Time and finding the right tools

Oh boy. Finding the time. Between work and things you must do to keep your life in order, it’s challenging to find the time to write. It’s challenging to make the time. My head gets jumbled full of ideas and I try to save them, but it’s impossible without writing them down. Trouble is, the ideas that seem most interesting come at 3:30 AM when I cannot sleep. Another voice asks: “How do I know these are good ideas? It’s 3:30 AM? What if this idea is a bad hallucination?” So nothing gets written down.

I’ve been playing around lately with Scrivener as a writing tool. It appears to have many of the features that would make it easier to get the thoughts out now and organize them later. I found Scrivener while looking for an alternative to Apple’s Pages program. I had used Pages to write The Randy Scuffle Papers, and it gave me just enough control. Once you have it figured out, it’s quite easy to use and there are plenty of adjustments you can make to your copy as you write. I was using the version that came with iWork 09; it worked just fine until…

Well, Apple keeps changing things. New operating systems, new versions and updates of everything. It’s nice until they stop supporting your version and your computer starts to slowly decay. I wonder when my personal operating system won’t be supported anymore; I know my hardware is starting to get a bit squeaky, especially in the knees. So I finally broke down and got a new Macbook Pro. I loved my old one. It served me well. If Apple has done one thing well, it is that they make great hardware. At least in my experience. So my old Macbook still works fine, it’s just that the operating system isn’t supported anymore and all the new versions of software won’t run on it. Ha ha. Too bad for you!

At any rate, I opened up some of my old files in the new version of Pages and immediately felt sick. Are you kidding me? No Garamond font? That’s what I used for The Randy Scuffle Papers, and for a good portion of the next book. Okay, I can use Palatino. That should work fine, and I can reformat where needed. But still, Garamond is such a classic it’s hard to see it go. I have used Palatino before professionally and it is a very serviceable font, so it’s not the end of the world. Then I started trying to write with the new version of Pages. Crap. I mean shit. What? Half of the functions that make the program decent have gone missing. I’m starting to get annoyed now. They’ve made it stupid. They’ve made it simple. They’ve made it so it works on a mobile device. Like I’m going to write books on a mobile device.

What really annoys the shit out of me is that I pay a premium for an Apple device. Human factors and usability experts have obviously been involved in many facets of their product development. The software, including the operating systems, is getting uglier and dumber with each iteration. But at least it’s not Microsoft Word, which I find completely frustrating to use. (Gee, where did they hide that function? Is it an icon? It it a menu item that uses words? Is it hidden in some mode I’ve not discovered?)

Sorry for the detour. Pages now looks like a cartoon version of a word processor that’s been designed for little kids, so I’m trying to find a substitute. Scrivener may be it, at least for doing books and such. I will update in another posting once I’ve played with it a bit more. The weirdest thing may be having to get used to not seeing your actual layout until you “print” it. If that turns out to be a PITA, I may keep looking, as I haven’t had a chance to really try it yet. I’ll have to make the time. -Phil Reebius

 

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