Steph's Wordplay

My thoughts on reading, writing and all things word related.

Writing Tools – Pen and Quill

At the end of December, after I had decided on my “writing every day challenge,” I found an article on Lifehacker describing a new iOS app for Pad & Quill. They make these really pretty cases for iPhones, iPads and the like and then added software to the list. It sounded like a really nice little app I could use for my journaling, so I downloaded it to give it a try.

On its face, the app is gorgeous. The notebook covers look like notebooks (much like a Moleskine, actually). There are several designs by default and you can get additional covers, as well as additional fonts, through an in-app purchase. To open the book, you just touch the cover and it opens to a blank page. Buttons across the bottom allow you to reach the Table of Contents for navigation, the fonts, a way to insert photos and delete function. A plus sign at the top of the page allows you add additional pages. Data can be synced to your iCloud account and accessed on both iPhone and iPad devices.

I very much enjoyed the application at first. The pages are clean and neat without distracting nonsense. You can even go to full-screen mode and make the small buttons at the bottom disappear. I used it for the entire month of January for my daily journaling habit.
I had several complaints as the month went on, however. Chief among them was performance. The more pages I added to my journal, the slower it became to sync and to even open the notebook. There were several terrifying moments where I thought I’d lost what I had just written, because the pages would go blank, only to reappear minutes later. About halfway through the month, I started having to coax it to add new pages. Then it would add one, but I couldn’t type on it. I sometimes repeated days because I couldn’t see them save. Sometimes it would freeze up and I couldn’t see the buttons. And forget trying to pull it up on my iPad when I’d been working on my iPhone. The delay to sync from the cloud to the new device was crazy.

And please note, I was doing this on a Wi-Fi connection at home (not over cellular) and my daily journal entries are a couple of paragraphs at best. I’m not writing “War and Peace” every night to chronicle every waking moment.
I also found I liked the idea of capturing other things besides just the date. This is probably super nerdy, but I wanted to capture the weather and maybe the mood I was in and other little shorthand items like that. I suppose, yes, I could have typed in the weather, but I’d really rather have something that did it for me.

I considered also using the app for story ideas or notes or random things I wanted to jot down. However, I found it annoying that I couldn’t rename the notebooks to what they contained. They all say “Notebook” across the front and it’s not editable. You could, I imagine, color code them, but I’m terrible about remembering stuff like that. I also thought to perhaps create a title page in each one, but you can’t insert pages out of order and I’d already started the journal notebook with simply my first entry.
Too late, of course, I realized I have no way to get at this data other than through the app. There’s no export function or anything like that. So now I have a month’s worth of journal entries in an app I don’t like and there’s not much I can do about it.

So, while it is truly a lovely app to look at, the performance issues were really just too much for me; I decided to abandon the app at the end of January.

Next up on my list is an app specifically designed for journaling (maybe I get a “duh” for not trying that first) called Day One. Apple fans will likely know about this one as it’s extremely popular in that ‘verse. No support for Windows folks, sorry! I started using it as of the first of February and it’s been lovely so far. I’ll update again at the beginning of March with how I’m liking it.

What do you use for journaling? Pen and paper? An app on your phone? A website? Let me know in the comments!

Update: New Year’s Write Every Day Challenge

So, here we are, thirteen days into the new year, and I’m writing another blog post! I’ve been doing my writing every day thing and it’s working out nicely. I took my friend Janet’s suggestion about including journaling in that time and I think that’s why I’ve been successful so far. I’m still struggling to get back into fanfiction, so being able to put something down in a journal every day has been good to keep me writing without the pressure of publishing something.

I’m working on getting past my…hold up…on the fanfiction front. I have written some stuff over the last few months, but haven’t finished anything. And often, I’ve hated what I wrote. My words felt clunky. Not clean. Especially after I read back through some things I’d written a good while ago. It made me think, “gee, I wrote that?” And “how come I can’t write like that anymore?” I haven’t tried to update anything much since I started feeling better. Maybe it was just the burnout? I’m not really sure and it makes me afraid to try, I guess. I think that’s why I like this and the journaling. I just have to be me here. Not try to figure out plot and character and substance and not saying the same thing in the same way for the millionth time.

I’ve been telling myself I just need to get over it. Get into something and start banging stuff out. They say the only page you can’t edit is a blank one, right? And yet… I can’t seem to start, even though I have some ideas floating around. I’ve been pondering some stuff in my head, but haven’t tried to write any of it down. As Janet also noted on Twitter the other day, sometimes you’ve got stuff in your head, so you sit down thinking you’re going to crank out some brilliant stuff and you just..don’t. (Yes, Janet says lots of smart things I’ll be quoting. Also, you should be reading her blog.) I’ve been in that space a lot lately. I keep thinking I’m going to crank out something awesome, but then it just doesn’t come through. I’m still pondering how to get past that. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

How are your New Year’s challenges going? Making progress? Or have you called it on account of rain? Please share in the comments!

Welcome 2014!

Well, we’re through another year and about to embark on the next adventure. Like so many people, I view the new year as a time to start fresh. To think about where I am and where I want to be. I dislike the concept of resolutions, so I won’t be using that word. But I am planning some goals and challenges for this year.

Round this time last year, I planned to start writing every day. It’s a popular concept and I really think it’s useful. I got off to a good start and I was definitely enjoying it. However, about two weeks into the new year, a co-worker quit the company and I got nearly all the work she was doing. My manager did the math much later on and determined I was being allocated at more than 250%. I could have worked 100 hour weeks and still not gotten it all. I’m the kind of person who gets very much caught up in my work. I love what I do (technology related) and I was determined to make it all work. I’ve been down the burnout road in the past, though, and it was ugly, so I was also determined not to let myself get dragged so far in I couldn’t get out. I did give it my all though, and by the end of each day, remembering my name seemed like a chore. Writing was totally out of the question.

