Writing a Blog is like Working Out

…you need a spotter.

I mean, you can’t be a writer on your own. Sure, guys like John Gruber do it, but I don’t think John Gruber is very interesting either. Gruber started at the right time and got huge. Most of his content are links to other people’s stuff and maybe a sentence or two. I don’t consider Daring Fireball required reading. It lives in Fever as a spark, not kindling.

By a spotter , I mean you need someone to watch you to make sure you’re being authentic. Sure, an audience might be able to do this, but if your audience criticizes you, you might not take it as seriously as your spotter does. I guess this would be an editor, or even informally, a writing partner. I had a co-writer like this before who was really good at keeping me in check. I had a tendency to go on tirades in my writing, and he made sure I was justified in my tirades. If I went on an unjustified tirade, he would let me know I was going off the deep end and he would get my ass back in line. I miss that. I think I’m afraid to go nuts with my writing the way I used to, because I don’t have a mirror to tell me if I’m being too crazy.

Second, Don’t Care

Merlin Mann says, “First, care.” I’d say that I agree with that. If you don’t care about something, you’re never gonna have the passion it requires to do it well. But after that, I’d say you have to not care…about what other people think. About you. About what you’re doing. About how you’re doing it. When I first started writing for Smoking Apples, I never worried about how people perceived my opinions. That lead to me being disliked by more than a handful of people on the Internet. When I subsequently started podcasting, I went into it with the same mentality. I had a great time with it, and the people who generally liked the things I posted on Smoking Apples and Twitter liked what I was doing with the podcast. It was when I started listening to people who didn’t like what I was saying that I became self-conscious. I always welcomed technical criticism. If the way I was presenting my content wasn’t efficient, I was happy to listen to someone’s advice. But when I received criticisms about the content, I was less welcoming. I started censoring myself, my jokes, and my opinions. While I may have temporarily appeased one critic, the people who liked what I was saying before that found the new Brandon much more boring. There’s a delicate balance between criticism that’s useful and that’s not useful, just like there’s a fine line between risqué humor and offensive humor.

Where did my passion go?

Howdy! Remember when I used to write about software and Apple stuff? It’s been a while, right? Sometimes, just sometimes, I get people asking me about when I’m going to do more of it. I honestly don’t feel the same feverish passion about Apple stuff the way I used to. It’s not that I like Apple’s products or the software that I use on them any less. I use my iPhone and Macs just as much as I ever did. Perhaps even more since I got the MacBook Air that I’m writing this on. It’s just that I don’t care about the news cycle anymore. I don’t read Apple blogs anymore. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I switched from Google Reader to Fever full time again, and Fever does a good job of just giving me the really hot news items. I occasionally click on a link to Macstories but it’s not everyday. I don’t go to Apple blogs just to skim. The big blogs (read: blog networks) have a bland voice and I don’t find them interesting. I fell in love with Smoking Apples long ago because it was independent, beautifully laid out, and I liked Milind’s voice. They were great about finding beautiful and interesting software, which I argue, is the most exciting thing about computing. The big blogs, if they ever find these cool little pieces of software, are really late to the party. The smaller guys were much faster and had better taste. There were plenty of small sites thought that ran reviews on every shitty little piece of software that they got App Store promo codes for. I, as well, was guilty of taking free software, and then reviewing it even though I didn’t give two shits about it. Remember that location-based iPhone game I reviewed? Bored me to tears to write about it, but I did it because I felt compelled to. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like I even requested the promo code.

So Smoking Apples kind of died a long slow death. The writers (and content) slowly disappeared. I still don’t know why. But it’s like a case of the flu, once someone catches the bug to not write, other writers pickup up on the sinking ship feeling and stop writing as well. And when my favorite Apple blog started fading away, so did my overall interest in keeping up with the news cycle. I still enjoy talking about Apple stuff; I have an Apple podcast that I do with Gabe Glick, but that’s not every week anymore, and we save the show for big topics and often have guests on to talk about things. It’s a communal experience where you’re sharing your thoughts with others in real time, not just yelling at the great black void that is the Internet. It’s a tough thing trying to be serious about writing when you don’t know if anyone’s listening. Building an audience is hard. Even if you’re saying things that people might like to hear, it’s a pain in the ass getting that message to their ears to begin with. I made a lot of great connections through Smoking Apples, and then subsequently pissed them all off through Twitter.

So what’s my point with this post? Hell if I know. I think what I was trying to get at was I would like to write about Apple stuff again, but for the last six months, I haven’t been able to work up the passion for it. What I do know is that I don’t want to write the same stuff that TUAW and Macstories do. I’m more into the weird tinkery stuff that Dr. Drang or Practically Effecient do.

Say Bye Bye To Ugly Text Editors with Byword for OS X

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I love TextMate. It’s a powerful text editor. The bundles available for TM let you do all sorts of things you never thought possible with it. It has great Markdown support, which is a complete necessity as far as I’m concerned, and the blogging bundle lets me post to my WordPress blogs without leaving the text editor. It’s not the most full-featured blogging set-up available, but it’s pretty darn good. What I don’t like about TextMate is how it feels when I’m writing longer stuff. The only way I can put it is: TextMate has no soul. It’s going to sound a tad silly, I know, but TextMate, while it’s very awesome, is better suited for coding and editing short snippets of text. I don’t know why I think this way. For a long time I used Hog Bay Software’s Writeroom for all my writing. It may seem hard to believe if you started following me from Kernel Panic, but a few years ago, I was a software review-writing machine for Smoking Apples. The desire to constantly write about software kind of went away, and was replaced by the far easier outlet that podcasting is. I find it much easier to talk about tech topics than write about them. At a certain point, the non-stop chatter about if a UI is pretty gets tiresome.

Back to the reason I’m writing this here piece though. I wanted to write about Byword for OS X. Byword is a streamlined Writeroom. It’s main draws are its aesthetics and simplicity. It’s all black and white. No color, whatsoever. It’s got a light theme and a dark theme. It’s got a couple preset font choices (you can edit the font if you want to though). It does plain text and rich text. You can get a Markdown preview as well, thanks to the latest update. It’s a little bit of a problem that you can’t choose any extensions other than .txt and .rtf though. I had gotten into the habit of naming all my Markdown files .mdown or .md, but it’s not a deal-breaker. It also has a separate option for “New Document” and “New Markdown Document”. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is. The Markdown preview can be used no matter which you’ve chosen.

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The last little cool thing that Byword can do is “focus” on text. Like iA’s Writer for iPad, Byword can focus on one to nine lines of text or on entire paragraphs. Anything above or below the “focus” area is still visible, just grayed out.


If you wanna buy Byword and help out the site at the same time, buy the app from the Mac App Store for $9.99.