hjertnes.blog

9 Ways to Become a More Productive Writer

02.01.2014 01:00

Productivityist had a great post, with a list of nine tips for becoming a better writer. I agree with most of them. All of them are true, but one of them are a bit dangerous.

  1. Read useful productivity books and blogs All productivity advice is not universal, and sometimes you need to do your own research to find something that will be a great fit. So, check other writers’ advice and productivity apps for more information on what might work for you. I do agree that it might be useful sometimes to read productivity blogs, books etc. The important factor is to remember that productivity blogs, books and hacks will never be some kind of magic “trick”. They might make it easier to be more productive, and helpful tools, but you have to do the work.

Again. A good list. I don’t tend to read that many blog-posts containing lists, but I’m glad I took the time to read this one. I have been following all of the tips in it for a very long time. I think they are useful for most writers and people that would like to get more into writing.

Be careful: productivity should not be what you do, but what you are.

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Writing in the Squarespace web-interface.

02.01.2014 01:00

I put a task called “Write something in the Squarespace web-interface” in TaskPaper a few days ago, when I realised that I’ve never actually written anything here. I usually just write in Byword and copy-page it into the web-interface.

The experience of doing this might have been a little bit better if I had tried this a few days ago. Because Squarespace just released a new version of their block-system today. There are a few things about that I don’t like.

I have to double click to be able to insert text, this used to be a single click. And secondly, I can’t get a fullscreen input field to write in. I get this pop-over in the fullscreen mode.

First of all, this interface is no worse, and no better than what WordPress or Tumblr provides from a writing perspective. The block system is however much better from a layout, and everything else perspective.

I think I will go back to writing in Byword; I will however check back later to see if they make any changes to make this a better experience.

One final note. It seems like I can’t run the spelling control in this input field. Big minus.

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Journaling.

31.12.2013 01:00

I have been trying to write this piece about ten different times, during the last two weeks. This is intended to be a text that explains what journaling is, what I do, how to get started, and some of the tools I use.

What is journaling?

This is one of the questions that have made this text very difficult to write. Journaling is what ever you want it to be. I know people that write about the weather, while others is writing about how they are feeling, and some are writing about what’s on their mind.

I often look at journaling like a private and unfiltered version of this blog and my twitter account.

How to get started?

There are many things you can do. The simplest thing is to pick something simple that you want journal. Like taking a picture of your self every day, or just writing a few words about what’s on your mind.

One of the things that is important is to start with something very simple, that you can keep going.

Don’t do too much, and don’t do it too often.

Tools & Apps.

There are a lot of apps and tools you can use to journal. You can use something like a simple document or text file, or you can use Evernote, or you can use a dedicated app like Day One or Mac journal.

Some people prefer to do it on their iPhone, iPad or Mac. Both Day One and Mac journal is available on all platforms. I prefer Day One. But both products are very good.

Other people prefer to do it old school, in notebooks. You have both formal journals with some area of text for every day in a year, two years, or even five years. This works great for some people. While others, like me think this is a bit too strict, and just use any kind of notebook and just write the date on top of the page.

What I do.

Let’s run through some of the tools first. I write most of my journaling in a Field Notes notebook, or Moleskine before I transfer it into Day One later. But I sometimes write it straight into Day One, if that is the most practical way to do it.

The main reason I prefer to write things on paper first, is that it’s often faster, simpler; it also gives me a last chance to edit and tidy it up.

One of the reasons that I use Day One over some of the other great alternatives out there, is that it’s designed way better than any other journaling app out there. It makes it a joy to write journaling entries, adding pictures and organising them with tags.

Things I put into Day One: – I take a picture of myself every morning – I spend 5-15 minutes every morning writing what ever that happens to be on my mind. – I’ll also write If I have something on my mind that I don’t want to tweet or write about on my mind.

I never add pictures shot with my DSLR, funny or cool pictures from the internet to Day One. I add pictures from my DSLR to Lightroom, and cool pictures I find into Ember. But I do often add some of the pictures from my iPhone to Day One. For example a few of the pictures from an event, a party or when I was out drinking with some friends.

