When You Just Want To Write

I’ve got to admit right up front.  I’ve never been a fan of Microsoft Word, the feature rich wordprocessor.  Perhaps all of the features that it has are needed by some but surely not by me.  I’ve never had cause to use all the bells and whistles and probably never will.  It’s not that I’m against paying for productivity.  Years ago, I bought Sprint from Borland and it was my mainstay until the Ministry of Education licensed WordPerfect.  Both were very powerful and did the job.  Publishing to paper was never terribly exciting – publishing to the web and writing for it is.

I was thinking about writing habits and, these days, I use Evernote or Google Docs for my regular writing and notetaking.  I don’t suspect that I’m alone with this.  There is a real fascination of using Microsoft’s web offering, SkyDrive which certainly has a great deal of power to it.  I’m also cognizant of screen space and the ribbon just uses too much of it for my liking.

Even the layout kind of muddies things for me.  Easily distracted, when I’m using this, not only do I want to find what I want to do but I also want to find what else I can do!

A while back, @aforgrave introduced me to Ommwriter.  Advertised as minimalist, it’s just takes over your screen so that you can do your writing.  Nothing else.  To that end, it doesn’t compare with the functionality of a full blown wordprocessor but for my needs, it doesn’t need to.  It’s just a quiet place to writer.

Following up on the notion of doing things in a browser, I went looking to see if there was now a browser version.  Unfortunately, not.  But, I did find a very interesting application.  It’s called Writebox.  It pushes the concept of minimalist for me.  It installs as a Chrome application or you can use it through the web.

Of course, it has a title bar.  What would an application be if it didn’t?

There’s not much there to steal screen real estate or to distract you (or your students) when you open it in your browser.  But, start keyboarding and it gets better.  That titlebar just fades away and you have a blank page to do your writing.  No distractions whatsoever.  OK, I lied.  I’ve used computers long enough that NOT having a title bar was a distraction that I had to get used to.

There’s no Save button but there is a Sync button.  When you decide to Sync, you have two options.  Sync to your Dropbox account or to your Google Drive.  It’s very simple and straight forward.  I know that there are times when I want to take a few notes on one computer and access them on another.  Google Drive is perfect for that; and now so is Dropbox.

Just write (with no distractions) and sync and you’re done.  How’s that for minimalist?


Is it OK to be a Passive Blogger?

First of all…my sincerest apologies to those that subscribe to this blog via email.  You received my post yesterday with many uses of the word “cemetery” spelled as “cemetary”.  Then, later on, my friend @pbeens let me know that I’d screwed up using the dreaded “it’s” instead of “its”.  Gasp.  This is all so bad.  I’m convinced that the “it’s” problem comes from reading it so much online that it becomes engrained.  I normally don’t make that mistake but, when I do, catch it on the proofread cycle.  It just slipped through the gaps yesterday.  How embarrassing.

Let me tell you how I blog.  I used to just write and post.  Using that pattern, posts could appear at any hour of the day or evening.

In a desire to be more consistent, I started scheduling the posts for 5 in the morning.  My logic was that it was a little less annoying for those who don’t care that I’ve “Just Blogged…” and that it was ready for those who do some reading in the morning before go to work.  It turns out to be the very best decision that I ever made.  It gives me the flexibility to blog when the mood hits and to be able to start a number of posts and file them away until I feel like I can finish them.  Sometimes, I’ll use Popplet as a graphic organizer in the pre-writing, other times, I’ll just add a bunch of bullet points and then flesh them out when finalizing my writing, other times, I’ll go a screen capture of something that’s of interest and then write around it when the mood and availability hits, and yet other times I’ll just sit down and write from beginning to end while the thoughts were in my mind.

That’s what happened yesterday.

Now, depending upon where I am (rec room, home office, patio, Tim Horton’s, …) I might write in the WordPress editor online, with LiveWriter, with OmmWriter, with Qumana, with ScribeFire, or with the WordPress iPad application.  The bottom line is that it could be written entirely online, entirely offline, or a hybrid of the two.  Each have their own advantages but the WordPress online editor has a wonderful set of writing tools.  I brought the post into the editor and used Google Chrome’s search to find and correct all the “cemetary” mistakes.  It was later that I fixed Peter’s catch.  I certainly appreciate the writing helper and feedback from readers like Peter.

As I brought the post into the editor, the writing helper looked like an English student’s worst nightmare!


Could there be more wrong with it!  The red underlines are spelling mistakes (that I would certainly have caught had I used the WordPress editor from the beginning) but the green underlines are messages that I’m writing in the passive voice.


As I sit back and reflect on this apparently butchered attempt of a post, that really has me thinking.  One entire flagged sentence appears below.


Even as I look at it now, I can’t think of any other way I could have written the sentence!

For a long time now, when I use the WordPress writing helper, I get flagged for using the passive voice.  I know that, in school, English was my poorest subject.  Am I continuing as a blogger?

I’ve thought about this quite often.  In my mind, I rationalize it this way.  There are times when I post very aggressively when I’m positive that I’m right and want to convince my audience.  Most of my posts though, are designed to get people thinking and perhaps challenge me with opposing viewpoints.  Using that logic, I typically glance at these suggestions when I see them and usually ignore them.

But should I?

I know that there are many readers of this blog that use blogging as a writing form in the classroom.  What are your thoughts about the passive voice?  Is it something to be  ignored when blogging?  Or, is it a red flag that all bloggers (especially me) should be  addressing at all costs?

I thought that yesterday’s post about cemetaries, er cemeteries was one of my most inspired and interesting posts in a long time.  The WordPress writing helper thinks otherwise.  I’ve illustrated just a couple of things that were flagged.  In fact, the entire post was riddled with suggestions.  What say you?  Do I need help?