Not Sure if This Will Be a Short Story or a Novel…

This morning around 3 a.m., I made my way to the bathroom. Nothing unusual in this: I have a week bladder and can’t make it through the night without having to make this pilgrimage at least once. Tonight was a cold night; I haven’t yet closed my bedroom window for the winter.

I sat down on the seat and breathed a silent “thank you” to the person who had just vacated the bathroom and leaving the seat toasty-warm.

Then I remembered I lived alone.

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I’ve Been Using My iPhone All Wrong

After nearly a year of owning an iPhone, I’ve finally learned what I’ve been doing wrong.

I discovered this quite by accident when I was researching battery life for the device. I was surprised to learn that Apple recommends not closing an app when you’re finished using it. That’s because iOS has algorithms that minimize battery usage by apps when you’re not actively using them. Closing an app and then later reopening it actually uses more power than just leaving it open. It’s as if you turned off your car at every stoplight: you use more gas restarting it than by letting it idle.

Another serendipitous discovery is that if you leave those apps open when you restart your iPhone, they’ll still be running when you restart it.

And talk about RYFM (Read Your Effing Manual): I struggled for weeks trying to get my phone to ring before Stacey showed me what was wrong: the side switch that used to control screen rotation is now the on-off switch for the sound. Duh!

Finally, some advice for anyone considering buying an iPhone:

  • Insure it from day one. Whether you do it through the dealer or a reputable third-party, it’s worth the cost
  • I also added a glass screen protector
  • Buy a good case or cover
  • Download and READ the manual or user’s guide for both your phone as well as the relevant iOS version
  • Download and install some kind of emergency app. First responders can access your information in case of an emergency. I use one called ICE.
  • Be sure to activate the Find My Phone setting! Settings–>Apple ID–>iCloud–>Find My iPhone
  • And if you’re kinda old like me, don’t get frustrated! You CAN get this!

1000 Words a Day

This morning on Medium I read a piece on the benefits of writing 1,000 words a day. Since I’m lucky to write every day at all, and most of the time only manage to hit 500 words,I decided I’d give it a try.

My favorite takeaway from the article?

This simple daily habit has literally a had a six figure ROI. It’s changed my life and my career.

I’m not writing for a living, and I don’t expect to be any time soon. But it strikes me that all of the advice given in the article makes sense, especially if I have any pretentions of calling myself a writer. (109 words at this point.)

Just when I was beginning to think I’d never make it as a writer, Medium once again pointed me in the right direction with an article entitled “Someone Is Going To Laugh At Your Dreams.”

I don’t believe in fate or coincidences, but I’m starting to wonder about serendipity. Or maybe what Jung called synchronicity.

So maybe—just maybe—someone or something is trying to tell me something.

So I’m going to put on my big-girl panties and get to work. I won’t always be writing on this blog, as I have a few other projects I’m working on, but at least I’ll report back now and then with a progress  report.

Robyn Jane

My Writer’s Toolbox—Re-Tooled

Every now and then I reevaluate the apps and programs I’ve been using to write. The perfect suite would be one that I could use on all of my devices: my iPad and iPhone running (as of this writing) iOS 11, and my laptop PC running Windows. Add into that mix the fact that when my wife and I write something together, she’s on her iPad Pro and writing with Apple’s Pages.

For her, it’s easy: whatever she writes will sync automagically across all of her devices. For me, it’s another story.

The Previous Solution

It was something I cobbled together, based on the fact that Pages wasn’t available on my PC—which is where I do the bulk of my writing and editing. Since Pages will export to MS Word format, and LibreOffice will read and write MS Office files, it was a simple matter of Stacey exporting her efforts in .docx format and sending them as attachments in emails. I could then either edit them and send them back to her, or append them to the master document.

All of this was before the Cloud. After the Cloud, we used DropBox and iCloud instead of emails.

The Better Solution

Recent changes to Pages have made things even easier: I can now log into my iCloud account via my Windows browser, and use the on-line version of Pages to write and edit! My edits are saved, and both Stacey and I have access to them no matter which device we’re on.

It’s a Fact of Life

You’d think that after using computers since the early ‘80s, and having worked as both an educator and a service engineer, I would have learned my lesson: go big! But no. Which means that when it came time for me to make the jump from an Android phone to my new iPhone 6s Plus, I’d have maxed out the options. Nope. Just the basic 16 Gb memory.

Which means that I rely on the Cloud even more than before. Still, the iPhone X is almost here, but $1000 is a lot of money to spend. Would I be better off keeping what I have now and upgrade my iPad Mini to an iPad Pro? If I did that, I might not even need to use my laptop for writing anymore.

Decisions, decisions…

My Current Writer’s Toolbox

Three devices:

  • iPhone
  • iPad Mini
  • Lenovo laptop PC

Software:

  • Apple’s Pages (a free download)
  • LibreOffice Writer (also free)
  • Scrivener (free evaluation copy)
  • iCloud from Apple
  • Dropbox (because there’s no such thing as having too many backups. This is in addition to my daily automagic backup to my external hard drive.)

