to be seen (even as I accept that, for the most part, it won’t).

On a related note, Popova’s post reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s advice to “make good art“. He arrives at this advice from a slightly different direction but I suspect he wouldn’t disagree too much with Gibran’s thoughts.

Source: The Great Arab-American Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Kahlil Gibran on Why Artists Make Art – Brain Pickings

Image credit: fré sonneveld

The story behind Comic Sans – take a deep breath

We’ve all encountered Comic Sans and probably have mixed feelings about this controversial font. Did you know the history behind it and how it came to be so popular? Great Big Story has a short “origins” video titled “Comic Sans: The Man Behind the World’s Most Contentious Font” that is worth watching if you are as touched by Comic Sans as most of us are:

It turns out he was inspired by two iconic comics at the time: Batman and Watchmen. I’m not sure if that revelation makes much of a difference to those of us who have been traumatised by seeing so much inappropriate use of the font but it is an interesting factoid.

Credit to The Drum for its story that inspired this little share.

Image credit: Snowdog, published on Wikimedia Commons and released into the Public Domain.

Thoughts about careers when I grow up

Thoughts about when I grow up

I enjoyed Jamie Rubin’s post titled “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up”, partly because I still ask myself what I want to do with the rest of my life? I am in the early years of my second career (or a return to an early career, of sorts) after being a lawyer for most of my professional life.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, an astronomer, and a writer. One out of three isn’t too bad, I suppose. But most of my life, other people’s jobs have often seemed more interesting than my own. Perhaps it is an example of the grass being greener. Perhaps I am just easily influenced by what I see and read.

Rubin’s post reminded me of recurring thought that comes to me when I contemplate careers, particularly urges to change careers. I noticed that there is a difference between pursuing a passion and working in that field as a career, at least for me. I have often thought it would be great to be in a particular profession because it seems so exciting and fulfilling, only to realise that the day to day experience of that work isn’t quite what it seemed to be from the outside.

The best example of this was going into law. As a law student, reading cases and watching legal dramas on TV and in movies, legal practice had a certain appeal. I thought that practice would reflect what I saw in fiction. The reality was pretty different and involved a lot of admin and paperwork with little of the Boston Legal/Suits style and excitement.

I started to develop this theory that some types of work should remain passion pursuits and not full-time occupations. At the same time I suspect that this cynicism may be the result of not having found the expression of the work I find myself longing to do that helps me achieve that satisfaction I hope for.

In the meantime, I look for work that incorporates the activities I enjoy the most or, at least, afford me the time to pursue my passions around my work. My current career, content marketing, involves a lot of writing and strategy work. Both activities stimulate me.

I look at photographers I admire and wonder what it would be like to become a professional photographer. Spending my days with my camera in my hands seems like an almost ideal life and yet I know that behind those phenomenal shots is a lot of experience, hard work and funding to make it all happen. I also wonder if I have the skill to work at that level so I spend my non-work time making photographs, hopefully refining my skills along the way.

My plan for the year ahead is to make more of an effort to blend my photography and my writing and to see what comes of that combination. I think that could be a really interesting combination.

Now and then, like Rubin, I’ll also read a book that sparks a desire to do something different when I grow up. I’m not sure when I reach the point where I can say I have grown up but it must come along soon, right?

Featured image credit: Pixabay

6 December is my Social Anniversaries Day

A cake for anniversaries

6 December has become my Social Anniversaries Day! This morning I saw a personalized video celebrating my 10th “Faceversary” (the anniversary of me joining Facebook).

In even bigger news, today is also the 12th anniversary of this blog. I published my first post titled “In the beginning …” on 6 December 2004. At the time this blog was called “Wired Gecko” and it has been through several iterations and used various domain names since then.

In the beginning …

Excluding this post, I have published 3 910 blog posts and have 8 567 comments so far.

Blog status as of 2016-12-06
Milestones

The next major release of WordPress, version 4.7, is also due to launched today too. I’m sure Automattic wasn’t thinking about me when the release date was planned but it’s a nice synchronicity nevertheless.

I’ve been thinking about my blogging again lately. I haven’t always been particularly consistent with how much and when I write but I have been expressing myself through my writing in one medium or another for almost 25 years.

You’re miserable because you’re not writing

I write for many reasons. Sometimes, as I explained in my post titled “You’re miserable because you’re not writing”, I write “because it unblocks the dam of emotion that has built up”. Mostly, I write because I have a strong compulsion to share ideas and interesting things.