Journaling is about collecting things that is important to you, and stuff that you don’t want to forget.

Some final tips.

Find out a few simple things that you want to add to your journal. You can expand it later, when you can a hold on it.

Make it easy for yourself. Don’t get into a “workflow” where you need to be on your iPhone, iPad or Mac to do it; or to use your overpriced notebook or $3000 fountain pen. Make sure you can journal, if you feel like it no matter if you are in your living room, office, the bus or waiting for someone at a coffee shop.

I recommend everyone to get an app like Day One. It makes it easy to add stuff like pictures and text. And you can add as little or much information you want to any given date. But I also recommend to have some pen and notebook you can have in your jacket or jeans. There are times when you can’t use your phone, and they run out of power.

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The 10 000 hours rule.

29.12.2013 01:00

Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers, and it’s 10 000 hour goal have been quoted, written and talked about to an extent where it’s so boring, over analysed and have lost most of it’s meaning.

There is something to the 10 000 hour rule. I don’t think it is a magical number, or a strict rule; something a lot of beginners and morons do.

I have learnt, developed and gotten paid for quite a few different skills up to this point. And there is no magic here. I learnt everything I know about programming, computers and system administration in the room I lived, in my mothers house, until I moved out.

You don’t need to be a genius to learn most skills, you need to me smart enough. My personal opinion is that mosts persons have the required intelligence to learn what they want, if they really want it.

And it is with this craving to learn something that the 10 000 hour rule comes in. I don’t think it will be 10 000 for most, or all people. I don’t talk about all of the people that have an guitar and some “Learn to play guitar book”, I don’t talk about all of the people with a copy of some “Objective-C Programming” or “Developer iPhone apps” book at their desk.

I talk about all of the people that pick something, they don’t know, and they start doing it, and they keep on doing it, until they are really good at it.

The key here is both the patience and time they put into it. But it’s also how they use their time. You need to put pressure on yourself, to do something you don’t know. I didn’t continue to write “Hello World!” programs for 10 000 hours, I wrote more and more advanced apps, and web sites. And I continued to write those things I had written in the past in new and better ways. In new and better languages and frameworks.

I have not written the same blog posts over and over again. But I have written about many of the same subjects. And I think most of what I write today is a lot better than the stuff I wrote a year ago.

The difference between the people that get really good, and those whom just waste a lot of time, is that those of us that get really good always know where they need to get better. They know what part of their skill set, that are the weakest.

One thing is to know it. It is another thing to do something about it. This is why you need something like the 10 000 hours. It might be 10 000 pages, or 10 000 versions of your iPad app.

The important thing is to not just keep doing what you are doing. It is important is to wander into deep water. To keep on pushing yourself to the better. This is the critical sense. You need to be your biggest critic.

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Writer Pro.

28.12.2013 01:00

I have been using Writer Pro, on and off ever since it hit the App Stores. There are a lot of interesting ideas in it. The design is great, like it was in iA Writer.

I like the idea of having my documents divided into Notes, Write, Edit and Read. This is a logical way to organize the documetns. And it makes it very easy to find stuff.

I have no idea what to say, when it comes to the syntax tools they provided. It looks cool, and all of that. But I just don’t know what I am suposed to do with them.

And, then you have the list of features I would really love to see. The Markdown support is like with iA Writer minimal in the iOS version. There are no highligting, and no markdown button on the extended keyboard.

There are not any URL schemes included in the app either, this is no surprice. But it makes the sell for Writer Pro even harder. Drafts is my starting point for 90% of the writing I do on iOS. And not being able to use Drafts with Writer Pro is a real game stopper for me. They could have solved this with a simple url scheme, or by providing Dropbox as an alternative to iCloud.

I don’t think this release are close to as great or eye opening as iA Writer was. But it is a great set of apps. And it is really sad that they didn’t put the app off for a few more months to include the few extra features that would have made this app a real Byword competitor for many of us.

