Tag Archives: Working Methode

Languages Again

As ever I have trouble finding out which language to use when I write, and who knows, even when I think. I have been writing in English the last years, but I try to speak Danish in my normal life (not to mention the other languages that are running around somewhere in my head).
Lately I started writing some more things in Danish, and as I didn’t know where to put these on this English blog, I decided to add a wordpress.com blog in danish to it. Just to keep things gathered in the right places. I’ll just see what happens with it, as I don’t want to force me to use a certain language. When I read a book in Danish or Dutch, my natural reaction is to write about it in its language, and the same happens when I listen to a radio program, a video or whatever.

For now I decided to try not to worry about it, even though I know that as a result of changing languages none of them will perhaps be used in an eloquent way, but I will put my trust in the eventual power of simplicity. I have to.

I never liked fairy tales

(edit: I found this post from febr. 2008, written just before I started this blog. I might as well publish it here. I’ll write soon about how/why I found it)
H. C. Andersen. Source: Wikipedia

I never liked fairy tales, not even as a child. Yesterday I visited the H. C. Andersen museum in Odense and it didn’t really help me to change my mind. As a boy I liked the set-up of the stories, the athmosphere and questions that arose during the reading. I often was wondering how the story would end and how all problems would be solved. But the solutions that were offered to create an end to the stories were most of the times very unsatisfying. It was as if the writer didn’t know himself and just when it became interesting he or she created a witch or a fairy to do some magic and suddenly solve all unsolved endings. And they live happily ever after and got many children. Boom! End.

I had in mind that H.C. Andersen and the Grimm Brothers used old folk tales and other sources and I got the idea that those original sources might be more interesting than these uninspired endings.

During my visit to the museum yesterday I got the impression that H. C. Andersen was a hard working writer that gave almost everything in order to succeed. He tried many things to get his career going and apparently had the plan of producing as much as possible and hoping that something might work some day. This fits with my idea of the writer of the fairy tales being someone who knew how to write a story but who didn’t had much to add.

It is also interesting to make a comparison between all his travels and visits to the upper class of Europe, and an, especially in our days, often advised managment plan of making one’s name known by giving interviews, lectures and making as much noise as possible. His travel activities must have helped him making a career in writing, which might explain part of his fame.

According to the museum there are some reports of H. C. Andersen being unaware of the impression he made during these visits (most striking when visiting Charles Dickens) and probably unjustly combined with the fact that the seemed to be unsuccesful with woman I got the idea that he might have been a hard working man that had his mind set up on succeeding as a writer.
The texts of the exhibition gave the impression that he wasn’t perfectly happy about his private life. It must have been tough for the young H.C. to become anything at all considering his unfortunate background, so his determination must have been vital for him during the main part of his life. One wonders if it didn’t turn into an obsession that ruled his life a little too much to become happy. It is nice that people like his stories but it must have been even more important for him as a person to live a happy life.

Gedit versus Zim-Wiki for text writers

The best writing tool for writers is in my opinion a text editor, as I explained in this post. And frankly, it doesn’t matter what text-editor.

But I am not sure how to progress from there. I am a fan of freewriting, and this practice produces a lot of .txt files. Finding a system that can help me order it in the best way so that it can give me an overview and search possibilities will probably be a life long quest.

For my daily writing I started some months ago with the Linux text editor Gedit. It’s a good looking text editor that, combined with its plugins, does a fine job for a writer. Especially with the session saver plugin activated it is easy to keep different chapters, notes or a todo list of a book you are writing, in one session. Very practical and efficient.

The open source program Zim-wiki (see this post for my introduction of Zim) does more or less the same, but has a more streamlined approach to sessions. This could well help to keep an overview of the many .txt files that I produce. Zim-wiki  is not as allround as Gedit, but focuses on text writing. I tried both and wrote the following comparison:

The Comparison

First of all I must stress again that there is a big difference in the aim of both programs. Gedit can be used for many things, it is great for writing code for example, Zim-wiki is for writing text or at least notes.

My comparison only deals with those features that writers of text or notes would use.

Zim-wiki

  • Zim .txt files are always gathered in so called notebooks, but stored as individual .txt files. The files of the current notebook show up in the sidepanel, where they can be moved around and new files can be added or created. New files can also easily be made in the txt file itself.
  • The possibility of basic text formatting is nice for the eye and therefore a bit practical for writers, although a final more complicated layout should be done in a wordprocessor. Links can be added and the preferred application will open them. For example links to websites will open in your browser. Pictures can be added too (but I am not sure if that is a true advantage for a writer).
  • All sorts of files can be imported into a Zim notebook, for example as an attachment. Txt files like for example from Gedit can be opened and entered into the system without a problem.
  • The shortcut “[]” produces checkboxes that can be checked or unchecked. They are a bit fun and practical as Zim can gather all these [] boxes from all pages in the notebook, so that they can be used as a todo list or as tags for other purposes.
  • The calender plugin turns Zim into a journal or logbook. It stores the calender files in a year/month/day structure on the computer, which is practical.
  • There are many keyboard shortcuts so that the hands can stay on the keyboard as long as possible.
  • There is a search option giving quick access to search results of all files in a Zim-notebook. This is good way to go through a group of files.
  • Zim is available for windows too.

And with all this Zim still produces just a gathering of .txt files, ready to use wherever you want. Although the Zim-wiki way of formatting will be replaced by its equivalent symbols (E.g. “a bold word” becomes “a **bold** word” in a standard .txt file).