"Writing, to me, is the meaning of life"

The more I write, the more I learn and, soon enough, “that all gives way to a wonderful flow that you don’t want to stop so you keep writing to keep the pipes clear and fresh water flowing”.

I write a lot about writing because it is so much a part of how I express myself. My other big outlet is my photography and I tend to swing between writing-intensive and photography-intensive phases. Occasionally, like the last week or so, I am somewhat balanced between the two.

It’s a flow. It comes and goes. That is the nature of my writing and photography. Hopefully I will discover how to bring the two together in the year ahead. I have a feeling that achieving that will uplift both passions and create new opportunities for me.

Here are some of my thoughts on this blog’s 10th anniversary. I think they remain as relevant today as they did two years ago:

This blog began its life under a different domain on 6 December 2004. It has survived in one form or another until now, thanks and no thanks to me. I started my blog after tinkering with blogging back in the primordial days of the social Web when blogging was the New Thing, after interactive fora. Keeping a blog alive for 10 years feels like an achievement. Having 3 527 blog posts under my metaphorical belt (not counting this one) feels like I have made a meaningful contribution towards documenting my life and the things that interest me. It is something worth commemorating.

Image credit: Pixabay

Nostalgia about writing on paper, something more tangible

Nostalgia about writing on paper

Jamie Todd Rubin shared his nostalgia about writing in a different time in his post titled “Writing on Paper“. He wrote about a much more tangible experience of writing and, even though I have a preference for digital, I empathise with him to a degree.

Writing on Paper

He isn’t talking about writing on paper in the sense of writing long form with a fancy ballpoint and pages of fine paper. Instead, he looks back at the satisfaction he had typing with a typewriter and seeing the pages accumulating on his desk.

In all the years that I’ve been writing on computer—and I’ve been writing on computer for far longer than I ever wrote on a typewriter—I have never found the experience to be quite as satisfying. It is physically easier for me to write on computer than it was on a typewriter. But it just isn’t as satisfying. I miss the accumulation of pages.

Typewriter memories

I don’t think I did much writing on a typewriter. My writing career began in school where most of my writing was done with a pen on paper and progressed to typing in Wordstar (or something like that) on our family PCs.

The few times I used a typewriter were somewhat satisfying. I vaguely remember the smell of a typewriter and the look of paper that had been typed on. It evokes some degree of nostalgia but not something I would necessarily want to return to.

One thing about typewriters that is appealing is that you just write. There is no messing with line spacing, font sizes or any of that stuff. As Rubin pointed out:

And besides, you can take WYSIWYG too far. Formatting distracts me from what I am trying to write. I am not trying to layout a newspaper or magazine. I’m writing a story, or a post.

This fidgety aspect of modern word processors is what drove me away from MS Word in a cold sweat. It is why I do most of my writing in plain text with MultiMarkdown. The thought of having to mess around with formatting just to write stuff makes me physically ill.

Still, I love the flexibility of digital and the prospect of all my work being fixed on sheets of paper that I can’t backup, edit and publish in minutes on the Web makes me itch.

It’s like film photography

In a way, using a typewriter and paper is a bit like going back to film photography. Digital photography makes us a little lazy. There is nothing to shooting dozens or hundreds of photos because we can filter out the ones we like and discard the rest.

When you make photos on film, you have to be a lot more deliberate about what you shoot and you don’t have that instant gratification of seeing your photo on the camera’s screen right afterwards. You have to wait for the roll of film to be processed and either have prints made or the negatives scanned. That changes the dynamic of photography quite a bit. As Om Malik put it in his post “Experimenting with film photography“:

You also can’t put a price on the lesson you learn with film — think before you shoot. Compose the photo in your mind before you try and press the shutter. And be deliberate.

I’m tempted to find some rolls of film and shoot them with my old film camera but, as with my writing, I don’t see myself replacing digital with film. The flexibility and opportunities to manipulate and share my work means I’d keep returning to digital. I shot a lot of film in school and even managed to get into a dark room a few times.

If anything, I wish I still have the negatives so I could scan them all. That part is increasingly important to me.

My romance is with the Web and with digital sharing, though, not with paper and film negatives (although I have fond memories of my time with both). At the same time, I appreciate Rubin’s words about his longing for a more tangible writing experience. There is definitely something there worth preserving in some way.

Image credit: Pixabay