Someone asked me the other day “how can you be so careful about your writing, and still make so many mistakes?” Since the questioner was not an Obama supporter, I found it safe to assume she was talking about my grammar, not my content.
In a lighting quick reply I said, “It’s not easy. You have to work at it”.
What I should have said was, “It’s not easy you have to have a system”.
And I do. One of my crucial writting tools is an application called Journler. It has been with me from the start of my writing adventure, ever since I got my Mac, and it is the primary reason why I’m sure I’ll never again go back to a Windows machine. There just is nothing comparable in the vast sea of Windows applications to Journler. Although I find this surprising, I don’t really care, because while Journler brought me to the Mac I have since learned that there are a number of other reasons to use OS X as a writing platform in addition to the functionality in Journler. So this looks like a one way trip.
Journler is a notebook, datebook, cataloger, research collector, document organizer, and, yep, a journal, all in an deceptively simple application. The front end of the app allows you to add meta data like category and tags, labels and flags to rich text entries and then sort, folder and edit these entries using manual or smart screens.
In other words its just like the handwritten Moleskins I kept for years but in a format that I can actual use to synthesize rough work into something useful.
The developer is brilliant programer named Phil Dow, who gets the award for software guy most involved in his user group. Phil is constantly in on-line chat with the Journler community taking suggestions, fixing problems, but mostly educating people about the power and functionality already inherent in his application. Phil and Journler also have a large and devoted user community who seem to answer functionality posts instantly. There is one user, named NovaScotian, who seems to know as much about scripting the app as Phil does and generously donates his time to many comers. This kind of community is crucial when you are adopting an application you will be in everyday, sometimes all day long.
Journler has a Palm like simplicity engineered inside of a Mac OS’ power. All of the entrees (in my case fiction and non fiction drafts, ideas for development, notes about the day, travel logs, my Covey like vision goals and objects stuff, research about topics the pique my interest, pictures from the Opera…) are saved as natively readable files in folders in the Mac. It is like a giant index card file. The best part is the natively readable format. What this means is that (heaven forbid) Phil packs it in and heads to Tahiti leaving us with an abandoned application, all the files are just sitting there as if you had written everything in Word and set up your own folder system for organization (Its not quite that simple, but its close) Those of you who used applications like Commence for journaling or date-booking, or just keeping address, will know exactly what I mean when I say it really sucks when an application is abandoned and you are stuck with an unreadable proprietary data file or a funky, only kind of works but usually doesn’t, export option.
This safety hatch alone was enough to get me to commit to using Journler for my everyday witting. Phil would tell you that there is much more to Journler, like full text indexing, a bizarrely powerful thing called a lexicon, integrated media options like picture capture, movies, and sound, GTD support, some blogging integration, and the like, but for me the ability to have a repository tool for my stupid ideas, that can be integrated with some other less stupid ideas, then reworked into some vaguely coherent thoughts, and linked to the same stuff I already wrote about four months ago, referencing notes I took from a periodical in 2006 , and then slowly developing it all into something that just might be readable by someone outside of my immediate family, (they have to say they like my stuff because I feed them) this makes Journler my everyday writing tool.
A few years ago I went to Mark Twain’s house located outside of Hartford to escape an interminable business meeting at a stupid little company that was on the verge of failing before we bought them. I paid the museum’s admission, walked through the explanatory display and took the tour of the brown victorian house Twain called home from 1871 to 1891. It was exhilarating to walk the same halls this great American mind had occupied, to see the dining room where he tried out his lecture material, and see the upstairs study where he had penned his greatest works. At the head of his desk was a forty cubby hutch where he would keep cards and scraps of paper organizing the thoughts that came to him and which he later would meticulously arrange into his writing or his wildly popular speeches. As I think of the tools I use, I can’t help but think that were Twain with us today he would have the same cubby systems, but in an electronic format, on his Mac, and he would probably have built it in Journler.
More on file systems, archiving and note taking from Dougist…
Moving on from Journler, DT, all of them… File System Infobase Manager