In anticipation of maybe possibly hopefully having a book come out at some point, I’ve been refreshing my website. Partly because having a book might mean more people looking at my website, and partly because working on a book inspires all sorts of productive procrastination.

In collecting things to feature on my homepage, I was disappointed with how few good pieces of public writing I had available. There’s some good stuff, sure, but not as much as I’d like, and it’s all mostly about content strategy. I care about content strategy but it’s hardly my only interest. So I find myself chasing a vague impulse to blog more regularly.

Ulysses Editor

New impulses mean new apps, of course. I’m trying to do more work from my iPad, and went looking for an app to help me develop ideas into drafts and drafts into finished pieces; a writing environment with a workflow focus. The first one I found to check most of my boxes was Ulysses.

I was initially skeptical of the library model — I’m used to keeping separate files for everything. But after clearing out my txt folder recently, I realized that hasn’t really been helping me get work done. I read through all of their guides and downloaded the trial and played around a bit and was impressed enough to subscribe. It’s not cheap but if this ends up helping me produce more work $40/year will seem like a steal.

I like that it has an inbox and I’ve used that already to good effect. I had a few text files on my work computer, which is synced to a different iCloud account, that I wanted to get into Ulysses. I used the macOS share menu to AirDrop them to my phone. A couple quick taps and there they were in my Ulysses inbox. Nice.

I was also skeptical of the Markdown-but-not-Markdown syntax, but the guides cover this pretty well. I ran a few experiments and it all exports very cleanly to standard Markdown. Works for me.

Though I haven’t used it much yet, I like that it has a notes feature. This allows you to add a note about a draft right next to the draft, but not in the draft. It’s similar to how notes work in GarageBand and Logic, a feature I use regularly in those apps.

The style and customization options seem generous without being overwhelming. I’m running in dark mode with the solarized theme for the editor. Very plain and clean but it looks kind of future-y and fun on my iPad, which I like.

Keyboard commands are not quite intuitive for me yet, but they seem reasonable.

This will be the most intense use I’ve made of iCloud and I’m apprehensive about the syncing and backup. I lost several hours of work a few weeks ago to Notes and iCloud making a whole bunch of stuff just evaporate. So fingers crossed.

I wish the version control was more robust but it’s definitely a step up from having to go to Dropbox on the web when I screw up something in a text file.


The organization scheme is making a lot of sense for me. “Groups” are the top-level mechanic, which work like folders. I added top level groups for my website, talk abstracts, and 7x77. I tried out a few options for sub groups but after watching this video from Shawn Blanc I borrowed his idea and made four sub groups under each:

  • Ideas - Stubs, brain dumps, and drafts in progress that I’m not sure I actually want to publish. Stuff that I might still conceivably use in a piece.
  • Development - Pieces that are clear enough in my head that I think I can get them done. For the newsletter, this also contains placeholders for editorial decisions even if don’t have an outline yet; e.g. I know the subject for issues 76 and 77 already.
  • Staging - Stuff that’s production ready. This is a to-do list, basically.
  • Archive - Where I’ll move stuff after staging, and where I’ll hide old brain dumps that didn’t make the cut but might be useful again some day if I change my mind.

I also like how Shawn handles research and book notes Ulysses, but for now I think I want to keep my Ulysses library focused on “stuff I am actively trying to turn into public writing” and leave Bear for “lists of interesting things and notes I want to reference”. I don’t want or need a list of my past addresses in Ulysses, for instance, and not every book quote I save is research for something particular.

I wrote this whole post from coffee shops on my iPad in Ulysses, so we’re off to a good start!

AuthorScott Kubie

Fifty-two cards. Four suits. Two colors. Three faces, the tens, the aces. Shuffle. Deal. How's your hand? No good? Call a mulligan. Shuffle. New hand. Better? Worse?

With a good shuffle, odds are your deck is in an order that has never existed in the history of cards, let alone those cards. The variables (number and suit) and the shuffle combine in ordinary ways to create extraordinary results. It's a handy idea to borrow for creative work.

I like tools that let me shuffle. How easily can I move these things? Sort, spread, stack, rearrange. Email isn't it. Neither is Word. Meetings, definitely not. Shuffle is why I'm not a sticky note guy. Index cards have shuffle.

AuthorScott Kubie

On why artists need to be challenged:

Art should be well-subsidized, yes. But the purchase of a completed painting or a sculpture, the commisioning of a mural—or perhaps the publication of a poem or a novel or the production of a play—all these forms of recognition are the rewards of mature work. They are not to be confused with the setting up of something not unlike a nursery school in which the artist may be spared any conflict, any need to strive quite intently toward command of his medium and his images; in which he may be spared even the need to make desperate choices among his own values and his wants, the need to reject many seeming benefits or wishes. For it is through such conflicts that his values become sharpened; perhaps it is only through such conflicts that he comes to know himself at all.

