The Apps Arms Race

This article came just in time. I'm drowning in apps. A friend (@dwittig) sent it via Pocket during my work time, and, easily distracted as ever, I opened it and read the article right then. @fchimero is right, we/I need fewer tools in our lives and more narratives, better understanding of existing ones. The alarm couldn’t have come at a better moment for me, as I was in the middle of a purchasing frenzy of new apps in the hopes of developing a workflow solution for my many writing projects.

Just yesterday, I installed and set up Postbox as an email manager. I was fed up with Apple Mail, whose long indexing times even for small inboxes was driving me crazy. I’d been very happy with Sparrow, but it never learned to sort junk mail, and so was a flood of hormone ads. And I’d been pleased for a minute with Mailbox until I wasn’t. Already this abundance seems crazy to me, since email isn’t a huge part of my work; I don’t have much to sort, nor have frequent occasion to call up old threaded conversations. Students email to tell me why they can't do assignements, universities email to tell me they won’t be needing my excellent services. It isn't hard to manage.

What is hard: figuring out how to organize my academic research and writing projects. Apart from the two journal articles I have out and under consideration at journals presently, I have

  • a book review due at month’s end
  • 4 other academic articles, mostly on c19 poets, in various states of dress
  • 2-3 casual essays done and ready to go out,
    • 3 in progress
    • 1 under consideration at a magazine.
  • 1 poetry manuscript under consideration at a press,
    • another complete and waiting for a June open-reading period,
    • and new poems coming all the time that need homes.
  • a scholarly monograph whose pitch was well received, meaning a press is waiting for the full mss, which is waiting to be written. 
  • another monograph which is patiently waiting for the first. 
  • weekly job letters and research statements required by universities worldwide. 
  • myriad blog posts, letters, translations I’m working on.

If it isn’t obvious from a list like this, I start new projects before finishing old ones. Right now, my system for organizing this information is a mess. I have some notes in Evernote, some bits of prose in DayOne (where I’m writing this), most outlines and some drafts in Workflowy, other outlines in Pages, and most notes handwritten in one of ten file folders, which were once separated by paper, but are now just color coded by whimsey. I downloaded Ulysses III, but there trial—counted down, weirdly by chronological days, no fuse days—ran out before I got to type a single file. Just the other day, another friend (@joelhenghartse) recommended OmmWriter. It’s a beautiful app, and while I love the writing environment and soundtrack, I’m not sure how to use it yet. I typed some material onto the beautiful trees and now what? I can’t get it to save via the down arrows, and so copy/paste it somewhere else, but where? And when the download feature did work, it created .txt files with which I should do what? Keep adding to by topic under filenames like “Notes for X Project”? Or do I make new (clean) .txt files for each note, tagging the saved files with the new (as yet unused) Mavericks tags?

As you can surmise, this is not something I have the time to devote attention to. It’s divided quite enough already. But I do devote attention to it. Every new whiz bang that comes out I look into, yes, because its flashy, but also because I have a problem and don’t know how to solve it.

I wrote here about simplifying productivity solutions by pretending its 1765, but I don’t know how to make that work in my scholarly life. Frank Chimero’s idea about notebooks and pencils though is very, very appealing.