Oh, the places you’ll write

Writing is a tool for thinking. Our environment is a reflection of our thinking. Our thinking is influenced by environment. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind. Clear desk, clear mind. Life imitates art. Art imitates life. Writing imitates thinking. Thinking imitates writing.

These are some of the places I write on a regular basis.

Here’s what makes me sad. iA Writer and Vim are the only true text editors in the bunch. I can open a file from anywhere on the system. Make edits to the file. Save the file. Close the file.

Not so with Apple Notes and Bear. I can’t open a file in Bear. I have to import a file, make edits to the new representation in Bear’s internal database, and copy/paste my changes back to the original file. Bear has the ability to export to multiple formats, which is wonderful. But then I have to delete the note from Bear. My intent was using Bear as an editing tool for ephemeral text, not adding this text to my database of notes forever.

The web based software can be forgiven. It’s all about collaborative document making in multiplayer mode. Storing the files in a bespoke format somewhere that may or may not be on my computer is the costs of synchronous collaboration. I’m willing to pay that cost for certain needs.

When publishing happens is a question on my mind. Living documents are good. Showing every keystroke in realtime is often not what I want when I’m using writing for thinking. The git mindset of branches and commits is the granularity of living that feels right. But then again, I’m a developer who has these mental models of stepping stones and milestones fully ingrained.

All I really want is to right click a note in Bear, and say “Open in iA Writer”. Make some edits. Save. And they’d be reflected in Bear. That’s the most desired interaction pattern in my workflow. And they both speak Markdown as their primary dialect of plaintext.

I’m not saying anything new. I’m wanting for the known world of applications providing interoperability of known file formats. That’s the world I want to edit in. I understand the necessary complexity for multiplayer editing, resolving differences across time and flaky connectivity. But we can do better in the world of single player document editing. Then again, me on my iPhone and me on my Mac is another form of multiplayer editing. I just happen to be both players.

iCloud with iA Writer does this, though. And Obsidian promises this world. I just can’t get either to stick in my workflows. They’re great for capturing and iterating text. They’ve fallen short when I’m trying to reference mountains of text. Bear’s nested tagging and search is the superpower.

Writing takes many forms. Writing to communicate and writing to think are not distinct activities. That’s my current thinking, anyways.

Published: 2024-03-24

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