The best writing app

I’ve been getting back into the writing groove over the past few weeks. Often though, I tend to keep searching for the ideal app that will help me be productive and write more often. Usually the criteria is an app that allows me to write across devices — iPhone, iPad or macOS. The thinking behind this is that I’ll be able to write wherever, whenever.

However I’ve discovered that the ultimate app for my writing is actually not an app at all.

Analog writing — writing with my Sonnet fountain pen into my Moleskine notebook, is the best way to keep me focussed and connect more with the actual content. At this point my focus is writing for myself, to explore a host of ideas that are clamouring in my head. Writing by hand is also a nice way to reconnect with my thoughts and ideas, to stay disconnected from the chatter of the digital world, and to actually be present in the act of writing.

This doesn’t mean I’m not discounting the digital writing world — I’ve expressed my undying love for Scrivener and I will continue to use that as my app of choice for long-format writing (I’m currently planning a long-term writing project for which Scrivener will be invaluable, as usual). But for now, for me, the ultimate writing app is my Parker Sonnet and a notebook.

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What’s in the bag: the writer/architect/coder edition

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My life is made up of many facets – due, perhaps, to multiple interests that influence my daily living. In writing this post, I decided to distill those many interests into three main areas: writing, architecting, and coding. Those are my principle fields, the ones I choose to spend my time in contemplating things and creating things.

I thought it’d be a fun exercise, both in practicing my vector drawing skills with Illustrator, and in collecting and thinking of the tools I use on a daily basis, to compile this post. These are items I depend on daily to get through my work; they are indispensable to who I am and the things I create.

(I might add that my EarPods are a part of this mix, but didn’t make it to the final cut – maybe because I forget to carry them around with me sometimes).

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Music

Music is a big part of my life. My trusy old iPod classic has been a longtime companion, but since I’ve become hooked on SoundCloud, I’ve been using it less. So now it’s mostly relegated to staying in my car, where it powers my driving soundtrack. My iPhone (and sometimes iPad) is the streaming surrogate for my SoundCloud obsession lately.

Writing

I write a lot, and find that analogue writing is a great way to distill thoughts and slow things down. My latest Moleskine is the Star Wars “Darth Vadar” edition ruled book, with the inspiring words “Don’t Underestimate the Force” embossed on the cover. I mainly write with a fountain pen in it (a Parker Sonnet with Sheaffer Blue/Black ink, a gift in my final year at high school), but when on-the-go, my trusty Parker Jotter does the trick. I have a great affinity for the Jotter – it’s the only model I’ve ever used since I was in Grade 4, and I carry it with me wherever I go.

Designing

As a designer, I keep a simple sketchbook with me for those moments when I need to sketch something to make sense of it. I’m not the best drawer, but little diagrams often help resolve some of the most complex problems, from graphic design ideas to large-scale buildings.

The Hub

My MacBook Pro is central to everything. It’s the machine I use to edit video, animate logos, design everything from wayfinding assets to website graphics to architectural projects for university, to writing blogs, short stories, essays and even my attempts at various novels. Everything I do feeds into this wonderful, dare I say it – magical, machine. Having an iPad Air helps tremendously as a second screen to display concepts or PDFs with tutorials, books or even web pages I’m using for reference. This allows me to keep the MacBook’s screen devoted to the task at hand. I generally run OS X with three desktop spaces to lessen the clutter that can arise from having many windows open at once.

I always maintain that it’s not the tools one uses, but how they use them, that should be important whenever art is concerned. But this setup is what makes me enjoy creating things, imagining things and bringing things to life. I’ll probably change many of these elements as the years go by, but for now I’m really happy with this workflow.

Timeless Design #1: Parker Jotter

The very first pen I ever used (once I had gotten my “pen license” back in Grade 4) was a Parker Jotter. Since then, the phrase “ballpoint pen” has come to be synonymous, for me, with Parker’s iconic design.

But what makes this pen so iconic?

It lies in the simplicity of the design. The Jotter is a clean, professional, straightforward writing instrument. The “feathered arrow” clip has come to signify this design, as has the tapered, almost bullet-like barrel. Since its introduction in the 1950s, the Jotter’s design hasn’t changed much. The technology within the pen is in itself remarkable, and shows the level of attention to detail, and the care and craftsmanship behind the design. For example, each click rotates the ink cartridge 90˚, ensuring even wear on the delicate plastics of the refill.

But for the average user, such things are inconsequential, and the pen’s design speaks for itself: its smooth surfaces, chromed clip holder and matte or shiny barrel present an inviting instrument beckoning one to jot down thoughts.

And it’s light. This, alone, is a major factor in the success of the pen: it truly lives up to its name, allowing rapid movement across the page.

The Jotter’s colour scheme is another major design point. Throughout its long history, this pen has featured a range of bright colours appealing to students, and more subdued, “serious” tones perfect for diligent scriveners or boardroom warriors.

I’ve gone through numerous Jotters since I began writing in ink. And whilst I continue to live a life in pixels, the Jotter will always remain my faithful companion, ready to ink my thoughts and ideas.