Writing with IA Writer

Trying IA Writer

As I’ve started doing more writing, I decided to dust off my iPad and discovered that my beloved Plaintext app has been replaced by the behated Plaintext 2 app….so I needed to find a new app.

One of the first things any aspiring writer needs to do, and I know this is true because established professional writers dismiss it (to keep the tribal knowledge secret), is to spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting their workflow and tools. I cannot just write. I must use a suitable app*, preferably on a Mac, and then cobble together a selection of other apps that run on every device I own, including our net-aware refrigerator, so that at any time I may be able to jot record important thoughts.

So I needed to find a new editor.


So, after doing some research I bought IA Writer Pro. It is an excellent choice because it is

  • Expensive
  • Somewhat non-intuitive to use
  • Has exotic features that I’m sure will make me more effective and writery after I figure out what they do

It connects to Dropbox, and that is very important because I have to be able to sync it with Scrivener (even though IA Writer has a Mac app, which works very well). This also presents a larger footprint of sophistication and complexity, which allows me to worry about things like how to get a blog post from this format (markdown), through scrivener, and into the WordPress app. Or just to the WordPress app if I get it done before I get home.

Scrivener is even more writery, and offers a metric ton of features. But back to IA Writer.

It has a syntax feature which highlights different things like sentences, adjectives, and adverbs. This is useful for catching cliches, tell vs show, and other flaws. It also has a character and word counter, and does a decent job integrating a bluetooth keyboard once you figure out how to make that work.


The first one is that in the search for elegance the developers have made their site so incredibly concise that not a single bit of information is mentioned twice, and as a result I had to read the entire site…even things that I wouldn’t have thought I would would have to go looking for. For example, the information on the keyboard commands I had to learn to use certain features (well, all of them, really) is found only on the general page, but not on the iOS page, even though I was using a wireless keyboard on an iPad. It took a good five minutes of hunting for me to find it.

The good news is that the site is so incredibly concise that it didn’t take long to read the whole thing. I highly suggest that you read the section titled Keyboard Use first, if you’re using an external keyboard.

Overall, I’m happy. I wish it would deal with rich text, but most editors I could find have abandoned rich text in favor of markdown.

*Yes, I know paper and pen, or pencil are also valid and excellent choices, but generally it’s a keyboard for production, pen for memory, for me.

Black vs. Gray

Gray versus black. At first I thought it was a stupid question. I’m mainly a black ink person. I do have my moments when a blue black or bright blue will catch my eye, but most of the time, for just about any kind of pen, it’s black. If you’d asked me about gray, I would have said “use a pencil”.

So there I was writing in my Leuchtturm work notebook with a trusty-but-a-bit-over-wet TWSBI 580 extra fine pen and I started noticing that the Noodler’s Black ink didn’t seem to dry very quickly. In some cases, it seemed not to dry really at all. Minutes after writing I could still smudge the lines. If I hit it with a watercolor brush I’m sure it would have been all over the place. I don’t do watercolors in my work notebook, so we’ll never know for sure.

Never mind the fact that my journal, where I do dabble in watercolors a bit, is a BookFactory book with substantially more absorbent paper that had no drying problems, I decided I should seek out a black ink that dried a bit faster. Hence a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black arrived a few days later, along with the discovery that it does dry faster, but mostly because it soaks in, and through, the paper. No good there.

But when I was reading around the inter webs I found a reference to Noodler’s Lexington Gray, and the claim that many artists favored it for drawing because it didn’t cause problems when hit with a wet brush. A short stop to Daly’s Pen Shop later and I had a bottle.

Now the pen is still wet, and I’ll still use black for many things, but the gray was a bit of surprise for me. I like it, and not just for drawing. I’m finding myself wanting to write with it. It’s ridiculous because one of the reasons I like black is the contrast, and clearly gray is going to have less, but still it works in a way. Maybe less contrast is what makes it work.

I don’t know that I will toss black aside for gray, but I think it will be a color I use a lot more than I thought I would.

Thinking while bathing

How do you record thoughts in a bathtub? It’s not a simple problem.

A bath or shower is relaxing. No one can expect much from you while you’re bathing, not that they might not try, but the warm water and quiet have a way of freeing the mind. A free mind naturally leads to big ideas and epiphanies, and like any sensible person, you want to get them down before they’re pushed out by the next thought. The challenge is how to do it in a bathing environment.

You have spraying water, humidity and dampness, so electronics are going to be challenging, although not impossible. Offhand I’m not aware of an underwater voice recorder, but a GoPro camera would work. Lot of work to get the result in usable form, however, and how likely are you to have it charged and ready each morning? Not to mention, the resulting video could be a real liability in the wrong hands.

You could leave a voice recorder running in the dry part of the bathroom and just record the whole session, but who wants to log 30 minutes of bad singing to get to 1 minute of genius? Plus that recording could also be a liability.

Paper never fairs very well, although the products by Rite in the Rain might be the answer, when combined with a bullpen – a Fisher Spacepen would be the ideal choice.

I think the solution is actually simple – a washable marker, or crayon, and write on the tile. Take a picture and upload it to Evernote, when you’re done. Writing on the tile feels bad, even though I have the right to do so, and that could encourage creativity.

Have you ever recorded a thought while bathing? How did you do it?