Creative Workflow

I've spent much time and effort constructing the best creative workflow for myself. These are my thoughts on the process and the tools I use to bring out those bits of creativity that I can direct into my writing.

My Tools

  • Evernote Evernote (Free) :I store everything in here. Well eveything but my actual writing. In conjunction with IFTT, I have an automated service that stores all the information I deem important to remember. It can store, web articles, PDF's, images, screenshots, notes to yourself, emails, most text files, small movies or audio clips, links to other websites; the only limitation on the free tier is the upload size limit of 50mb (can be upgraded to 1gig) There is no limit on how much you store. This I find invaluable, the longer one uses the service, the amount of information is astounding. Its my own personal wiki.
  • IFTT (Free) :IFTT is an automation service that allows me to setup recipes that are simple to create; these is even a large library of recipes that is shared by other users. Setting up is as easy as drag and drop. The gist of the service is that you will setup channels ---those being things like facebook, twitter, gmail, dropbox, evernote, etc---- and triggers that will automatically perform actions with those services. IFTT means If this then that. I'll give examples further on in the article.
  • NVAlt NVAlt (Free) :For simple note taking and backup. It is quick and works well with plaintext and markdown. I backup exclusively to Dropbox that later on when notes rumerate until I'm ready to work on that idea in iA Writer.
  • Dropbox (Free) :The only backup service you should be using. Its simplicity and openness along with its widespread availability is unparalleled. I still only use the free tier but the IFTT triggers available greatly greases the wheels in my workflow.
  • iA Writer (iPad: .99, MAS: 4:99) My simple text editor of choice. It allows me to sync with iCloud or Dropbox. It has just the features I want and nothing more. Handles markdown documents flawlessly.

How I use these tools

  • Using IFTT and GMail (my main public facing email), IFTT will trigger everytime I label an email as receipt and store it in an Evernote notebook titled Receipts. *Anytime I put a PDF in a particular Dropbox folder, IFTT will upload that PDF into Evernote and tag and label it properly. *Everytime I am tagged or post a photo to facebook, IFTT will download that photo to a certain Dropbox folder.
  • I can call a particular number IFTT provides and it will transcribe that voicemail and upload it to a Voicemail notebook in Evernote. Great for quick todo's or ideas.
  • Everytime I star a news item in Google Reader, it automatically gets uploaded to Evernote into a ReadLater notebook. I used to use instapaper but my overall goal in my workflow is reduce the number of apps I use.
  • Whenever I get a hankering to jot down an idea, I will either write in a paper notebook for later adding to NVAlt (which is always running on my Mac) ,or I jot down in my memos app on my phone which I will email to my Evernote email address. When you sign up for evernote you reiceve a personal email address that you can email things to, attachments or just plain text and it will file it into your inbox for later processing. *Using the evernote mac app, I can take screenshots and they will get uploaded to a screenshot folder. This is great for UI and design work or just funny pictures, or even whenever I need a quick screencap of a bug I've found while working.
  • I archive all my FB status updates into a single file in Evernote using an IFTT recipe. *Everytime I check-in on Foursquare, IFTT will send that location along with GPS on a map or a and photo if I uploaded one into a Check-in notebook in Evernote.
  • Also, IFTT will text me in the morning weather information. Not something so useful but i was my first recipe to use and its consistent.

I am a techie and thus I can be easily distracted by new and shiny tools. But, I've learned these are just distractions. Find an app that is useful, fullfils your needs and is beautiful but simple and you won't turn back. The older I've gotten I've discovered I've slight ADD so my thoughts can be everyway. But using technology to capture those thoughts for later processing is key to my success. Set aside some time everyday to go through your inbox. Set aside some time everyday to get through your Reading list. Lastly and most importantly, you must force yourself to act on those thoughts and write. Wise men have said your should only work on one piece at a time; I've yet to master this technique. I currently have three things going that I am working on: a rewrite from The Druids Cycle (My first novel), a short story called The Veteran, various ideas for future blog articles. There always seems to be something new I'd like to work on, its endless but that is good.

Additional Notes:

  • IFTT has channels for all Google services, so the possibilites there are enumerable. I wish they would add channels for Apple services and iCloud but I highly doubt this until public API's exist.
  • Channels are constently being added so keep an eye out or follow the IFTT blog.
  • My organization in Evernote is constantly evolving but find what works for you.
  • I do all my final writing in Scrivener which I find is the key to actually finishing the first draft of The Druids Cycle. All serious writers shoudl eventually acquire this program ---available for Windows also.
  • I write mostly in Markdown. For those that don't know what it is, it is a plaintext file with little inline syntax that adds formatting for display on the web. Its a "learn in 5 minutes" format and is used by countless writers on the web. Essentially, anything I write that will eventually end up on the web gets put in Markdown. Otherwise, I stick to plaintext.
  • Take advantage of Dropbox's versioning of your files. Especially with writing.
  • Any service you use online, it behooves you to make sure its just as easy to get your information out of said service as it was to get information into it.
  • Keep It Simple Stupid.

This is my workflow and it serves me. Through much trial and error, it is what I'm sticking with for the time being. But find what works for you and stick with it. Automate as much as you can and use as few tools/services as I only need.