I’ve decided to put Scrivener aside for now and write in a basic word-processor.
Now before I get lynched by writers who swear by it, I should, of course, explain why I’m setting it aside for now. There are several issues. And the biggest problem is the hardest to describe. It has never felt like a comfortable app to use, for me. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about that isn’t quite right to me. It is as though I’m always trying to scale the learning curve instead of happily using it at some plateau.
Perhaps it is because I use the Linux version. The Linux version has had a rough start. The current versions are pretty good now, but for quite a while it struggled a bit with some Linux-isms that Windows didn’t have and OS X didn’t have. Things like correct library versions and filename and path handling that was just a little different (it probably didn’t help that Linux filesystems are completely case correct, unlike both Windows and Mac – this means you can have a file called “file.x” and one called “File.x” in Linux; Windows doesn’t like that and OS X will tolerate it but will do unexpected things sometimes).
Another way of looking at this was that I couldn’t really get into the same UI mindset as the designers. I don’t have a problem doing this with LibreOffice. This might be because it was originally an OS X app. I recently switched to OS X at work and there are a few things that bug me about OS X that I know Apple has no intention of changing, even if they could understand why I don’t like them.
This might also be related to the fact that I struggled to embrace Scrivener’s workflow. Scrivener makes it so easy to switch between scenes often when writing. However, that is quite disruptive and I shouldn’t do it. It is harder in a word-processor, but it doesn’t feel so disruptive.
The last problem is trying to manage my writing on multiple devices. You’d think I could access a Scrivener project on my flash drive just as comfortably in OS X as in Linux. However, it always feels fragile. It also leaves out my Android tablet.
So, I’m going back to writing in a word processor. I know word processors. I’ve used LibreOffice since it was called StarOffice. I’m more comfortable in it.
One of the problems of modern technology for aspiring writers (e.g. me!) is that there are so many more ways to lay down your writing. Barely a decade ago, the best option was a laptop with only moderate battery life, or a paper notebook if your handwriting wasn’t too bad. Nowadays, however, with tablet computers and cloud storage, it is possible to spit out a few hundred words almost wherever you are and have them saved for future confusion.
Oddly enough, I find it almost makes it harder to write.
The late Steve Jobs was undeniably passionate about what he wanted to achieve, and more importantly, passionate and driven about how. Many of those who have worked with him, both inside and outside of Apple, have expressed surprise at how fast Apple made design-oriented decisions. This was largely because of What Steve Says Goes.
As Isaacson has chronicled, Steve Jobs built Apple Computer up from two guys in a garage to a company with billions of dollars in turnover selling iconic products that are instantly recognisable. He had a vision of computing made easy, but not by asking people what they wanted. Instead he would create something new, different and compelling. The Apple that Apple became after it bought NeXT, and therefore, Steve Jobs, was focussed in a way it never really had been.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the product range. Jobs clearly believed that a multitude of products in a marketplace was not the way to go. When they introduced the iPod, there was just one model. Compare with Sony’s adventures with MiniDisc: the last major iteration (the 1Gb format) had at least five models. It was difficult to distinguish the various models apart.
Apple also observed that sales of their iPods drove sales of their Macintosh computers. This has also been observed with the iPhone and iPad: you need to develop on a Mac to write apps for the iPhone or iPad. But I’ve also seen people go down the Mac route for their computing “because It Just Works”. Hmm.
Apple is passionate about a good end-to-end computing experience. People like that. But just like I can respect what AC/DC did for the rock industry, I don’t have to like them.
I happen to dislike a number of Apple’s technology choices. Unsurprisingly, this was not Steve Job’s forte. Sometimes this is because I have investments in other technologies. The first one was that my music was in Ogg Vorbis long before AAC and the iPod appeared. Other times it is a difference in politics. Nowhere is this more prominent than in their curation of iPhone and iPad apps. But I grew up where once you owned the hardware, you could do what you like with it. This is why I run Linux on my PCs.
But it does make me wonder about the sacrifices necessary to honour an investment in passion. Steve Jobs firmly believed in that and made choices, unashamed at alienating people and their opinions. As a result, Apple believes that. I wonder how long that will remain true.