I was reading a post today by a man selling a new book on using your mind and developing super awareness. There's an irony headed your way. Can you tell?
As I read each paragraph, all was well. I was learning about various ways I could improve my mind and increase productivity. I learned that most of us are just mental slobs, barely slogging our way through life, mostly unconscious and missing everything.
But I also learned that this is OK.
We can change!
We have the power to become super aware and this book details it all in detailed detailing with extra detail.
Well, I can tell you I was getting a little excited at this point. I was thinking, yeah, bring this book on! I think I'll buy that. I need super awareness yesterday. I think I'll get the wallet out.
I hit a sentence that made absolutely no sense and I was no longer interested.
It was a simple mistake. A word was missing. A simple typo; the sort of thing that happens to all of us all the time. The only problem was that I saw it first. The typo had made it to the published page.
I'd been dreaming the dream of the writer and following his every word. I'd been riding on the mind highway he'd created and it seemed smoothly paved and we were going places.
And then, suddenly, we hit a solid wall and I was lost and the dream was gone. I immediately left the page, went over to my blog and started writing instead of reading.
What the Author Lost
Notice all the things the writer wanted from me which are not happening:
- I did not keep reading.
- I did not go buy the book.
- I did not learn the author's final point.
- I did not find myself trusting the author.
And I was also driven to such distraction that it pushed me into the stratosphere of meta-cognition where I began thinking about ALL the various examples of crappy writing out there that seem to be multiplying as we push on down the road of instant, global publishing from your pocket.
Every time this happens I get to notice how I reach a certain point, a certain threshold of ignoring errors and bad grammar. After 4 or 5 errors, my evaluation system kicks in and I start suspecting I've picked up some crap. A couple more errors and that's it, I am done and gone. I have labeled the author a hack, or at least a time waster and someone to avoid in the future.
It seems the modern pressure to produce material quickly has helped justify the publishing of unproofread work.
Don't fall prey to the pressure. Crappy really isn't good enough. Eighty percent really isn't good enough when it comes to spelling and grammar and proofreading in general. And if you can't tell, hire an editor!
Here's The Opportunity
The real damage happens when you break the spell you're weaving in the reader's mind. The road between your mind and the reader's must be smooth and uninterrupted by the potholes of bad grammar and typos if you hope to transmit your message successfully.
Even a single pothole is enough to drive your reader into a brick wall and stun them into never coming back.
And they're certainly not going to buy what you're selling. So if you think it's safe to publish crappy sales letters and unedited educational marketing materials, by all means, carry on! Less competition is OK by me.
Some will say I'm dumb and this extra effort is not worth the trouble in this fast-paced age of instant-on and gimme-now knowledge. “You know what I meant!” cries the lazy writer. And to those folk, I say keep on keepin' on. I'll avoid you and you'll avoid me. Good to go.
But for the rest of us, we who want to create excellent work that stands the test of time, we can make our work better and better with a commitment to focused proofreading and awareness. We'll succeed where others are eventually run down by the typo bus and forgotten—trash on the byways of excellence.
Lastly, if you're selling super awareness and your work is filled with typos, I must say I'm a little concerned. I'm not so sure I need to buy any of what you're selling. In fact, I think I might have an awareness book I'd like to sell you!
Scrivener Helps You Pull It All Together
Ever wondered how in blazes you capture, organize and store all your ideas for blog posts so you always have access to them and can quickly find them and start writing?
And secondarily, but perhaps even more importantly, do you pine for a program that works with you instead of fighting you every step of the way as you attempt the sometimes hideously challenging work of writing useful and interesting blog posts?
These questions have plagued me for many years.
In the beginning, and for a long time thereafter, I struggled to manage my ideas and my written words. I wrote ideas on scraps of paper, tried bookmarking links on Delicious to jog my memory and save reference material for later, created multiple text documents in TextEdit and stored these in folders, emailed myself ideas and partial drafts, and tried many far more arcane and useless methods to manage my written words.
