Assembling the proper tools for creative writing has been a tiresome but crucial process And after all these years of experimenting with various programs and platforms I think I am there. I’ve been searching for ways to increase my productivity and also more efficient, organized. I wanted a means to self-publish quickly and from all my devices no matter where in the world I am at the time. With this setup, I can focus on the content and process as opposed to wondering if the tools I had would do the job. And I think I am there. Finally.
When I want to write for myself, I use this website, which is hosted by WordPress servers. The fact that you are reading this and following along with me is appreciated. When I want to expand and share thoughts on other topics, I will publish to Medium, a website that is designed to connect writers and readers alike.
Before 2019 I was using either Windows or Linux operating systems and this meant my word processors were either Microsoft Word or Google Docs. These writing apps were focused on design and both very cumbersome. Sporadically the text was preserved with autosave, mostly not. No thanks. After migrating everything to the Apple ecosystem in 2019 I began to explore alternatives out there and found a few. The one application that kept coming up was Ulysses.
Ulysses has a minimalist interface and stores your text in iCloud, instantly retrievable on all my Apple devices. I am currently writing this using Ulysses on my new M1 MacBook Pro and the experience is an amazingly refreshing breath of fresh air. Another benefit of Ulysses is the capability to push the Publish button and have my words posted immediately to my website and Medium.
Prior to Ulysses, I would be forced to cut/paste my text from the word processor into the file transfer protocol, upload to my web server and hope the text formatting was screwed up once it arrived, ready for me to publish.
Exporting my text through Ulysses is amazingly effective and one of the best this author has experienced. Every word, link, category, tag, and image is right there as intended.
The same efficiency of self-publishing from Ulysses to my website is there again when publishing from Ulysses to Medium. There are some minor tweaks that I’ll go back in and correct, but it is still more efficient than the past experiences.
This is the final step in the self-publishing process and again, Ulysses comes through brilliantly. As brilliant as it is, some people may balk at the cost, others may find the price to be reasonable but at $40 annually it has been worth the chance for me to write on my phone, tablet, or laptop flawlessly.
“If you think you can learn a lot from reading books, try writing one.”James Clear
Write to connect with the similar people
Write to create opportunities
Write to define your goals
Write to meditate
Write to think better
Write to teach and clarify
Write to deepen your focus
Write to understand yourself
If you are like me, hoarding content for future use, it can give off a false sense of knowledge. In my experience, the best way to understand something is to create or produce my content in my style and then share it with the world. I’ve accomplished this throughout the years here and through my photography. I’m still working up the nerve to share my creative writing, however.
To close the loop from curator to creator I go from collecting my notes, snippets from the web and personal thoughts to connecting ideas and application of these ideas. Only then do I find I am ready to create and share.
Every November for the past few years there comes inspiration from an organization called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words that month in hopes of cranking out a novel. I’m good for about two days out of the month. Last year I switched gears and penned an article a day for this website instead.
A few of the reasons why I haven’t progressed past a second day is because there was a lack of a plan or focus to build this writing habit that I want to see changed this year.
Place- This year I have a dedicated writing space. Since adapting to a quarantined work from home environment I now have two desks, one for work and one dedicated to personal production. For work, my environment is organized, streamlined and ready to do the work for maximum productivity. For personal use, I tend to be more relaxed and dis-organized. But not this year. This year is set up for the potential of maximum creativity. This dedicated desk is both my photo studio and writing space.
Time- In the past, I would decide to get around to doing whenever I had the time or energy. This year I plan on getting back to a consistent schedule, which has been lacking, again, due to quarantine. The 30-step commute makes it easier to roll out of bed later than I would if I had to travel to the office.
Dedicating a minimum of 15 minutes to writing in the morning before I start my 7am work day will be beneficial I think. Also, a minimum of one hour a night to crank out some words will help too. I don’t use the dedicated calendar journal or apps to block out these times, but I will.
Plan- At work, I am a planner. For creativity, I seem to rely on being a pantser, meaning, “fly by the seat of my pants.” Not this time around. Plot developments, character development, story arcs etc are all scheduled for dedicated focus, research and yes, eventually writing.
