Writing & Workflow: Scrivener & Simplenote

And it has become a kind of a truism in the study of creativity that you can’t be creating anything with less than 10 years of technical knowledge immersion in a particular field.    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.     Stephen King

…enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.           Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Workflow, for a whole range of professional needs and personal pleasures, is constantly being disrupted lately as tools and processes morph daily or my understanding deepens of what is possible. Mostly, this has been with photography but also, with the demise of Google Reader on July 1st, other long-running workflow habits, that I was very happy with, are in need of a rethink. There are areas where I was never really satisfied, constantly experimenting with new online and cloud services, especially for backing up documents and images. Managing writing projects has proven to be the most unresolved workflow.

Like you, I am always (obsessively) exploring these online tools, software, storage and the plethora of apps that appear in Reeder or via Twitter. I could make an embarrassingly long list of tools that are on my devices which, after my initial explorations, are no longer in regular use. Increasingly, I want to make processes simple and have my stuff synched. It would be good to be less reliant on big (or little) corporations that store my data but the reality is that one has limited choice. One just has to hope their policies are truly ethical and that security is a priority.

At the moment, I am close to being comfortable with the tools assembled for photography, music, writing, sharing, storage and being totally in synch, across devices, especially when travelling. I am close to updated workflows being (mentally and practically) in place having spent quite a deal of time experimenting in recent months.

Now I want to spend more time creating and sharing rather than fooling around with tools.

Ideas and Writing

I like walking and often do my best thinking while out and about with my camera, wandering to the next destination or on public transport. Ideas for family stuff, journal articles, blog posts, lessons, school, university sessions, lines of poetry, descriptions and books come to mind while in full stride but I rarely stop and record anything. Usually, as soon as possible, I try to digitally jot ideas down or just start on the project. My work is spread across a range of Microsoft, Google and Apple products. This self-hosted WordPress blog often stores numerous drafts that may see light or moulder. Often the work I send off to editors is not really organised or stored too logically but I do try to use Diigo to tag my pieces wherever feasible. I have lots of folders, spread across many drives, dating back to 1997.

I never use a pen and paper any more. Ever. There is an old battered suitcase under the house filled with what I once though of as my ’juvenilia’ (chuckling slightly with the hubris of the word) ;) and my writing from the 80s. I mostly use Word for Mac or TextEdit for longer pieces; often making lists with Notes on my iPad or iPhone. I have tried many, many tools and apps but always seem to return to these few. I once thought (2008) that Evernote was brilliant but now, I feel an answer has emerged that suits my needs.

A New Workflow

In short, my need is to draft and store research ideas and references together, in some logically ordered way that allows me to build on what has already been produced, wherever I am, prior to formal publication. Projects, of all sorts, need to be managed. I also need to work on all kinds of lists and miscellany.

Exploring Scrivener 2 has led me to the conclusion that this tool have some longer term value and is worth pursuing, cementing a workflow that is effortless and likely to last, especially when synched with Simplenote on my iPhone or iPad*.

Scrivener is a word-processing program designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. This allows the user to organize notes, concepts, research and whole documents for easy access and reference (documents including text, images, PDF, audio, video, web pages, etc.). After writing a piece of text the user may export it to a standard word processor for formatting. SOURCE

Basically, I can arrange all my ideas and notes easily while still be able to add the thoughts jotted down on my iPhone via Simplenote to Scrivener. Fleeting impressions, descriptions and philosophical moments of clarity can be saved and logically ordered into a larger whole. The whole shebang is backed up effortlessly to Dropbox.

Below is a useful video introduction to Scrivener 2 so you can see what I am excited about.

Scrivener has been a popular for several years and these reviews may be of interest if you want to know more about the software. I recommend watching how to synch with Simplenote and also an external folder, like DropboxThere are many excellent video tutorials for when you have more advanced uses for the software.

Creator, Keith Blounthas a great attitude – his site links to most of Scrivener’s competitors - which reveals a very sound philosophy IMHO. I am yet to explore his new brainstorming app Scapple but am sure some readers of this post will find it potentially useful. Both Scrivener (here) and Scapple (here) are free for a month while you try them out.

Here’s the links for Scrivener on Twitter and Facebook.

What are your thoughts about workflow and Scrivener or Simplenote? Have you any advice or other thoughts about writing workflow?

*NB I am concerned that the iPad app keeps crashing.

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DISCLAIMER

The views expressed at this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

3 Comments

  1. Keith:

    I prefer Drafts to Apple’s Notes or even Simplenote. It’s multifunctional since it’s main design revolves around being able to quickly import notes to tons of other apps. I just wish they’d hurry up and develop a companion app for the Mac (then it’d be perfect).

  2. Pat:

    Thanks! Helpful. I’m starting to use Scrivener, but need a way to create/edit on the go! Going to check out syncing it with Simple Note.

  3. I’m rapidly coming to the same conclusion as this (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-mechner/why-i-write-longhand_b_3575228.html) guy.

    I’ve been tweaking my worlflows forever and with the rapid releases of new apps, updates (as with Evernote recently) that break the app, I’m heading back to the humble pen and paper. It’s easy enough to scan and archive and as Jordan Mechner mentions, I think better away from a screen. I have a handy digital dictaphone for when I’m out and about and am currently learning shorthand.

    It terms of computing I use a mac and plain text marked up with some form of markdown. My problem is the computer is too distracting. It’s great for writing up stuff, but I personally find it poor for creating fresh orginal stuff.

    There’s nothing like a fountain pen and a clean sheet of paper!

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