Gedit

  • With the panel plugin Gedit can create an F9 sidepanel that shows all files in a folder using the computer’s file system . There is no interaction between the files from this panel (but they can be opened from there of course).
  • One can create sessions with the session saver plugin, this reminds of Zim’s notebooks, but Gedit’s sessions is not much more than a quick way to open a number of files at once.
  • The fact that Gedit can’t format text can certainly be seen as an advantage, as less possibilities should give less distraction.
  • Just like Zim-Wiki, Gedit also has many plugins for writers, like “Documents Statistics”, “Spell checker” and “Snippets” (for entering often used text).
  • It produces pure .txt files that can be opened as the are on any computer or other device regardless of the operating system or writing software installed.
  • Gedit is optimized for much more than just writing .txt files, like for example coding and LaTex

While checking both programs I noticed that Gedit does a good job when the same file is open in both Zim and Gedit. Both notice that the same file is being updated on the harddisk, but Zim just saves its version or comes with a rather confusing error message, where as Gedit shows immediately a warning message stating that the file has been updated on the harddisk and gives the option to reload it.

Conclusion

As Zim focuses solemnly on writing text and notes it has extra features that are practical, like the many shortcuts, the search option within a notebook (a series of .txt files), the sidepanel with good overview of the files and its subfiles and the text formatting possibilities. The notebook system might be a good way to have some order in the may .txt files, so I will use Zim for my writing for now and see how it works out with large amounts of data.

Gedit will definitely be my preferred .txt application on my computer for all other purposes than my normal writing activities, as it is most practical in opening and editing a single .txt file. And of course it excels in writing and reading code.

What tools should I use to write?

There are many programs for writing and editing texts and most are good for anybody and anything. Because basically they all do one thing – they let you create texts.

As a writer you write, as an editor you edit and as a publisher you publish. The writer in you wants a tool that can create texts as quickly and easy as possible. Quick because when you are finally getting some good ideas or when the words are coming to your mind faster than you can type,  you need a tool that reacts immediately. Your mind is occupied with trying to grab the ideas and impulses so you also want something that is fool-proof and not distracting.

After many thoughts and attempts I settled for the one obvious tool that does the job best: a plain text-editor.

Text it

A text editor is a small program that basically produces .txt files, which is just about the most bare and smallest kind of text-file you can produce. No different letter types or sizes, nice layout or  italics or bold, but just text, ready to be used everywhere you want. Because of the simple .txt format you can take it anywhere you like in the world of text-based software. Open it in your favourite word-processor and create the most beautiful layout you can think of or send it by email to your best friend who can read it instantly in the mail or open it in what ever software and operating system he or she might happen to use. Copy and past that long post into your blogging tool or create an archive of lightweight basic text files, future-proof.

Text files are very convenient to back-up as their small size guarantees the shortest possible uploading time to a backup service, be it on the web or on your memory key. It will take you very likely more than a lifetime to write 2GB of .txt files, so you don’t have to worry about running out of space anywhere.

But one of the main advantages is the quick response time of text editors. They open instantly and make my old computer react like a brand new top model. Keep a shortcut at hand and whenever an idea pops up write it down immediately and save it, either in a file of its own or keep a file open to gather related ideas.

Save it

Save your files naming them with the current date like yymmdd (for example: 100211) and you automatically create a diary or journal that is stored in the right order and with the exact date you had that brilliant idea.

When you consequently start a new file each day you can keep track of different versions by copying the lightweight .txt file of the day before in your new file and edit and save it.

Control it

In order to keep control over your growing archive of .txt files you can use a search-tool that you tweak to index your archive of .txt files only. In this way you will be able to search very fast and won’t get distracted by .mp3 files or house-cleaning schedules. To ease up the searching process I add tags to pieces of text that I think I might want to use or reread later. A tag like #(tag), as for example: #quote or #idea, doesn’t really work in the search-tools I used as they apparently don’t “read” the #-symbol. So I opted for tag-quote or tag-idea that is certainly indexed by all search tools.

Screenshot of the results of a search in my .txt files (using Tracker).

I put the tag on a new line and I add a few words that somehow describe the piece of text I am referring too as these words show up in my search results directly behind the tag.

Screenshot of a text editor with tabs (gedit)

Choose a text editor that supports tabs so you can open search results or other multiple files you are working on in the same window and quickly switch between them. These could for example be chapters of a book, a plot or character descriptions, quotes or articles. I keep always two tabs open; a todo list or notes file and a file with the tags I use so I can be consistent.

Screenshot of the my complete screen.

Most text editors have the F11 shortcut that will turn it into a full-screen productivity machine and with a default easy-for-the-eye background colour there will be no stopping you.

Well, I can’t see a reason anyway.

Phoenix?

I think, honestly, that of all the things I wrote in the past, like diaries, short stories and poems, I only feel satisfied with about a handful of writings.
At the moment that would be perhaps 3 poems and 3 short stories. The older works are not necessarily that bad, but I don’t want them any more.
I don’t know what to think of this unsatisfied look upon everything else I did, it is just the way it is I suppose. I have become older so I prefer other things and I am more critical.
It just makes me wonder if this process of rejecting works from the past is something that will continue the rest of my life. Maybe.

Life should be obvious

This thought was somewhere in between my notes. It is from not too long ago, but I actually can’t remember where I got the inspiration from. It must have been a blogpost somewhere.

Life has to be a selvfølge (something obvious, literally: following its self), one does things because one has to. Because it is needed to survive or because one can’t stop doing it anyway. Any other thing will cost too much energy and will be experienced as something that doesn’t really matter. Accepting this also means accepting ones role in life. One can’t become more than one is, but one should continue looking at, training and exploring ones self. A whole world lies inside. Many things become obvious when one discovers the beauty of living and being.

I’ll try to follow the advice. Distraction comes o so easy, all things seems to be interesting, worthwhile or even important. But deep inside of us our soul (or whatever it is) only asks for certain things. To be truly productive and valuable to yourself means concentrating on this voice.

As I added to the thought (probably sarcastically – but that can’t cover up the well meant intention): Good luck!