Of course some might (somewhat rightfully) suggest that all this effort to find a way to write was just a manifestation of Resistance, but that’s a post for another day.
Throughout it all though, when it came time to actually bang out a post, I had a devil of a time finding all the various bits of digital and physical mnemonic rubbish I had created and set to whirling metaphorically and literally all around my life. In other words, I was frustrated before I even sat down to write because I knew it would be a royal pain to gather my wits and bits. And since it was frustrating, I would rarely end up writing at all.
6 Things I Had to Have
So to recap, my writing frustrations led me to want:
- Somewhere to save ideas so that I could easily find and categorize them
- Easy and smart management of drafts and revisions
- A way to quickly see my word count without undue effort
- Great tools—better stuff than the basics in WordPress or TextEdit (the equivalent of Notepad for Windows users) but a simple and easy interface
- Relief from the frustration and pain with the WordPress composition screen
- Having everything synchronize over the network so I could write online or offline and on whichever device I happened to be using at the moment
Enter Scrivener, the Answer to Every Sane Blogger’s Dreams
A couple years ago I found Scrivener and played with it and thought it was wonderful. But at the time I was blinded by other tools and just didn’t think of Scrivener as a blogging tool. My loss. About 6 months ago I re-discovered it and I can tell you that not only did it address all 6 of the aforementioned desires, it went way beyond that and taught me to be a more organized writer to boot.
Now I also use Scrivener to:
- Store PDFs, pictures, links and sites in my research bin
- Highlight keywords in my post so I can see SEO issues quickly
- Speak my text back to me—I love this! (yes you can do this in the OS X system, but this is also integrated so no need to run outside the app.)
- Sync with DropBox so yes, even though there isn’t a Scrivener app for iPad, you can use SimpleNote and DropBox and easily sync your work between your iPad and your desktop or notebook computer.
Why Writing Inside WordPress Sucks
Some bloggers have suggested that you should just save drafts on your server in WordPress and write inside the composition screen in WordPress. But honestly, that sucks for 2 reasons that I can think of now, and probably more reasons I’ll think of later.
- I have definitely had a browser lock up, or a server hiccup on ‘Save’ and lost all my work more than once.
- (As if 1 weren’t reason enough not to write in WordPress!) I can’t FIND anything quickly and easily when I’m looking for it.
- And 3 (oh look, I thought of another one!) I can’t stand writing in that little window—I’m forever dragging the right-hand corner downward and trying to move it around so that the line that I’m actually typing is right in front of me, etc.
- And another thing—I have to flip around among my bookmarks site, my text document filled with reminders, and more things I can’t remember at the moment while editing and writing.
The Pièce de Résistance
When you’re writing in Scrivener, you can set it to full screen and then suddenly, wonderfully, masterfully you are presented with a layout with type that is the size you’ve set, a darkened background to eliminate distraction and, the pièce de résistance, a constantly rising text line that stays at the same level as you type so you never have to scroll the page as you continue to fill the screen with brilliant tappity taps!
Here’s the thing—Scrivener is a marvelous piece of software and what’s neat is that even though it appeals to a crazy-wide variety of humans doing superbly disparate types of writing, it doesn’t feel kitchen-sinky or Microsoft-Wordy in the least. In fact, the tools stay out of your way and let you get to the business at hand (by which I mean writing in case you were thinking marmalade sifting or tarmac shaving).
Note that the latest version of Scrivener was recently released (version 2.0) and I'm even more pleased with it as I continue to learn its new features. Also, this program has traditionally been available on the Macintosh only, but they've also released a version for Windows.
There are so many other features I haven't touched upon, but I figure if you're even remotely curious, you can find out a lot more about Scrivener on their website.
I wrote this because I thought it was important to feature Scrivener as a blogging tool and get the attention of bloggers who might have overlooked it. Truly, if you’re blogging and not using Scrivener, you may well be caving in to Resistance more often than you know.