Alternatives to iA Writer 3

I was once a daily user of iA Writer. They just released the latest version of their app, iA Writer 3. I tried it out and the experience is gorgeous. 

I still won’t end up using the text editor because it doesn’t support exporting to WordPress or Evernote. I’m using the Byword App instead. It’s great, but I prefer the aesthetics of iA Writer. 

So tell me: What are my alternatives if I want these features/characteristics:

  • Export to WordPress and Evernote
  • Markdown
  • Minimalistic 

Let me know if the comments if you have any suggestions!

On breaking habits

Regular readers of the blog know that something has been amiss since Monday. That’s right, this is the first post since I wrote a review of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. So much for daily blogging…

I managed to write every single day for 48 days in a row. In my original blog post I said I was going to give it 3 months before I switched to anything other than a daily schedule. I missed that by almost half.

I’m still going to be writing daily, but I’ve decided not to publish everything like I have been. The reason I didn’t publish anything on Tuesday or Wednesday is because I wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote. So here’s the plan:

  • On the days when I have something ready to publish, I’ll publish it. I still plan on writing based on the daily categories, but I won’t necessarily have something for every day.
  • On the days when I don’t have something ready to publish, I’ll write a short post giving some stats about the writing I did that day. Nothing crazy, just what I worked on and how many words/pages/whatever I managed to drag out of my brain and onto the screen.

Sound like a plan? Well that’s what I’m doing, so it better. See you soon!

The power of journaling

I listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast regularly. I’m somewhat tired of the similar answers that seem to pop up all the time (yes, I read Meditations and stoic philosophy is interesting Tim). There’s probably something to be said for any answer or habit that occurs regularly though. That’s why I still listen.

One thing that comes up over and over again is journaling. A bunch of people do it, and they all seem to get something out of it.

I recently took up notebook journaling and it seems like a habit that’s going to stick around in my life. I’ve done other kinds of journaling for a long time. I use the Day One App on my phone every day and have for more than 2 years. I only use it for basic journaling, however, because I find typing on the tiny keyboard difficult. Instead of writing out paragraphs of details, I tend to write a simple sentence about how the day went. Sometimes I’ll include a photo from the day as well. I don’t look back at it often and I don’t have any plans to in the future. I like to have the data though, because there’s always an idea about some all-powerful dashboard of Logan that I could have in a distant future, one where I could pull up any day and remember exactly how it was through the magic of the quantified self and data visualization.

Anyway, I’ve tried to keep a paper journal a few times in the past and it hasn’t stuck. I’ve been journaling in my notebook for about a month now so there’s no guarantee that it will continue. I’ve found it incredibly useful in focusing my efforts on a daily basis. I’ve also looked back to find important information on a couple of occasions. Those two data points alone are enough to tell me it’s worth my time.

This is what my journaling looks like

  • I use a black large hardcover Moleskine Classic Notebook with squared paper and a blue ballpoint pen. I like the squared paper instead of lined because it plays nice with lists. I’ve tried Rhodia notebooks in the past for their superior paper, specifically so I could use a fountain pen instead of a ballpoint. I simply can’t justify the extra cost for the small perceived benefits to the process, however.
  • I write a couple pages in the morning, usually shortly after I wake up. I’m not great at keeping a perfect schedule. The morning journal tends to be more about the day ahead, although I don’t have any set requirements for myself. I do try to set a few specific goals for the day so I can write about my progress at night.
  • I write two pages in the evening whenever I can find time. It’s 7:30 as I’m writing this and I will probably wait until after dinner to write my journal entry. I’m not as good about writing in the evening, but I find it just as useful as writing in the morning. I usually review my goals and write about any important situations or people I had interactions with during the day.
  • In both the morning and evening journaling I use the Evernote mobile app to save a digital copy of the journal. I simply open the app, tell it I want a new note in my Daily Journal notebook, choose the photo option and point the camera at the notebook. The app has a great document recognition feature so it just automagically snaps the page without any input from me.
  • The image is transferred into searchable text by Evernote because I’m a paid subscriber to the service. I can search by keyword, although with my terrible handwriting the optical character recognition isn’t always the greatest.

Like I said, I’ve already looked back into the journal to remind myself of something I knew was in there, which is incredibly useful. Probably more important is the way it forces me to order my thoughts and goals and put them out on paper every day.

I’m going to continuing journaling. I can already imagine a future with an entire bookshelf dedicated to the black Moleskines. They will, of course, be filed by date with labels on the spines to aid in my information retrieval. Maybe I’ll even do something interesting enough that someone will want to read them in the future. If not, there’s always family. They’re obligated to be interested — or sell the notebooks as kindling in a garage sale.

Ice baths and cold showers

Think of the most luxurious experience you can have on an almost daily basis. Is it eating a wonderful meal? Going for a leisurely walk? Sex? Something else?

For me it was often a shower. I am notorious in my family for taking long showers. When I was younger my father marveled at my ability to completely empty the hot water heater with a single rinse. More recently I lived in an apartment complex with a water heating system that meant I had unlimited hot water. I didn’t keep track of time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent an hour in the shower on some days.