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Review Bodum Insulated Stainless-Steel Travel French Press Coffee and Tea Mug.

26.12.2013 01:00

I’ve used these Bodum combined french press and travel mug’s a few times in the past. And now I got one for christmas this year.

I think I have to explain why it is a bad idea to have a combined french press and coffeemug. It is very important to pour the coffee from a french press and over to a coffee-pot or cups, as soon as possible after the coffee is brewed, to avvoid getting a overbrewed drink. Overbrewed coffee just tastes terrible.

It is pretty much unavoidable to get overbrewed coffee in a combined cup and french press.

When I looked at the cup, I found out that they included two different lids. One with a french press-dingus on it, and one without.

This bodum cup is in a lot of ways two different things in one. It is a usable french press, but in no way as good as their regular french press pots. And it is a very good travel mug.

I think I’ll continue using this mug. Without the french press part.

This is a very good mug, and I think everyone should take a look at it, if they want something to keep their coffee hot for a very long time. And it might also be something to look at if you need to make coffee in while traveling, for example on a airplane, train or bus ride. But something like an Aeropress would be a better option, if you need to make coffee in your cabin or when hiking.

Anyway.

A good travel mug.

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The preferred tool, is not always the best one.

26.12.2013 01:00

All of us have our preferred ways to write. And some of us even have preferred ways to write, different kinds of things. For example, I prefer to write my brain dump, in other words stuff I am going to do and my journaling into FieldNotes notebooks. And then transferring them into TaskPaper and Day One later.

This is to have another round of reviewing before I start the doing. And to let my journal entries have a second round of editing before making it into my digital journal.

While I prefer doing my blogging and other kinds of writing on my Macbook Air.

But the tool I prefer to use is not always the best one. I will without doubt write into my notebook if I have it on my person, and I’m sitting down somewhere. But I will use my phone to do this in most other situations; or if it is weird, or attention seeking to pull out a notebook and a fountain pen.

When it comes to writing long form, I prefer my Macbook Air, then my iPad 2 and my iPhone 4S last. I might write down some bullet points or notes for something, if paper is my only option.

The thing is this, I don’t use my preferred tools most of the time. I just pick the tool that is the best fitting within arms reach. I am writing this post on my Macbook Air. But I would have written it on my iPhone or iPad if I my laptop wasn’t already on my lap, when I decided to write this thing.

One other very important point is that both a paper notebook, iPhone and iPad is something that is fare more “focused” than using an laptop. This is because well you can only do three things with a sheet of paper. You can either stare at a blank page, write on it, or stare at a page full of words. And when it comes to your iPhone or iPad, you can only work with one app at a time.

I find this very helpful when I need to write something that I find very hard.

Try to just pick the most convenient tool within arms reach the next time you are going to write something. Don’t get up, pick up your phone, or iPad. You might get some interesting results.

I type faster on a hardware keyboard. But I write better first drafts on everything except hardware keyboards. And I never have to stop to think while writing on paper or on a touch screen. I do that all the time while writing on a regular computer. The reason for this is that I use a little longer write things down, and this makes it possible for my brain to work on the next few sentences, while I’m still typing out the last one.

Like Natalie Goldberg is writing about in Writing down the bones(not an exact quote), the whole dynamic and how you write is very different depending on what you are writing with and on. Typewriter, Computer, paper – it’s all different.

Be a bit mindful, and don’t let the lack of your preferred tool keep you from writing. Because it is the writing part that is important. And especially the writing part. Do yourself a favour, and just write. Fill the pages, or make that Clackity Noise.

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My new GTD system – TaskPaper.

23.12.2013 01:00

This is the third draft, and I really hope it is the last one.

I have used a lot of different GTD and task management apps. The four systems that have been sticking longest are Things, Remember The Milk, OmniFocus. I also used a few custom text file based systems in my Linux and Unix days.

My current GTD system worked great for the last two years, and the systems before that lated about the same length. But my needs changed with me shifting away from doing software development and onto being a full-time student, and doing a lot of writing.

