Originally this post was to be about Setapp, which I’ve now been subscribing to over the past three months or so. Perhaps I’ll get to that at some point, however I probably haven’t poked around or utilised enough of the apps to really write anything of worth. One of the big draw cards though for hitting the signup button on Setapp was full access to Ulysses, and on that point I do have a little bit to say — not so much about the app itself, more so that it actually has me writing again.
Back in Ulysses… and actually writing
What is it about Ulysses then?
Before we get to that, just briefly, Ulysses being one of the plethora of text editors out there for Mac and iOS competing to be the heart of many a writing workflow. Running on a subscription model either direct from the developer or through Setapp as I’ve mentioned, it may just be the ”ultimate writing app” as the developer suggests:
Powerful features and a pleasant, focused writing experience combined in one tool, made for people who love to write and write a lot — this is Ulysses.
Sounds about right.
While this post is about the app itself, it also isn’t at the same time. Of course no-one uses an app or system which is difficult to use or not to their liking. We all have our criteria here, and we could go down the path of the various UX and UI aspects of the app, and all manner of technical capabilities and limitations. Well, lets be honest — we could do that if I were in any way capable of such a thing, however in reality I’d be wading in waters I had no business being in. Add the debates around subscription pricing, data storage, true markdown and proprietary file databases and you have a lot more to discuss. That isn’t the purpose of this post.
No, the purpose of this post is explicit in the section heading above. Getting back into writing again despite a couple of very, very lean years here on the blog, during which time I was in and out of quite a few text editors. I hear you (and a smattering of YouTube thumbnails) telling me: It’s not about the tools it’s about doing the work…I certainly don’t entirely disagree with that sentiment, however I’m increasingly inclined to believe it’s even less true than I once thought.
Ulysses can’t do the writing for you though, surely?
No it cannot, and arguably there are just as many capable apps out there that will do the job (believe me, I’ve tried a few…). It’s just that for many years, Ulysses was where I wrote. Plain and simple. Back in the heyday of this blog, posting regularly, committing to a weekly link post, heck — even giving NanoWrimo a crack and getting 55k words done in that crazy month. All done in Ulysses.
So no, Ulysses didn’t put words on a page for me, but certainly helped me find my way and regularly do something I inherently enjoy — writing. Sure, most of what I write never sees the light of day, but cliche’s exist for a reason: it’s about the process (journey) not the result (destination). Somehow, somewhere along the way, that process for me became “writing in Ulysses” rather than simply “writing”.
Well if it’s so great why did you stop in the first place?
A very fair question given the high praise above. Part of me probably believes the blog would have gone from strength to strength had I stuck with Ulysses, although that would be a fairly unrealistic and flawed argument. There is no discounting the million and one other things going on in our lives, and truth be told, my writing consistency and rate of posting was on a downward — let’s call it a slope rather than the somewhat harsher spiral — long before I pulled up stumps with Ulysses the first time around (somewhere around 2017 I believe). In fact I do recall thinking that if I wasn’t writing all that much then there wasn’t much point in paying the ongoing subscription. In many ways a periodic “what am I paying for and what am I actually using” review of my subscriptions at the time. For the record, I have no issue with subscription pricing models, as a consumer, the power is entirely with me, and decisions simply need to be made from time to time.
So yes, that first time it was a casualty of competing priorities, commitments, general life challenges (nothing major mind you, just the day to day getting in the way a little), and perhaps a waning of will. The funny thing is, those very life challenges seem best countered by doing just this — writing, with my good pal Ulysses helping me along, and that’s exactly what I’m seeing and thriving on now. I for one certainly hope it continues.
Incidentally, I’d planned to link to a couple of previous posts relevant to what I’m discussing here, however going back through the earlier years of the blog really puts the recent me to shame as far as output is concerned, and indeed gave me pause. Here they are anyway:
Ulysses 2.6 – An update to my favourite text editor
So there you have it. Me and Ulysses. Butch and Sundance. It’s not the tool it’s the mems!! It’s an ode to the golden years of my writing. The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood of markdown! Wow, I’m not sure how we ended up here, so it’s perhaps time to wrap this one up.
Whether or not this is some fleeting zen moment and things won’t actually change all that much will perhaps be seen in the fullness of time — or at least next January when thoughts again come to the year past and the one ahead. For now, the butterfly is in the sky and seems to be flying along pretty well.
I remain optimistic, with a trusted companion at my side(bar).