Part of the draw of the shower is the luxuriating. There are few things I enjoy more than almost-hot-enough-to-burn water cascading down my body. The majority of my obsession with long showers was much less hedonistic. I used the time in the shower to think without distraction. The cleaning ritual was automatic, so I could focus on the real issues of the day and get busy solving them.

For the last week my shower times have been significantly different. I’ve spent no more than 10 minutes in the shower each day. It’s too cold to stay any longer.

I’ve been taking cold showers. And I love them. It started out when I took an ice bath after a long run because my legs were feeling sluggish. I’ve known about the health benefits of ice baths for recovery for a long time, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to suffer through them. As it turns out it wasn’t all that bad.

It just so happened that I heard about the potential benefits of cold showers on the podcast I was listening to on the run. I don’t even remember what podcast it was, but the cold shower bit definitely made an impression. There is evidence that cold showers also have benefits so I decided to continue my chilly experimentation.

The cold shower was incredibly invigorating, and not just because it was 100 degrees outside. I felt a rush and a surge of energy that lasted long after the shower. That’s the main reason I’ve continued to take cold showers, and why I will likely continue.

My family members are probably rolling their eyes right now because they think I’ll be back to my old ways in no time. They could be right. For now I’ll continue to embrace the cold.

‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ and other ill-advised performance strategies

I am capable of running on 4 hours of sleep for a relatively extended period of time. I used this tactic often in my college years, when I was going to school full time, working at student publications full time and pursuing other “hobbies” full time. I always justified my lack of sleep with a rebellious sounding quote to myself and others: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

The interwebz is failing at helping me figure out who said this first, but I’m sure it’s been a common sentiment in some form or another for humans across time. We all have this strange predilection for spending a third of our lives unconscious, and some of us fight that biological necessity because of the time it steals from other pursuits. Many a face has lit up with ideas about sleeping less and getting more done, but I don’t think that’s a realistic outcome for me.

Today I try to sleep for at least 7 hours each night. That’s on the lower end of the usually recommended 7–8 hours of sleep, and it seems to treat me well. My Fitbit Charge HR tells me I’ve slept an average of 6 hours and 54 minutes so far this week, which is close enough for me to feel great. I’ve had a few stretches of days when that number gets closer to 6 hours, and even losing that hour is a noticeable detriment to my mood and overall performance in life.

I tend to get my sleep by following the two sleeps method that was likely the prevalent mode of our ancestors. My version isn’t quite the same as the method discussed in the article, where you sleep for 4 hours before staying awake for a couple of hours and then sleep 4 hours again. I tend to sleep for an hour or two and then get up for a while before going back to sleep for the remainder of my 7 hours. Sometimes I read during the awake times, and at others I just lay quietly and think about various things (like blog topics) that happen to be on my mind.

I’ve also tried a more formalized two sleep schedule, where I set an alarm to get up in the middle of the night and everything. I find it difficult to get this right, so instead I just let my sleep happen as it will from night to night. In the past I would have argued for less sleep, but now I know better. Despite the maddening amount of time I have to spend out of this world each day I definitely won’t be cutting back any time soon.

I’ll sleep now and when I’m dead.

Running as meditation

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first installation of Thoughtful Thursday. I promise it won’t take long. My thoughts are simple. Check out this post for more about my daily writing schedule. Also, don’t judge me for calling myself the editor of my own eponymous blog, OK?

My father meditates. He calls it quiet time, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually meditation. I know we’ve talked about it before. We had to, because how else would I have tried it those few times?

It didn’t work. I remember struggling mightily to clear my mind, but wait how do you actually clear your mind — isn’t that like dying? — I’m totally thinking even in my sleep because dreams. Wow breathing is really weird I wonder how my lungs do that when I’m not paying attention.

You get the idea. I failed in every way to slow my mind, let alone clear it.

I haven’t tried it since, so it still doesn’t work for me. Instead I’ve used running as a way to keep my mental energy level on a relatively flat trajectory. I’m not sure that’s what meditation does, but that’s the best way I can describe what I get from running. Very long runs of 20+ miles tend to put me in a place where I can focus on my breathing instead of my inner monologue. Shorter runs can have the same result if I’m lucky. Only those long runs guarantee a few moments of bliss.

So yeah. I run. I call it running, but I’m pretty sure it’s also meditation. Why else would I lace up those shoes so many times each week when I could be doing more important things? Things like sampling every chips and salsa combo in Austin and ranking them across all the important indices like spiciness, chunkiness and deliciousness?

Meditation is one of those customs I really think I ought to have. It must be doing something for my father, since he’s done it as long as I can remember, and I’m more like him than anyone else. It would no doubt be of use to me considering our genetic and behavioral similarities. I can’t make my mind slow down on command so running will have to do. I even read this book about Running With The Mind Of Meditation and I’m still out there thinking about my next meal or how I can fix that thing at work or whatever instead of just sitting in the moment and realizing the truth of the matter:

The universe is not the voice inside my head.