Sunday, 23 March 2014

Small Steps for Me, Giant Leaps for My Productivity by Lev Butts

I have discussed before about writing as a kid, how I used to carry around a notebook everywhere and write whenever I had downtime, regardless how little (even a few seconds would grant me enough time to jot down a quick word or phrase and move my narrative infinitesimally forward).

Here we see a nine-year-old Lev Butts
an a family fishing trip
I carried that notebook (and others like it) around for years. For the longest time, the only way I could write was longhand, which virtually assured I'd never see any kind of publication, traditional or otherwise, since I lacked the motivation to go through the trouble of typing what I'd already written. Secretly, I hoped for some kind of apocalypse to occur so afterwards I could just travel around with my notebooks and read them to people for food and lodging, like a literate Mad Max.

Something like this only bookier.
It wasn't until I was in tenth grade, that I made the technological leap to a typewriter. It happened like this: My dad had done a favor for a coworker and been paid with this electric typewriter. Since my dad had no use for a typewriter (as a cop, most his writing involved reports that were either handwritten or typed at the station house), he passed it down to me. The typewriter even had a correcting ribbon, so if I mis-typed a word at the end of a page, I didn't have to retype the entire page to fix it.

I wrote my first real short story, "Captain Tory," on this typewriter, and I was hooked.

And that was my technological advance in writing for about seven years.

I was using an outdated typewriter before it was cool
to have been using an outdated typewriter before it was cool.
My next major tech shift occurred around my junior year of college when a friend built me my first computer. It wasn't much of a much. It was cobbled together from the innards of a Compaq and a Dell something-or-other and crammed into the shell of an old Apple thingy with an attached amber monochrome monitor.

Like this only crappier
It was on this machine that I discovered the wondrous virtues of word processing. It had a program that would present a roughly 8.5 by 11 amber rectangle, simulating a piece of paper, on which I could type my words just like with my typewriter except that I could erase mistakes by simply backspacing over them and retyping instead of having to retype the incorrect word on a white correction tape and then backspacing to type the actual, correct word.

Later, with the invention of the mouse, and copy and paste functions, and a whole slew of others, writing longhand in my notebooks became a thing of the mythic past. In the two decades since getting my first computer, however, I made few new advances in writing technology outside of periodically upgrading my computer and my version of Word.

Until the last couple of months.

Recently, I have made three major leaps forward into my own digital age of writing. For some of you, I'm sure these advances may already be obsolete, and you are already way ahead of us all and preparing for the singularity and the advent of Skynet, but hopefully, others are even further behind the digital curve than I and will therefore be able to feed my fragile ego with sufficient gasps amazement.

3. iPurtenance

Though I had all but abandoned my notebooks as my major means of writing once I got my computer, I still carried one around in order to jot down my ideas when I was away from home (it being fairly inconvenient to carry my computer with me everywhere).

I played around for about a minute and a half with the notes function on my cellphone but found that I really couldn't write too much on it as the characters were limited to about 160 (more than a tweet, but far less than I needed). So I kept my notebook with me for a while.

Until I discovered that my iPod had a much better note-writing program. Then I bought an iPad and discovered that not only could my notes be synced between the iPod and the iPad, but the iPad also supported a word processing program, so I could even work on my books directly in addition to or instead of simply jotting down notes for later.

It isn't perfect; I often have formatting errors when switching a file between my Apple Pages program and my PC Word program, but it's better than I expected.

In case you're wondering why I don't simply switch to an Apple computer
In December, I got my first iPhone, and discovered that Siri does voice notes. So now I can jot down ideas that occur to me while I'm driving without having to pull over or crash.

Now, of course, these or similar programs are pretty standard on any smartphone or tablet.

Needless to say, my notebooks, now, are merely a quaint memory of a simpler time.

With every new app, I move one step closer to your soul.
2. Google Everything

It is no secret that Google and Apple are in a race to own all of known creation. Google Maps pretty much outperforms Map Quest and Bing Maps. And Google Earth may be even better than Google Maps. Google's web browser, Chrome, seems to outperform all the other browsers available. Google has an online documents suite, an online full-text book search, and a multimedia platform for music,video, and ebooks. Hell, even this blog engine is owned by Google.

With every new service, I move one step closer to your soul

About the only thing Google has touched that hasn't turned to golden rainbows is its social networking site.


The first rule of Google+ is that no one cares about Google+
It was really only a matter of time before they supplanted portable storage devices. When I first started using a computer, I stored my documents on floppy discs that were roughly the size of dinner plates and held about a page and a half of text. By the time I graduated, the discs had shrunk to a little over half the size and might hold an entire short story. When I started my master's degree, they were a mere 3.5 inches wide and could hold an entire novel.


It's a digital TARDIS: The smaller it gets, the more room it has inside.

As I started my PhD, floppy discs had been made obsolete by USB drives, which could fit in that dinky little pocket inside your jeans pocket and could hold literally hundreds of documents.


Not just for condoms anymore.
While I'm sure I need not discuss the benefits of the USB drive here, one of the major drawbacks is germane to my topic: They're too damn small. I've seen some now that are literally small enough to fit in your navel (even if your an outie) and figuratively large enough to hold all seven volumes of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series and all fourteen volumes of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

This is all well and good for about fifteen minutes until you lose the damn thing or leave it in a computer somewhere or swallow it by accident.