I used to have a capture method that was all about going straight into digital. I switched over to my mac, or picked up my phone when I needed to add something to either OmniFocus, RTM or Things. But I stopped doing this. It was must simpler to just write it down in a pocket sized notebook.

Anyway.

Today, I did the damn thing. I moved everything out of OmniFocus and into TaskPaper and things. I keep everything that don’t have a due date, or is a repeating task in TaskPaper. And that is about 99% of what I do. And the rest is in Reminders, for now. I might change it later.

Why TaskPaper? There was a few things that intrigued me about TaskPaper. It is a very flexible system that isn’t anything more than plain text. I can combine tasks and regular text in the same document. And I can manage it all from anything that can read and write to a simple text file.

TaskPaper is similar to OmniFocus in one way, it is very flexible when it comes to sub-projects and tasks. Something I am a big user of. This is also one thing most GTD solutions is terrible at.

I can’t use anything that is designed to have X levels of projects or tasks. And I can’t use something that isn’t designed to handle everything from two active to 200 active.

Anyway. TaskPaper is the most flexible, simplest and the most effective way to add and process tasks that I have seen to this day.

I’m not 100% sure how this will go. But it is exciting to try something new. And I’ll post a real review of TaskPaper, when I have been using it for a while.

Check out TaskPaper here

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Squarespace galleries, and their portfolio app.

21.12.2013 01:00

I’m a big photo nut, and I take close to 100% of my pictures with a DSLR. I have many reasons for this; they look so much better, and it also makes it possible for me to make great prints for presents.

One of the things that my Lightroom setup don’t have is an iPad and iPhone app that let me sync sets of pictures. And I don’t want to do this with Dropbox viewer apps or to use services like 500px.

I have used both Flickr, 500px and Picasa in the past. But I have come to a point where I want to control as many of the platforms that I use, as possible.

So I use a combination of Squarspace tools to make the images available on this site (if I want to), and to sync them to my iPad. This is great, if you want to show people the pictures you shot.

Step 1

I just export the pictures, from Lightroom.

Step 2

After that I move the folder to Dropbox/Apps/Squarespace/accountid and wait for them to upload.

Step 3

Publish. Then I move into the squarespace admin panel, and hit the publish button in the Dropbox part of the connected account section.

Step 4

Now I can either show people on the web, send them a link, or sync the gallery I created to my iPad and have the whole thing available offline.

The thing I love about squarespace is that you have all the tools you need to do most things. And these things are btw often available in some way on most platforms. But the thing I love about squarespace is that they are available without hassle. And the Portfolio and Gallery functionality is another one of these.

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The Mobile Writer

21.12.2013 01:00

I saw that Patrick Rhone mentioned a new book by Julio Ojeda-Zapata, a few weeks ago. It is called “The Mobile Writer”, and it is one of the few books about writing that I really like. I have read it more than once. And I think it is something everyone that who is or is thinking about writing on their phone or tablet should read.

The thing that really clicked with me and this book was that the author started with telling us, the readers they every computer, tablet and phone on the market is capable writing tools.

You don’t need anything fancy. But, a good writing app might make it more pleasant to write on your mobile device.

He also interviewed different writers, about the tools they use. Before he moves on to talking about different hardware options, apps, accessories. I have not seen many books on this subject that really goes into all of the options, and addresses the different options, and what the real pro and cons for the different options are.

My approach to writing is to use the best tool within arms reach. It might be my MacBook Air, iPhone or iPad. And sometimes I use pen and paper.

Some people like hardware keyboards, while others are perfectly happy with using the onscreen keyboard while writing on their phone or tablet. I don’t write very fast on any of them. And I have come to the conclusion that it is the act of thinking and to figure out what to write that is the time sink, and not the typing.

I used to be one of the crazy people that only wrote on my fancy Apple computer. These days I write on the best option within arms reach.

You should go and get “The Mobile Writer“. It’s not expensive, and it is a great way to spend the night.

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