In addition, a dedicated morning routine such as clean up, exercise, good food and some hot green tea with the same ambient music playing in the background will tell my unfocused brain that hey, this is your current focus, do the work.
I don’t like the concept of accountability but it may help, I don’t know. My personality has a difficult time with this concept. If I can’t hold myself accountable, why should I report or check-in with someone else? How many people would I disappoint including myself? I struggle with this but do plan on updating this site with progress notes.
All of this is to say that by doing one or more of these things is going to help me progress in ways I have not been able to do in the past- to help achieve my writing goals and deliver a better writing habit.
A few months ago I stumbled upon the terms “bi-directional links”, “back links”, and “networked thought.” All designed to enhance research and note-taking.
Since then I’ve installed two new productivity apps to help with my research. More later as I do a deep dive into these.
Eight days ago I began the process of switching from a self-hosted WordPress setup for my website to becoming hosted on WordPress’ own servers. The process was understandably delayed due to the chrisdenbow.com domain name switching over. That process has been completed and just about everything has been smooth.
My only concern has been my personal email records (MX) still being available. They were and still are going through my old server but will they still be available when I choose to renew it next month? As of now, I am still able to send/receive emails through the firstname.lastname@example.org email account.
Readers and users should not see anything different except a new coat of paint when viewing the website. I’ve also added a comments section on each post as well as an RSS feed so you can subscribe and get these posts through your favorite RSS client. I personally recommend NetNewsWire. If anything looks off or is broken, please let me know in the comments.
The whole point of this migration was, as a friend is fond of saying, was “to de-bullshit my life.” With this switch to a hosted version of the WordPress platform was to take advantage of both their desktop and mobile apps. These integrate well with my writing software, Ulysses, and iA Writer (which I am writing this draft in now.)
With all of this behind me, I can focus on creating more content efficiently.
The site ChrisDenbow.com has been published in several iterations over the past twenty years. The domain name has been changed a few times in failed attempts to “rebrand” briefly but the heart and soul has remained true.
Social media (web 2.0), in its infancy was new, exciting and we were teased by the next best website or service. What made these services valuable were the users. Contribute meaningful ideas, engage in eloquent discussions. Ignore the rest. Share. Share. Share.
One of the original opportunities that sprung out of all that was the personal weblog (web log). A weblog or blog is a listing of text, images, or other objects that are arranged in a chronological order that first started appearing in the late nineties. Blogs contain personal remarks about a topic, a personal ramble, or an update on the person’s life. Weblogs are also a personal journal.
My personal experience goes back to 1999. Back then I posted in plain text format through an FTP to a URL provided by my first ISP. I have missed all those acronyms. We were so technical and cool back then. Then converted to the new WordPress platform back in 2003.
Side note: I personally dislike the term “blog” preferring “web site” because of the negative connotations of others. “Oh, you’re a blogger then?”
Nowadays, like-minded people agree that the personal website is even more crucial than ever. Social media has morphed into corporate agendas, marketing, no personal control and privacy concerns.
We’ve rediscovered the old ways are the best ways if we want to avoid all those corporate agendas, marketing, privacy concerns and to take back control. Your own website, your own web address, your own email address, RSS, newsletters, text messaging. These tools are yours to use, not to be used against you. I’ve been doing that through this website. Fine, call it a web log if you want.
Self-publishing is what the World Wide Web used to be and the world wide web is worse without it. Can you appreciate the power and responsibilities we have to take advantage of these opportunities?
For most of its existence, chrisdenbow.com has been a public journal of experiences and insights for an audience of one. For myself. Then in the mid-2000’s it branched off and became moderately successful with local and regional audiences. And this was extremely beneficial in that I would post something and receive immediate feedback from peers. We talked, networked, shared and grew together as a result. But now, most have neglected this thanks to social media. First Twitter, then Facebook. No thanks. The internet has become worse once blogging declined and social media platforms increased their numbers.
This is a great time to rebuild the web in our image and to it’s maximized potential. It is time to embrace the idea again that everyone with access can share their ideas with the world.
I don’t write because I have the answers. I write so I can get the answer.