On Writing On My iPhone, Revisited

Apple iPhone 10X

A Brief History of Technology

It’s funny how succeeding generations take technology for granted. My Nana’s first electric refrigerator must have seemed to her to be a miracle. Nowadays the only time I consciously think about it is when I’m looking in it to make my grocery list.

And even that is more about food and shopping than it is about the refrigerator itself.

June 29, 2007

Not exactly a Day of Infamy.

I sat at the Apple iPhone help desk on the evening of its release. Even though we had just completed 2 weeks of intensive training on the operation and capabilities of the device, that evening was the first time any of us had actually seen one, much less had an opportunity to work with it.

One iPhone between 8 techs. No wonder callers were frustrated.

Now my grandchildren all carry iPhones. And while I still look at mine with an occasional sense of wonder, to them it ain’t no big thang.

During those weeks of training, I had an epiphany: this was no mere mobile phone! No. What Apple had done was figure out how to fit an entire computer in the palm of your hand!

It’s 11 and a half years later as I write this. Cell phone (or if you’re British, mobile) usage has exploded. The phones themselves have evolved into various flavors of smartphone, and whereas they were once considered a luxury, they have become for many of us an essential part of life.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people I know don’t even go into their own bathrooms without it!

But Here’s the Thing…

I love my iPhone X, which I once swore I would never own. My next upgrade was to be to the 8S or Plus or Z or whatever was the top of the line 8 at the time.

But my carrier had a special offer: buy one iPhone X and get a second one free! And so I decided on the X, not realizing that it was about to be replaced by a few newer, more improved models.

But that’s on me. My iPhone X still runs circles around my old 6S Plus.

Writing and Publishing

I’ve written before on how I love writing on my iPhone. How it’s become my main writing tool for whatever site I’m writing: Medium, letters to the editor, blog posts—you name it, I’ve written to it on my iPhone!

And on Medium and WordPress, at least, published as well.

That’s About to Change

Ever have an improvement that really wasn’t? When I bought my new laptop 3 years ago, a Windows 10 machine, it booted blindingly fast. Now, after a long series of updates, upgrades, and “improvements,” I can turn it on and almost have time to get dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, and wash the dishes before heading back upstairs in time to see the damn machine is ready—finally—for use.

With the release of iOS 12.1.1, my iPhone is still blindingly fast—compared to my original Motorola flip-phone.

And there are far more things that are easier and faster to do on my laptop than on my iPhone. Things specifically related to publishing what I write.

Even Medium’s own mobile app isn’t designed to publish straight to Medium; more and more often I find I need my laptop to prepare my stories for final publication.

The Solution

So here’s what I’ve decided.

(What? Did you seriously think I was going to invest all this time bitching about things without offering a solution? You obviously don’t know me very well.)

I’m still doing the bulk of my writing on my iPhone, with an occasional detour to the iPad.

But rather than publishing (in Medium’s case, posting) what I write directly to the web or wherever, I’ll save my drafts. Then I’ll move to the laptop to massage them, add images and links, make them pretty, and then publish them.

And Apple? I’m sorry, my old friend, but I was wrong: you still haven’t managed to put a computer in the palm of my hand.

And as we techies like to say in our own inimical, technobabbly way, “Close, but no cigar.”

Image: Plasencia Cigars

 

On Writing For Medium

How To Find Your Voice and Become a Superb Writer

Save your work, then step back and preview it. Periodically, as I am going along, I “listen” to what I have written. This ensures it still sounds like “me”, that it flows and represents the way I want my story to come across. –Enrique Fiallo

This is a crucial step, and given today’s fast-paced cyberspace, perhaps the hardest. I spend far too much time on social media, with the result that I feel pressured to respond to the latest Facebook post or Twitter tweet and so most of my responses are flippant, with no real thought behind them.

But Medium is different. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m different when I’m in Medium. I like to think it’s because my visits here have taken on a somewhat ritualistic flavor: I spend time brewing a fresh cup of tea (using whole leaf tea, naturally) and engaging in deep-breathing exercises while it brews.

I then sit down with my mug of tea and open the Medium app, usually on my iPhone. I peruse (yes I do know what the word means) article titles, and click on ones that seem interesting. Sometimes – as in this case – I’m prompted? inspired? to write a response.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Twitter. This is Medium, and I don’t want to come across as some young smart-ass punk (can I even be that at 67 years of age?), and so I do my best to respond in a deliberate and thoughtful voice. (I save my smart-assery for my blogs.)

Once I’ve finished my response I then go over it, making sure it is coherent and consistent. I delete a comma here and add one there, change a word to one that makes more sense or gives more clarity.

Above all, I want to communicate clearly, and if doing so requires me to break some arbitrary rule of grammar, so be it.

After, it’s my voice.

Blogging For Success

Recently on Pinterest there’s been a flurry of pins aimed at first-time or beginning bloggers. They all follow a theme: “You don’t know what you’re doing, so you’d better listen to me unless you want to be a failure.”

I get it. There are a lot of things I wish I knew when I first sat down to set pen to paper. (Well, actually, pixels to screen, but whatever.) But those things all had to do with the mechanics of creating a blog: finding the right host, picking a theme, figuring out the editor, and so on.

But far too many of the pins I mentioned have nothing to do with the logistics of running your blog and everything to do with your content.

