Tag Archives: iPad

if I started blogging today…

Today is a theme day in the 2012 Blogathon, and participants have been asked to complete the sentence, “If I started blogging today…”


I first started my blog in the fall of 2004. I had little idea what I was doing. My blog didn’t have a theme, and the topics I posted about were pretty random. Over the years, I’ve blogged the full first drafts of two novels (during NaNoWriMo 2004 and 2007). I’ve posted obituaries for my two precious dogs, Nanook and Journey, and for my boyfriend’s cat, Sylvester. I’ve written about the intersection of spirituality and sustainability. I’ve blogged about the writing life; astronomy; pie, casserole, and juice recipes; traveling in Ireland; mitral valve prolapse syndrome/dysautonomia; bankruptcy; snow caves; converting to Judaism; Halloween; politics and human rights; books; and probably a huge number of other subjects that I can’t even think of just now.

So, yeah, if I were starting a new blog today, I’d probably think very carefully at the outset about what I wanted to cover. I’d narrow in on a specific topic and would plan out my blog’s categories and frequently used keywords as much as I could. There will always be something that I don’t think of, or some new direction that I grow into over time: just look at how my website/blog has grown and changed since 2004! They say hindsight is always 20/20—or at least, 20/40.


I’d also plan a 30-day editorial calendar and would pre-write several weeks’ worth of posts before I launched a new blog. In practice, I just started blogging without any real schedule. If I were starting over, I’d plan out my blogging routine from the beginning and would stick to it. And I would seek out blog swap partners right away—and on a regular schedule moving forward, regardless of whether it was Blogathon month or whether I had a new book being launched.

And . . . I’d like to think I’d build a heavier multimedia site, with text, video, and audio presented together—a blogcast? For the past several years now, I keep thinking about trying out a podcast, but I’ve never gotten started. Other things come up and take precedence, and I shy away from podcasting or even video-casting myself. I’m now again thinking of starting an audio podcast—one that would be a more serious commitment, but looks more likely to actually get done. We’ll see if it actually happens, though.

I imagine that the point of this exercise—this theme set out by Blogathon founder Michelle Rafter—is to get each one of us to write out a kind of “blog wish list.” Now that I know what I would have done differently, why not try implementing some of the above into the blog that already exists, eh?

(And why does my spellchecker keep correcting “blogging” to “blowguns”?)

* * * * *

On another note, I was doing some research recently on iPad protection. Though I’d chosen the ZAGGfolio keyboard case with productivity in mind—see Adventures with an iPad: cases and keyboards—reading these two stories made me feel like I’d made a smart investment in protection as well:

adventures with an iPad: Scrivener and Elements

Yesterday, I spent some time toying with getting Scrivener on my MacBook to sync with Dropbox Elements on my iPad.

Some background . . .

After much deliberation, I finally bought an iPad. To save money—and in a nod to realistic expectations about my usage—I bought a refurbished iPad 2 model from Apple. I’d already been leaning in that direction but a conversation at the Apple Store with an Apple employee is what convinced me. (Say what you will about Apple, but I’ve always found their employees to be very helpful and not in the least pushy about buying the latest and greatest product, or even buying any product at all. They seem to honestly want to help.)

I had a firm picture in my mind of what I wanted to do with my iPad: to use it primarily as a mobile computing device for my writing work. I have an older laptop that’s still going strong, but the chassis has started to crack. Also, packing up the laptop, plus its charger and trackpad, is a bit of a pain. I wanted something lighter weight with fewer accessories.

(And, seriously, if you’re in the market for any new device—tablet, e-reader, smartphone, laptop, etc.—do first make a list of what you want and need it to do, and then start researching what device will meet those needs. I see way too may people make decisions based on marketing and/or peer pressure and end up spending way too much on something that’s way more than they need, or choosing a device that simply doesn’t fit for them.)

The iPad arrived at my door on Monday morning, right in the midst of Deadline City, so it took a while for me to carve out any time to spend with my new device. I’d spent some time in the previous weeks researching syncing and text editing apps, so at least I was prepared on that front.

Scrivener has been my go-to writing application since November 2008. I still use Pages (iWork) for journalism assignments, but everything else goes into Scrivener. This insanely low-cost application is designed specifically for writers and it has made a world of difference to my organization and workflow. I suppose I should write some love letter to Scrivener some time and post it here; suffice it to say, I love this program.

Sadly, there is (currently) no iOS app for Scrivener. I understand that one is in the works. No idea when that will be released. So I needed an iOS app that would “play nice” with my favorite program.

A lot of people use SimpleNote on the iPad and sync this up with Scrivener. I ended up choosing Dropbox Elements instead. I relied on the generous blog posts of other writers who had compared these two in their own work. The syncing process for Elements just looked more straightforward, plus I’m interested in what else I might be able to do using Elements’ Markdown capabilities.

