If I know exactly what I want to write, it’s easy enough for me to sit down as a text editor and bang away. But there’s a certain kind of writing, or rather a certain kind of thinking, that can be difficult to address by sitting down and trying to write a linear document. This kind of thinking proceeds in fits and starts, and you never quite know where it’s going to go. Scraps of related thoughts and notes get collected and scattered and collected again with the hope that they all might fit together into one coherent document. If you’re lucky, and it does come together, it’s amazing how much the final product looks like as if it was the result of a linear process. But of course that’s a lie.
I find it difficult to start this process of emergent thinking, what I call cloud gathering. So I’m always on the lookout for tools that will help me jump start the process. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that it’s often easier to talk through a new idea than it is to type it out. In this respect, the quality of dictation with my iPhone has been liberating.
Here’s a process that I have had good luck with lately: I dictate into an iPhone app, and then I take the words from my iPhone and move them onto my computer for editing. That may sound like a tedious process, but I just started using an app called Simplenote that makes it easy. I open it up and start speaking, and if I have the Simplenote web page up on my computer, or the Simplenote app up on my iPad, the words appear magically one place as quickly as they appear on the other. On their way from phone to computer, the words have taken a quick detour through the cloud and back. but what do I care? I’m collaborating with myself in real time.
Do you have any favorite cloud-gathering apps? In addition to the aforementioned Simplenote, I’ve been playing around with Hackpad and Evernote. I like Hackpad a lot, but I can’t quite make the plunge into Evernote because it seems to demand a sort of religious conversion.
One last note: as a long time WordPress user, I was happy to see that WordPress has acquired Simplenote. Since I took a liking to Simplenote, I worried it was going to fail and go away. Zenbe broke my heart, and I’m currently in mourning for Google Reader. So it’s nice to know that Simplenote has been acquired by stable company.