Seriously, you lose one of these babies and
you have a better chance of finding a contact lens in a glass factory.
Enter Google Drive. Google Drive is like having a free USB drive online with about 15 gigs of free space. Basically, if you have internet access, you have your documents with you. Admittedly, I still keep a USB drive with me for emergencies: Some places I go either do not have easily accessible net service or have, for whatever reason, blocked Google Drive from their servers, so I still need to put my docs on the USB drive for those places, but if I lose the drive, at least I know my latest versions of my novel are backed up online. 


As an added bonus, since my iPad does not support USB drives, I can now access and edit my documents without having to email them to myself by downloading the Google Drive iPad app.

Join with me, Apple, and together we shall rule this galaxy as father and son.
1. Pinteresting Developments

If you had told me a few months ago that I would soon be using Pinterest on the regular, I'd have called you a damn fool. After all, I am male, and according to popular opinion, only women use Pinterest. Realistically speaking, while men do use Pinterest, they are by far the minority by a significant amount: Women represent anywhere from 62% to 80% of Pinterest's users.



Indeed, when I originally went to their site, I was bombarded with images of neat pastry/cake recipes, cute little crafty yarn things, and simply darling wedding dresses and decorations. I realized then that this was not the place for me.


Also this, I saw a lot of this.
When I asked friends and colleagues about it, I was told it was a place for "internet scrap-booking." Since I do not scrap-book in the real world, I saw no reason to do so virtually. 

Apparently, I am not alone.

I even decided to try to find evidence of men on pinterest by typing stereotypical manly activities into the search bar: 


Drinking

Hunting

football

Clearly, my results had less testosterone than a Justin Bieber concert.


That's just so...why you wanna hurt me like that, bro?
However, I now think the problem with men and Pinterest is the marketing. Once I began playing around with my wife's Pinterest page, I realized that Pinterest is not scrap-booking.

You ready for this?

Pinterest is bookmarking on the internet. 


Or maybe scrap-bookmarking, I guess.
Just as Google Drive essentially allows me to have an online USB drive, Pinterest allows me to have online bookmarks. 

Before this, I had bookmarks on different browsers on three different computers. While, yes, I know I can import bookmarks from one browser to another, and even one computer to another, I have realized in the past week that what I pin to my Pinterest page is actually a link to an external webpage.

In other words, a bookmark.

A bookmark I neither have to import to another browser or to another computer. I can save it once on the site and access it anywhere I have an internet connection. 

I now have boards for every aspect of my new novel. The only downside I can see is that I cannot have boards (think electronic file folders) within my boards, so that I can keep all my research for, say, Guns of the Waste Land separate from my research for my next project, a noir retelling of Ragnarok.


It is currently untitled. Guess what I was going to call it?
Clearly this makes researching my novels from different computers much much easier. 


I also learned how to make an awesome Cthulhu pie.




12 comments:

JO said...

Oh heck, you probably think I'm a dinosaur, but I still love notebooks! (A huge benefit - they don't need charging, which needs thinking about if you are planning to go anywhere with dodgy electrics.)

Kathleen Jones said...

I'm still hooked on notebooks too Lev, but otherwise use advanced technology! I've looked you up on Pinterest and followed your boards. I have a board for each of my books as well as using other boards for research material. It's fun as well as a big waste of writing time!

Leverett Butts said...

Not sure why this published already. As you all can see, it's still unfinished. I plan on writing up the Pinterest section this afternoon. Please stay tuned.

Leverett Butts said...

Thank you both for the comments, though. Truth is, I still sometimes carry a tiny little notebook, especially when hiking or camping because of Jo's dodgy electricity concern.

Susan Price said...

Lev, I published it at 8am, because it was AWOL.

Reb MacRath said...

Lev, regarding the time: might you have forgotten the 12-hour time difference? My post is due on the 12th of the month. So if I were to post it after noon on the 11th, I'd be AWOL. I avoid mishap by publishing at least a full day before. So, for a post due on the 12th, I publish by mid-afternoon on the 10th just to play it safe.

Reb MacRath said...

P.S. Another lively post, by the way. I'll stick to my notebooks, though, for the first draft.

Leverett Butts said...

I apologize for the delay, for some reason, I thought today was the 22nd and I had another day to work on it. Won't happen again.

Reb MacRath said...

I believe this is now, officially, the longest AE blog post. And still a total delight.

Lydia Bennet said...

great stuff Lev, perhaps this should be bookmarked in our 'how to' blog list? I'm wary of google apps though, despite loving google itself, they try to take over everything and force you to have google + and google + profiles in your blogger blog, and all sorts of stuff. eg when I go to access this blog via the blogger dashboard, a notice comes up telling me I can't as the browser I'm using isn't supported (ie, I'm using IE instead of google's), I ignore these and it works anyway but still... I'm not sure I'd trust them to keep all my stuff without demanding their pound of flesh.

Leverett Butts said...

Yeah, as much as I love Google Drive, it is indeed a pain to have to make yet another online profile to access something.

Bill Kirton said...

Entertaining stuff, Lev, and a nice flashback through how it used to be. I'd love to make the switch to Siri and all that stuff but I remember being in the Tate Gallery and recording notes for my WIP on my (antique) mobile. That was a couple of years ago and I still haven't been able to find them.