munging text

Like it or not, my creative process is incredibly technological. I write, organize and manage my thoughts and productivity with my computer. This entry is about some of my recent frustrations and experimentations with my "system," and process.

Here's an example: The technology and creativity are so related for me, that I had a minor crisis of faith, leading to a somewhat startling minor existential panic as I was trying to fall asleep last night in response to one of the keys on my keyboard falling off.

No doubt the anxiety and stress of the past few months have complicated everything in my life in ways that I'm still fighting to recognize, but setting this aside for the moment, I want to take this opportunity to review some of my thoughts.

With the discovery of MacVim I've once again renewed my interest in learning how to use vim, a very old school and powerful text editor. This document has been particularly useful in helping me attempt this feat, though I continue to feel way behind the curve.

A quick note. vim, descended from the unix vi editor, makes editing text really simple, and outshines almost every other editor in a sort of brute force sort of way. One of the things that makes it so powerful is that it's bimodal (basically, sort of). In one mode--"INSERT" mode--most like what anyone who started using computers after, say 1982, allows you to type and edit text directly. You type, and the characters you enter appear on the screen. The other mode, "COMMAND," allows you to interact with the program, and your key strokes tell the program to do something. This means the keyboard is much more effectively used. For instance, "h," "j," "k," and "l" move the cursor around in command mode, which highly maximizes the economy of movement of fingers, particularly for touch typists. And, to get the most out of vim, the idea is to spend as much time in command mode, and as little time in insert mode as possible.

And frankly, my brain is having some trouble groking this. I think part of the problem is that while I work almost exclusively in plain text, a very very small percentage of what I produce/edit is actually computer code: most of it is prose, files ranging from a few hundred to several thousand words, in average sized paragraphs. Which is fine, the issue being that that vim seems to be better organized around editing rather than the (sometimes) spontaneous generation of new content. So the end result of this line of thinking is that, despite really wanting to feel proficient with vim, it might not be particularly suited to what I want to do. Which I'm kind of disappointed by. But I'm going to try a a little more, I think, because I feel like I've gotten further this time than I ever have before.

That's part one. Part two is that I think I need to work a little harder on setting up some templates to aid in organization. When I open a blank file to write a blog post I have a snippet that I can insert that will set up the headers of the post so a I can tag the entry title it, and start writing in a couple of seconds, and I like how the templates, however spare, get things rolling a little. So I think that I need to work on building more of them, no matter what editor I use. Thankfully this is pretty straightforward to fix once I figure out what kinds of templates and boiler plates I can start using.

One thing that I have done that I think is interesting, is that I've started to use my right pinky more. I'm left handed, and I realized not too long ago that I basically did all of my function (shift, command, control) key pressing with my left pinky. Like technically I think if you capitalize letters that fall under the left hand, you're supposed to use the right shift key, but the truth is that I basically never do this (and probably slow my typing speed something fierce for it.) I also don't really use my right thumb on the space bar and use my right index finger for the backspace (but not the return key.) Anyway I've caught myself use the command key with my right pinky a few times. Which is exciting, because I think it makes me, in some minor way, more efficient, and this is a good thing.

Another area that I'm working on improving a bit is with outlining and planing and whatnot. Over the past year or so I've made a move from being basically paper free, to doing brainstorming, and project planning on paper. This isn't a bad thing, but it does mean that, I've gotten out of the habit--as hard as it might be for readers of this blog to fathom--of writing spontaneously at the keyboard. So I think taking notes might help with this whole process. Part of "working" on this, is a habitual thing--just getting in the habit of writing this way--but another part, not to be ignored, is getting a template for the files, and a naming scheme for collecting and organizing these thoughts. For instance, my reflex is to just type things in markdown, which has its advantages, but the truth is that I'm not incredibly likely to use anything other than markdown syntax highlighting, so I need to look into other possible formats that might work better in plain text format.

I think that's about all I can stand to put here, I'll have a cut earlier in the entry, just so that it's not absurd/outrageous, unless you're feeling really geeky. But then, you've gotten to this point, so you probably were feeling that geeky. Thanks.

Onward and Upward!

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