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.

Equipment Doesn’t Define Creativity

There’s this wonderful saying that perfectly captures my thoughts on this topic. Essentially, what I believe, after going through three years of intensive design instruction in my undergraduate architecture degree, and throughout my various design-oriented ventures for personal work and for SKKSA, is that equipment does not dictate creativity. Indeed, it’s not what you use, but how you use it. This is where the magic happens; this is the act of art, where the depth of the creative act becomes apparent at the hand of the craftsman.

So before I delve deeper into this topic, here’s the gist of this idea: you wouldn’t compliment a chef’s kitchen utensils if you enjoyed his meal; you would commend his skills at bringing forth a delightful gastronomic experience. Similarly, one shouldn’t say “wow, that’s a great photo. You must have an amazing camera.” Because, like the chef and his delicious meal, a beautiful photograph is the creative proof of the photographer’s skillset: of understanding light, composition, technical dexterity and that unique aspect of the creative process that transcends mere product and renders a piece “art” – judgement and intuition.

One could have the most expensive creative equipment at their disposal, but without the knowledge of how to drive these tools, without intuition and passion and a deeper, rooted understanding of the art form – whether it’s a literary work, a piece of art, a photograph or the design of a building – the resultant work would be mundane, lacking a sense of meaning and connectedness to humanity, to society, and thus considered a positive contribution to the world.

All too often, in our consumeristic mindset, driven by the fast-paced nature of technology, society and an ever-increasing pressure to constantly produce for insatiable, all-consuming minds, we forget the magic that can arise when we transcend focus on equipment and rather consider the actual act of creativity. The act of creation, of making something out of nothing, is a rather sacred thing. To render something from the mind into reality is a cornerstone of mankind’s evolution, of our ascent from mere hunter-gatherers purely concerned with survival, into creators and thinkers with the potential to build entire cities and venture forth into the stars.

So these platform debates and mock-wars over which brand or product, or tool is better, are rather meaningless in the grander scheme. Whether you’re Windows or Mac, analogue or digital, it’s the way you use what you have to create that determines your prowess. In the end, not many will care how you created it; it’s the end product that matters to the large portion of society. But it’s up to us, as the creators, to imbue in our work meaning, and a rootedness to culture, society, history – to the precedents that provide richness and add dimension – because these are the elements that will ensure longevity in the final product. These, and not what was used to create them, will immortalise our names and ensure our creations add value to our fellow humans.

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.