The more time you spend dicking around with these apps is time you’re not making something. It’s super easy to split hairs about which app is best and which one is the most minimal or whatever, but this is such a solved problem that spending more than a few minutes thinking about it is a complete waste of time. [...]
I use Notesy on my iPad and iPhone. It has all the features I need and it works just fine. Ben prefers iA Writer and (the other) Brett likes Byword. If you’re in the market for such an app, any of these would be fine places to start.
But, let’s just agree that endlessly evaluating these types of apps is a textbook case of fiddling.
(I’m honestly not trying to pick on anybody, but the above post was inspired by this post).
There’s been quite a bit of talk over the last week regarding minimalist writing applications. Too much, in fact. Like Brett, I was driven to write about Ben Brooks’ post, especially after reading this:
I downloaded the new Byword for iOS this morning — I spent the first 15 minutes trying to decide between the two custom fonts. 15 minutes. 2 fonts. Just imagine if I could change the background color? I used to spend hours a week tweaking colors in WriteRoom.
Like Brett, I’m not trying to pick on Ben. I don’t think he is wrong or bad or that my way or my app is any better. I just see myself in that comment. While I’m more prone to tweaking overall workflows rather than individual apps, I’m just as guilty of giving up time fiddling with things that really didn’t need it. I can get lost in Keyboard Maestro trying to streamline something that didn’t really warrant it. It’s fun and it’s easier than the hard work of actually making something. I’ve become excellent at rationalizing this: I’m trying to remove friction, I’m creating useful tools for others who struggle, I want to review this app and really need to know what it is capable of. Sometimes this is true; most of the time it is feeding an addiction.
This kind of fiddling is not a byproduct of our tools, it’s a result of our choices. Finding something like iA Writer (a minimalist writing app known for having no preferences and Ben’s app of choice) doesn’t solve the problem, it simply means you’ll find something else to fiddle with. Sure, you could go through every aspect of your life and eliminate anything with options. You can seek out as much minimalism as the world will offer, but wouldn’t the time be better spent building up willpower?
Minimalism shouldn’t replace self-control, it should eliminate waste. Temptation is always going to be there, it just may not come in the form of keyboard shortcuts or font sizes. We may be able to control our writing environment, we may be able to control our workflows, we may be able to control every last pixel of our website, but in reality we don’t control all that much. The world is constantly lobbing distractions our way (and when the world isn’t, our brain is more than happy to help). Cultivate the willpower to stare these distractions in the face, know they are there and make great stuff while staring them down1.
If you’re prone to fiddling, here are a few things you may want to consider:
- Find something that works and stop looking for something better.
- Schedule a regular review of your tools and workflow. If you can’t beat it, limit it.
- Stop reviewing or trying new things, especially if you’re mostly happy with what you’ve got.
- Quit going into preferences. Only ever go in with the intent of changing something specific.
- Whenever tempted, go make something instead.
Have any better ideas for getting past fiddling and into your work? Leave them below, I sure as hell can use them…