When doing my own set-up, I mostly followed Jamie Todd Rubin’s excellent instructions, though there was still a bit I had to figure out on my own. For instance, in Step 2, the “Sync with External Folder” dialog box is found in Scrivener: File -> Sync -> with External Folder. I’d like to think I’m pretty tech savvy, but that hadn’t been clear. Also, on the iPad side, make sure that your Elements app is set to sync with the same folder as you’ve designated on the Scrivener side. I know, it seems like a no-brainer but it’s an easy step to forget. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out why my Scrivener files synced nicely to the iPad, but not the other direction.

I feel fairly comfortable with this process now, but I’ll test it out on some other projects first before I commit my current “Iduna’s Apples” rewrite to this setup. (And I’ll do back-ups to multiple places prior to that.)

Moving forward, I still want to figure out the best solution for accessing Gmail on the iPad, as well as blogging apps. I’d planned to spend some time on that last evening, but I ended up staying up past midnight playing pinball instead.

Of books and bytes

Below is an essay I wrote at the end of last year — one I’ve not had any luck placing with a magazine or newspaper. Rather than letting in languish in my “pending” file, I’ll share it with you here. Enjoy. :)

E-readers — like Amazon’s hot-selling Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and the much anticipated iPad from Apple — are a bibliophile’s dream come true: More books in less space, and portable, too! But if you’re striving to reduce material — and digital — possessions, and to practice non-attachment, such devices may present the temptation to accumulate even more stuff.

I love books — the smell of them, the sound of pages turning, the weight of bound volumes in my hands.

I travel with them — across the globe or just across town. I pack both the Huston Smith autobiography and the latest Harry Dresden novel, but what if I’m suddenly in the mood for science fiction, or a how-to guide on square-foot gardening? Invariably, they all end up in my bag.

It would be a relief to slip a single device into my pocket and leave the bulk of physical books behind, but I haven’t invested in an e-reader. More than the lack of standardization, I’m struggling with attachment.

And didn’t the Buddha say attachment is the source of suffering?

Years ago, I was talking to a friend about wanting to detach from possessions, identify less with my relationships, my appearance, and my circumstances, and be less emotionally invested in outcomes. I’d already started rummaging through closets, cabinets and drawers to release everything I didn’t think I absolutely needed. I would be in the world, but I’d be less of it.

My friend burst out laughing. “You’re a Scorpio! You’re all about attachment. Period.” She thought for a moment. “The best you can do is passionate detachment. Try that, and let me know how it works out.”

Maybe she was right, at least where books are concerned. When I relocated from Virginia to Oregon and reduced my worldly possessions by more than fifty-percent, half my boxes were still filled with books. I’m not sure any one person should have nine bookcases at home, but I do.

I’ve fallen victim to the same mythology that entices so many others — that the act of buying the book will magically transfer the contents directly into my brain. I have too many books I’ve never read, and books I keep promising to re-read. Books that belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. Storybooks my parents read to me. Books I stubbornly hold onto simply because I’ve had them for so long already — it would be a shame to let them go now, right?

But each volume is a joy and a burden — offering information and entertainment, and requiring care and storage.

Attempting to wean myself from excessive literary ownership, I clear my shelves of unnecessary titles and take them to Powells or to a donation center. When there’s a book I want, I look first to the library, and buy a copy only if I need to mark up the pages. Still, I have upwards of 70 library items checked out at any given time.

I can imagine myself living in much more sparse quarters, possibly even in a near-constant state of travel. There’s something exhilarating about that idea — the ability to wander, to be free of laundry and monthly bills, to step out from under the weight of worldly possessions. I would spend my days meditating under tall trees, talking with my fellow human beings about their lives and experiencing the world from a place of conscious uprootedness.

But where would I keep my books? It’s often that one question that invariably has my nomadic fantasy spreading itself thin on the wind.

Like all things of the physical world, books are impermanent — and wisdom cannot be contained in either physical or electronic media. Even the most carefully preserved folios and parchments disintegrate over time. An electronic book can be deleted with a single click.

I cannot take my books with me when I die — nor can I conveniently carry every single one of them with me as I make my way in the world each day. Unless I had a Kindle or a Nook…. I’d still have to carry the e-reader with me, and I’m afraid the convenience would inspire even more book hoarding — and would lessen each book’s value.

So I’ve resisted the e-readers. The idea of giving away my hardbacks, paperbacks and bookcases sends a shiver down my spine — as does the thought of having to re-purchase my books in electronic format. I tell myself I’m holding out to see which format my local library adopts, or maybe I’m waiting for a greener e-reader with solar charging. I rationalize that I wouldn’t really breathe more easily, knowing my entire library was literally in my pocket, even though I know I would.

I tell myself I’m not quite ready to make the leap from ink and paper to bits and bytes — but I wouldn’t refuse a gift of an Apple iPad or Kindle. Perhaps my friend was right: I’m not likely to fully realize non-attachment this time around. I could easily rationalize digitizing my library to carry in my pocket. But then I confront a deeper question: When will I truly let go of my attachment to the ideas of “wisdom,” “education,” “literacy” — and the false security of possessions in general?

Books vs. Bytes seems trivial in comparison.