Writing on the iPad

As I was working through my seemingly immutable Instapaper queue this morning I came across Jason Snell’s article from earlier this month titled Writing on the iPad; it was as if I had written the article myself.

Over the past six months I made it a point to keep a journal. Not so that I could reflect on my feelings twenty years from now, but so that I could give it to someone very dear to me as a Christmas gift. Rather than keep the journal on my computer as I would have preferred to with any sort of activity requiring me to write extensively though, I chose to forsake the immutability digitality affords and put pen to paper to create something inherently more valuable than it would have been as a collection of text files printed on 8.5x11 paper. Although my handwriting, just as Jason Snell’s, was then and still is — although to a lesser degree now — quite poor, I was very happy with the result. As was she.

That creation process was surprisingly different than any I had employed in the past, and consequentially the result was markedly different than anything I had previously created. Whereas when I write with the intention of publicizing to this and its derivative platforms I edit fastidiously, I found that I spent little to no time editing my journal entries. Not because I was lazy or cared less about the quality of the result, but instead because I didn’t need to edit them: unlike when I write on my computer and — although to a lesser degree — my iPad, where I often write very quickly and spend an inordinate amount of time editing, the constraints writing with a pen and paper introduce forced me to consider each and every word very carefully. This made that writing especially good; in fact, I might even go so far as to say it was some of the best writing I have done in a long time. Although writing on my iPad does bring with it a similar set of benefits, the unique set of constraints the pen and paper approach presents exhibits these quality traits most prominently. These realizations brought me to a particularly interesting and counter-intuitive conclusion I plan to explore in the coming weeks: it is in the presence of great constraints that great achievements are accomplished.

The Serif Readability Myth

“A typeface’s readability is about far more than just one cosmetic attribute.”

Something to keep in mind next time you design a website with Arial or Helvetica. You don’t even have to buy a font from TypeKit: go to Google Web Fonts and pick something suitable from there — anything to make your site more readable and set yourself apart from everyone else is an excellent choice. Remember, though, that the first job a font should be employed to do is make readable content; it should not be employed to take over the job of your design, but rather serve as a complement to a superb design.

In Search of a Greater Barrier

I have always had great trouble starting to write. I seldom found the actual act of writing difficult, only getting started. The same goes for programming: once I had successfully implemented the main functionality I set out to imbue First Crack with, I ceased iterating on the project not for lack of new ideas — with the underlying code functional and working, I wanted to design an accompanying GUI, for example — but instead because I lacked the drive to approach such a monumental task. I was burned out, I suppose, tired after working on the same project for months and months, and stuck in a linkblog rut when it came to writing.