On how (visual) artists see other art:

I think that most artists do read a great deal about art, and know a great deal about it — while he may have loked at scores of paintings, have dwelt upon them and absorbed them, his interest has been a different one; he has absorbed visually, not verbally. The idea of classifying such work would never have occurred to him, because to him the work is unique; it exists in itself alone. It is its distinction from other art, not its commnality with other art, that interests him. If the work has no such distinction, if it does not stand alone, he has no reason for remembering it.

On orthodoxy:

If the artist, or poet, or musician, or dramatist, or philosopher seems somewhat unorthodox in his manner and attitudes, it is because he knows — only a little earlier than the average man — that orthodoxy has destroyed a great deal of human good...

On labels:

I believe that if it were left to artists to choose their own labels most would choose none. For most artists have expended a great deal of energy in scrambling out of classes and categories and pigeon-holes, aspiring toward some state of perfect freedom which unfortunately neither human limitations nor the laws allows — not to mention the critics.

On form:

But the idea itself must always bow to the needs and demands of the material in which it is to be cast. The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint.

and also

At one point he will mold the material according to an intention. At another he may yield intention — perhaps his whole concept — to emerging forms, to new implications within the painted surface.

and of course

Form is the very shape of content (p. 62)

On form and content:

Form and content have been forcibly divided by a great deal of presnt-day aesthetic opinion, and each, if one is to beliee what he reads, goes its separate way. Content, in this sorry divorce, seems to be looked upon as the culprit. ... Some...have been taught---schooled---to look at paintings in such a way as to make them wholly unaware of content.

[F]orm is the right and only possible shape of a certain content. Some other kind of form wuld have conveyed a different meaning and a different attitude.

Forms in art arise from the impact of idea upon material, or the impinging of mind upon material. They stem out of the human wish to formulate ideas, to recreate them into entities, so that meanings will not depart fitfully as they do from the mind, so that thinking and belief and attitudes may endure as actual things.

On content and meaning:

a work that is tawdry and calculating in intent is not made more worthy by being easily understood. One does not judge an Einstein equation by its communicability, but by its actual content and meaning.

AuthorScott Kubie

I got out to a show last night. (A show is what you call a concert when you go to a lot of concerts.) Lucy Dacus at the Entry. It had been sold out for some time but I bought a ticket from a fellow First Avenue member through the Facebook group. I first saw her open for Car Seat Headrest at the Cedar a while back.

Took the bus downtown, the 4, which still goes up Hennepin. I didn’t realize when I moved up here that all of the bus routes near me going up Hennepin was because of the construction on Nicollet. Now a few of them have moved back. So a longer walk to and from First Ave, and a bit more planning on my part for the return trips. I used to be able to just stand at a bus stop on Hennepin and know that a bus that would get me home would be by in five or so minutes. Now I have do some planning. It’s a small thing but it really changes the experience.

I checked my big puffy down coat. Record cold yesterday. I’m so grateful when places have coat check or baggage lockers. If you drive and park, you can stash your coat and brave the cold for a dash to the venue. I don’t think we talk enough about the non-transport role cars play for people: mobile lockers, charging stations, nap pods. We do makeup in the mirror, change babies on the backseat, sit on the bumper to wait for a friend, lie on the hood and watch the airplanes fly over. We put dividers on benches so you can’t sleep on them, we build bathrooms without mirrors or changing stations, we create policies that make spaces inaccessible if you simply have a large bag with you. Cars are a way of carrying conveniences with you that should be part of the public space but often aren’t.

I missed the first opener. The second was a band called And The Kids. They were great. Huge sound. You could get fancy with genre labels but to me it just felt like true-blue rock and roll.

Lucy Dacus played all the new stuff first, which is a bit louder and punkier. Then the older stuff after, which has a slower and more atmospheric quality. Great all around. Her writing is incredible. The lyrics seem simple but she uses them in a way the feels consistently surprising and/or devastating. I was dancing (well, rhythmic rock show wiggling) throughout but also had tears streaming down my face during Pillar of Truth. Was glad to have bumped into a friend from the local bike scene, and to have re-met some of her friends, so I didn’t feel alone while bawling in the middle of a show.

Grabbed the coat, dropped a dollar in the plastic tip cup, and walked home. I was feeling warm from the dancing and a vodka tonic. It was a good night.

AuthorScott Kubie

Handwritten notes from a classroom visit Amanda Morrow and I did together while working at BitMethod. Talking to the youths about startups and mobile and content strategy.

AuthorScott Kubie