While I didn’t escape burnout, I managed it as best I could. My manager came on part way through the year and made it his mission to get more people hired and ease my workload. I will forever appreciate him for his efforts. We’ve finally managed to get me down to a considerably more reasonable load and the more than two weeks I took off over Thanksgiving and Christmas have started me down the road to recovery. I’ve still got a way to go and things at work are not perfect, but I’m in a hell of a lot better spot than I was.

So, in consideration of these changes, I’m going back to the writing every day challenge. A writer friend on Twitter also suggested including journal writing in my daily quota (Thanks, Janet!). I’ve not written a journal since I was in college, but it’s something I’ve considered lately. I’m not sure how it will fit into this plan, but I’m going to explore it and see what happens! I have a couple of apps for my phone/iPad for this purpose, so I’m going to try them out. I might try a blog post about them and share how they’re working out.

Of course, writing for this blog will count toward my challenge, so I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress as I go. I’m shooting for once every couple weeks for that and potentially some posts to my Supernatural blog. Between those, my fan fiction, and the journal, I should have plenty to keep me occupied!

That’s it for now. If you have a moment, feel free to share in the comments if writing daily has worked for you. Also, any suggestions on how to incorporate journalling into my day would be much appreciated!

Writing Every Day – Update #2

So, wow.  It’s been over a month since I started my writing every day project.  It started out really well.  I was writing nearly every day, even weekends and I was making a lot of progress on a lot of different things.  It was brilliant!

And then……..

A co-worker took a position at another company at the end of January.  Not only was I crushed as she’d become a good friend and I was going to miss seeing her everyday, but it also meant I was going to have to take on a bunch more work.  Long story short, I had to take on several extra clients and my days were suddenly wall to wall work.  By the time I left at night, got home and got dinner, it was time for bed and my brain was mush.  Writing my name became a chore.

Writing every day has now become writing several times a week, if I’m lucky.  This post, for example, has taken three days to write.  My boss tells me we should be getting a new person soon and I’ll be able to transfer these extra clients off to them and I won’t be so harried.  Crossing my fingers that happens before I lose my mind!

Anyway, I’m still plugging away and I’m trying not to be discouraged.  I’ve still got lots of ideas circling about, so my muse has not abandoned me due to neglect.  I was able to post a new chapter on my Supernatural fanfiction earlier this week and I’m posting this today, so it’s keeping me going.

If you have any suggestions for how to keep writing during stressful times, please sound off in the comments!

Writing Every Day – Update

Well, it’s been 2 weeks since I started my “writing every day” odyssey and it’s working pretty well so far!  I’ve managed to write something every day, save one.

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed so far is that I’m not having to struggle for things to do.  Not sure if the Muse simply happened to choose now to be stimulated or if writing every day is stimulating.  Also, switching back and forth between fan fiction and blog posts has been helpful.  I’ve read that taking a break often spurs creativity and doing the context shift from fiction to blog writing has definitely done that.

I’m also finding that not pressuring myself to write a certain amount is helpful.  Some days I’ve just done some editing and maybe 100 words.  Other days, I’ve been able to crank through over 1000.  But either way, I’m doing something every single day.

And it feels good! 🙂

If you’ve tried writing every day as an experiment, or if you just write every day naturally, let me know how it’s working for you in the comments!

Writing Tools – Index Card for iOS

First, let me say the writing every day thing is hard….and it’s only been a few days… 🙂

Yesterday’s writing amounted to jotting down some ideas for future blog posts and thinking through some possible plot points for my fanfiction. Today I hope to make up for it with this and some actual writing on my fanfiction (instead of just thinking about it).

My note-taking yesterday prompted the idea of this post. I’m all about cool apps for my iPhone, so I was excited to see one that might help me organize my writing. I’ve tried about a zillion different ways, but none of them have been exactly what I wanted. This one is shaping up to be The One. I hope…

The app is called Index Card. There are versions for iPhone and iPad (sorry Android folks) and so far, I am loving it. Basically, it’s meant to emulate index cards on a cork board (although you can change up to a plain background). You create a project (ex. Blog Posts) then create cards underneath with a title, a synopsis, then a larger notes section. It’s got plenty of export and backup tools to allow you to edit anywhere, as well as integration with Scrivener. 

So far, I’ve been using it to keep track of possible plot ideas for my fanfiction, as well as ideas for blog posts. If I’m not sure what I want to do, I can just put in a title to jog my memory. Or, as I flesh things out, I can add more and more notes. With the sync to Dropbox as RTF, I can pull them up even if I don’t have my phone handy (when is does that ever happen?).

I’m finding it’s more easily organized than the random notes I was making in random docs on Google Drive (where I do most of my writing). They can be easily reordered to create a flow and are quickly editable. I’m still doing outlines as needed as a doc on Google, but the bits and bobs of ideas I have seem to work much better on these cards. 

Writing Something Every Day

As part of re-booting for the new year, I’ve been thinking about a lot of the advice I’ve seen from writers across the board about writing something every day. Sometimes I find it really difficult to motivate myself to write, even when I have something I’ve been working on or an idea in place. The commonly suggested solution is to write at least a little something every day. I believe the theory is that it’ll get easier over time and your writing will get better and it’ll all just snowball into yummy goodness.

I’ve got no idea if this will work or not, but I’m going to give it a shot. My plan is to either post something here or work on an existing piece of fanfiction every day and see what happens. After a few months, I’ll see how it feels. Wish me luck!

“Sometimes the …

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss

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