I always wanted to do a screen capture of my writing process. So using Spector Pro capturing software, I edited down two hours worth of research and writing, using ScreenFlow, into a 1 minute video. The video is a little geeky, I know, but if you’re a writer you can relate.
I’m happy to report that one of my favorite topics to write about has finally been published a book length guide titled the Awesome Guide to Mac Automation.
This guide is for Mac users who want to get more done on their Mac with less work. It includes step-by-instructions for using Apple’s smart automation technology, including smart folders, smart albums, smart playlists, and it’s free automation application, Automator.
Among other things you’ll learn how to:
- Use smart folders to manage your files and folders
- Using iTunes’ smart playlists to organize your music
- Find the photo your looking for with iPhoto
- Sort your email without any effort, using Mail.app’s smart filters and folders
- Using Automator to script without any programming knowledge
The guide is free, and I’m in the process of writing a professional version of the guide that will introduce advanced automation programs, including Quickeys 4.0, Hazel, and AppleScript.
The guide can be downloaded for free from MakeUseOf.com.
It’s amazing sometimes how a small application can solve such a big problem. In this case, I’m referring to setting up calendar reminders in iCal for events and tasks. The process is a pain. First off, you have to launch iCal, which feels like taking your car in for repairs, then type in the text fields—the name of the event, the time, and the alarm notification. It take likes eight clicks to get a simple task done, even if you use some sort of Automator hack to do it. It just really shouldn’t that difficult, especially when you want to set a reminder on the fly.
Ohhh…the challenges of writing. Most people dread it. Many of us had poor grade school experiences of English teachers demolishing our work with countless red ink error corrections and question marks all over the papers we stayed up late writing the night before. We dreaded subjects we had to write about and the revisions we had to make—the entire process was like cleaning a messy room. The pain and arduous process of good writing is what makes simple cell phone text messaging and 140-character Twitter posts so much easier.
So why is writing so hard? Well, partly because it’s not as natural as talking. The old adage that says, write like you talk is not quite valid. Good writing is not always like we talk. We don’t talk in complete sentences. We constantly correct ourselves. We utter our thoughts. And if just can’t articulate we what we’re thinking, we can always say, “You know.”
Why Good Writing Is Hard
Good, coherent writing is not like talking. Writing is a process. It’s messy. It’s uncertain. It doesn’t add up like 2+2=4, even though there are grammar and spelling rules. Writing is somewhere between an art and a math equation, and that’s what makes it hard. There are rules that we can apply to make our writing good, but writing requires a sense of style and timing that makes writing interesting.
As a writer, my skills have grown over the years, simply because I write nearly everyday—not just for myself, but for readers. It’s one thing to keep a personal diary or blog in which you can choose not to focus on communicating your thoughts but to use writing to document your experiences and what’s on your mind. When you write for readers, it’s different challenge. You want your writing to be read. You’re trying to communicate information to others in way that makes that information easy to understand.
If you’re a fiction writer (which I‘m not), you’re trying to both entertain your readers and draw them into your fictionalized world. If you’re a serious fiction writer, you know your readers won’t waist their time with a poorly written story.
When a reader reads a book or even an article, he or she is entering into a contract with the writer. The reader is agreeing to give over his/her time to read what the author has to say. The reader expects the author to make to make the time and experience of reading worthwhile. By the same token, the author wants the full attention of the reader.
That’s the challenge of writing is to make topics interesting, comprehensive, accessible, and rewarding for readers.
The process of producing good writing is what I will cover in part 2 of this topic.
(Photo acknowledgement: Dave )
I could easily do an entire website about e-reading devices, and if I did, iAnnotate PDF would be at the top of my list as the best app for reading and annotating text on the iPad.
Recently, the developers of iAnnotate put out a press release about how their app is a required iPad program for first-year medical students at Standford. I can certainly understand why. I actually prefer iAnnotate over Apple‘s iBook and Amazon’s Kindle app—the latter two in my view are mainly for reading novels, not books and documents that require lots of annotating.
With iAnnotate, you can wirelessly import PDFs via the developer’s Aji Reader Service app, the file-sharing service, Dropbox, or through a wired connection between iTunes and the iPad. You an also directly download a PDF from within iAnnotate browser itself. I’ve imported and opened PDFs as large a 500 pages without a problem.
I have tried on a couple of occasions to use the speech recognition program, MacSpeech Dictate. In fact, I am writing this blog entry using the program.
While my typing skills are okay (30-40wpm), I would like to use MacSpeech Dictate to alleviate some of the typing I have to do throughout the day.
When you first consider using a program like this, you almost think that speaking your words is a lot easier than writing them out. But that is not the case. While it is easy to speak words and see them typed out in less than a second, being able to dictate coherent thoughts is the most difficult challenge. When you write by hand or when you‘re typing you have time to reflect and think about what you want to say before you write it. The same thing happens with dictating words, but is much harder to do so. Somehow it seems that you need to have your thoughts completely developed before you start speaking, otherwise the flow of your words might not be that good.