And, of course, they all offer to sell you their book that promises instant fame, a successful blog, and to cure cancer all in one nifty little package. Just give us your money.

When I first looked into e-book publishing, I found a number of people selling books that promised to make you a successful self-published writer. But upon deeper examination, they all turned out to be a kit containing one e-book covering how to become a self-published writer. All you had to do was insert your own name as the author, and turn around and resell the kit to other people.

It said nothing about the process of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and finally submitting your work to either an agent or a publisher.

And that’s exactly what the Pinterest pins seem to be doing: telling you how to spend your money on a kit, then reselling it under your own name.

Advice vs. Advertising

Please don’t misunderstand me: advice is often warranted. I look for it myself when I’m stumped by a particular problem. But useful advice is different than advertising. You have to have an actual product before you start selling it.

In a way, it reminds me of the early days of micro-computing and the concept of vaporware; software that was advertised heavily in computer magazines and advance orders taken. If the ads generated enough interest to make the product viable, then—and only then—was work begun on actually creating the software. If not, any advance orders were refunded with a technobabble line of bull-crap meant to explain the failure of the program.

A Guaranteed Formula For Success

The best formula for guaranteeing your success as a blogger is realizing that there isn’t any guaranteed formula for success as a blogger.

As was once famously said of Shoeless Joe Jackson,

If you build it, he will come.

So start your blog. Check out the tools available to help you. Find the best platform for your specific needs. For example, I chose WordPress. And then write. Write every day. Write even when you have nothing to say. Even if you don’t publish it, you should still write every day until it becomes a habit. Write for a specific audience, if that’s what you want to do.

Or be like me: I just write about whatever comes to mind when I sit down at my laptop. (Well, okay—it’s usually my mobile phone.) Once I’m done, that’s when I decide my target audience and publish it to the appropriate blog. Yes, I have several blogs, depending on my mood and my intended audience.

Writing For Medium

Medium is different. There, I have only one audience I aim for: other writers. People who are serious about their own writing. Or at least serious enough to share it with a critical audience. (In this context, I define “critical” as:

Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.

“she never won the critical acclaim she sought”

synonyms: evaluative, analytical, interpretative, expository, explanatory

“a critical essay”

(of a published literary or musical text) incorporating a detailed and scholarly analysis and commentary.

“a critical edition of a Bach sonata”

involving the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

“professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking in their students”

When I publish on Medium, I know I’m opening myself up to criticism. But that’s what I’m looking for, what I’m hoping for. What do other writers—many of them professionals, and many of them far better writers than I am—think of what I have to say” of how I say it? How can I improve?

Because ultimately, that’s what it comes to in the end for me: I want to improve. I want to get better. Not for any possible fame or fortune, but simply to become the very best me I can become.

Following on Medium vs. Following on Facebook

My biggest problem with Medium is simple: almost every article I read gives me a new author to follow. And the more writers I follow, the further my horizons expand. It’s almost an information overload by design. But that’s okay; I’m retired and I have the time to read and reply.

Facebook is quite different. I constantly have to fend off “friend” requests from total strangers – mostly men – who, had they taken the trouble to read my profile, would know that I don’t accept friend request from men I don’t know.

Or the constant invitations I get to play this or that mindless game designed to get me to spend money and/or invite other people to play what has long since morphed into yet another digital pyramid scheme.

Comparing Medium and Facebook isn’t a simple matter of apples vs. oranges. It’s more like fruits and vegetables. Or, to further mix metaphors, Facebook is fruit where Medium is meat & potatoes.

Fruit is sweet and tasty, but the fructose buzz dies off quickly. Meat & potatoes, along with a side salad or a couple of vegetables, can nourish one and sustain life. It comes down to sugary cereal and whole milk vs. a regular sausage-and-mash fry-up.

And yet…

There are times when I want the candy. There are times – few and far between though they are – when I want that Coke from the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Facebook is fun. Medium takes an effort. But Facebook has trolls where Medium at least has moderators.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Once or twice a week I shop for them at Wegmans. They’re in the 2-for-1 bin, right next to the skyhooks, blinker fluid, and waterline.

Seriously, I really have no real idea where they come from. For example, as I was composing the previous sentence it occurred to me that I was ending it with a preposition, an error which would have my high school English teachers spinning in their graves.

But then I remembered how no less a writer than Winston Churchill once described that “rule” as “[A]rrant nonsense, up with which I will not put.” So I left it as it is.

And THERE, mon lecteur, is one source of ideas: other people.

Mornings

I hate mornings, and yet that’s when I am most productive. Sometimes I’ll just lay in bed, watching a cloud of ideas swarming like gnats around my room. Suddenly one comes into focus and I grab it and write it down.

That’s why I keep a notepad on my nightstand…well, a virtual notepad, anyway: both my iPhone and iPad are always to hand for just such moments.

The gray, hazy few seconds between wake and sleep are fraught with clarity for me. Again, to the notebooks.

I subscribe to Medium, and read it every day. Sometimes something there will give me an idea, and so I’ll steal borrow it for inspiration.

Finally, there are times when I just sit down and force myself to write simply to be writing. Take this entry, for example: I had no idea what I was going to write until I wrote it.

Ultimately, THAT turns out to be where I get most of my ideas: by the very act of writing itself.

And, of course, there is always the ultimate inspiration: sitting down with a cup of strong tea and letting my mind wander.