What About You?

Do you deal with different platforms and incompatibilities? If so, do you have a system that works for you? Let me know—I’m always open to suggestions.

Thanks!
Robyn Jane

A Few Tools

Writing, of course, requires a few tools. I have a few essentials in my writer’s toolbox, and I’d like to share them with you.

The Essentials

1. Libre Office: This program bills itself as “[A] powerful office suite – its clean interface and feature-rich tools help you unleash your creativity and enhance your productivity. Libre Office includes several applications that make it the most powerful Free and Open Source office suite on the market.” And although it is indeed a suite of tools, I only have experience with Libre Office Writer (the word processor). It’s a full-functional word processor that uses the OpenDocument Format (ODF), a fully open and ISO standardized file format that guarantees access to your data forever. (You can, of course, encrypt your documents with a password.) Because ODF is standardized, other office software can implement support for it as well – and many programs have done so. By using ODF, you ensure that your data can be transferred between different computers and operating systems, without having to worry about vendor lock-in or license fees. You can also save your documents in Microsoft Word format (which you can also read in Writer), or export them as PDF files.

2. Pages: Pages is Apple’s word processor for iOS and MacOS. “Pages is a powerful word processor that lets you create documents that look beautiful and read beautifully. And with real-time collaboration, your team can work together on a Mac, iPad, or iPhone — even on a PC using iWork for iCloud.” That last bit—about being able to use Pages on iCloud—was new to me, and will make my life a lot easier, since it eliminates the workaround I describe in yesterday’s post. Yes, you could say I’m definitely a Happy Camper! Oh, one small hitch—it doesn’t work very well with Firefox, so you’ll need to use either Safari (which is no longer supported on Windows) or the Chrome browser.

3. Open Live Writer: “Open Live Writer is like Word for your blog. Open Live Writer is a powerful, lightweight blog editor that allows you to create blog posts, add photos and videos then publish to your website. You can also compose blogs posts offline and then publish on your return. Open Live Writer works with many popular blog service providers such as WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Moveable Type, DasBlog and many more.” This was developed from Windows Live Writer when Microsoft decided to abandon any further development of that product. Open Live Writer is provided under a MIT license..

This is my go-to blogging tool. I use it on WordPress. Blogger, and my own independently-hosted blog.

4. Scrivener: I can’t adequately review Scrivener because it’s so many things to so many people. The best I can do is urge you to hop on over to their website and check it out for yourself. It’s available for Windows, MacOS, and iOS. You can download an evaluation copy to try before you decide if it’s worth purchasing. That’s what I did, and yes, I bought a licensed copy. It was written by writers for writers, so it isn’t just another programmer’s idea of what a writing program should be. I have it on my Windows laptop as well as my iPhone and iPad.

Other Options

BlogTouch Pro (for Blogspot Blogger), and BlogTouch Pro (for WordPress) live on my iPad, along with the official WordPress app. All are available on the Apple App Store.

And even though BlogPad Pro is no longer being developed, it will always remain my favorite blogging app on either my iPad or iPhone.

Any Suggestions?

What are your favorite writing tools? Drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll gladly check them out.

And Here We Go!

WordPress is a great blogging platform, but it’s bloody difficult to find a decent blog name for a free blog. Maybe next month I’ll upgrade and get my own domain name. Who knows?

What’s Here

Rants. Raves. Reviews. Whatever I feel like writing. Sometimes it might be incoherent, and that’s okay. After all, the main purpose of the blog is to help me overcome writer’s block whenever it sets in.

I believe the best way to overcome writer’s block is to write. What was that line from Throw Mama From The Train? “A writer writes!”

There will also be reviews of writing software from time to time, and I’ll share some tips and techniques I’ve picked up along the way. Let’s face it: technology is great, but sometimes it’s also a great big pain in the ass.

Want an example?

My primary writing tool is my laptop computer running Windows. But I also carry a iPhone. and from time to time an iPad. To further muddy the waters, my writing partner uses a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad. Obviously, this makes it difficult to share files across the various systems.

Fortunately, when either of us writes on our iPhone or iPad, we use Apple’s Pages, which most reviews I’ve seen say is the best word processor available for IOS devices. We store our writings in the cloud, where we can both access them and retrieve them. Pages is capable of exporting to various file types, including RTF. This is a big help, since Pages isn’t available for the PC. Instead, I can download the RTF file and bring it into my word processor, Libre Office Writer.

Final document organization and prepublication chores are done in Scrivener, and then the final version is ready to send to the publisher.

At least that’s the theory. I just came up with this technique this afternoon, so we still have to test all of the components.

But hey! It gave me something to write about, right? And that’s the main purpose of the blog!