Results of my First 2021 Writing Sprint

Well, that was easy! I downloaded Ulysses and figured it out enough to create a blog post later in the day. Super easy to use. Very minimal interface, which I like. It uses Markup language instead of being more WYSIWYG like Microsoft Word. I kind of enjoyed the minimal nature of it. I was able to focus more on the content. The fact it can upload directly to WordPress is vital since most of my writing will likely be blogging right here!

I also explored the ability to have many different writing snippets at various stages of progress or just waiting for me to use them in the future. Since writing is highly creative, this allows me to create based on my mood and context. I had a strong positive reaction to having this ability. For example, I have this blog post in progress right now, a long-form email in process, a couple of snippets of ideas, and three other blog posts at various development stages. I can work on any of them at any time. I like that! It lets me be as scatterbrained as I want and still be productive at any time.

Lastly, Ulysses can publish to more formats than just WordPress. It can publish in Word, PDF, ePub, text, or HTML format. I especially like being able to go to Word. I can also create directly in Word, of course, but Ulysses lets me use the ability to combine snippets and be working on many different things at once in the same interface. I can’t do that with Word. I can then take whatever I like and export it to Word for final editing and cleanup.

It isn’t all roses. There are some downsides. I didn’t like that it doesn’t integrate directly with Grammarly. During the sprint, I did figure out how to make this less painful. It is a few steps, but they seem to work: 1) create the written content in Grammarly, 2) cut/paste that content into Word, 3) run Grammarly in Word and correct errors, 4) cut/paste back into Ulysses, 5) use Markup language to put in images, links, and anything else that ends up hidden in Ulysses. It sounds complicated, but it works, and I can tolerate it.

On the other hand, don’t get me started on iCloud sync! Oy, what a nightmare. After doing a lot of research on this topic, Ulysses isn’t the only program afflicted with iCloud sync issues. I tried every way to make it work, and it never worked across all my devices. Fortunately, you can add external folders. Using a Dropbox folder turned out to be relatively easy, and it supports all my devices so that fixed the sync issue. If this had not been possible, then Ulysses would have been eliminated. I need to write on my Mac, iPad, and iPhone, or this writing experiment will fail.

So I downloaded Scrivener, and I was quickly overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. Underwhelmed because for all of the power of Scrivener, it can’t save to WordPress. I was overwhelmed because there are a crazy number of things you can do. If I write a book (which is a possibility), I’ll have to look at Scrivener again. For my purposes, it isn’t going to be helpful for most of the writing I will be doing, so I punted on Scrivener for my writing experiment.

The next step was to see if there were any other decent writing tools to try. I found a few which make blogging be easier but didn’t do anything else. At that point, I decided to be all in on Ulysses and see if it could make me hate it. After one sprint, I am still using Ulysses and happy with my choice. We’ll see if it helps me create more content over time. I hope I post more content here in the future. If I do, then the experiment is a success.

Let’s see how I did on the backlog for the last sprint:

  • Write and publish a blog entry using Ulysses (√ – and I did 2 of them since Scrivener didn’t work out the way I hoped)
  • Write and post a blog entry using Scrivener (too painful to do, so I’ll call it successful! √)
  • Decide whether either one is a long-term possibility and if not, then research other alternatives (√)

My backlog for the next sprint is quite simple:

  • publish two blog entries
  • send a long-form email
  • create a useful PDF
  • design a folder structure in Ulysses to mimic my workflow and writing needs
  • formalize timing of Scrum events for each sprint (this sprint was somewhat haphazard, but better than I was able to do previously)

After one sprint, my 2021 experiment has been successful. How are your 2021 experiments working so far? What do you mean you haven’t started any??? Get started on something and see what happens! Safe to fail experiments, like the one I’m doing, are a great way to grow. Come up with one for 2021 and start attacking it!

Extra note: I just found out that I can use dictation by speaking into the microphone on my phone and it will go directly into Ulysses. Sweet! Oh, and I just did it with that last sentence and this one too.

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