Context for your content

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One of the things I love about creating original content, is I get to make stuff in a way that works for me. Like athletes having a favorite glove or stick, workers wearing the right clothes for the job or painters with the right brush or paint, these custom containers aren’t necessary to do the work, but they can make the work more (or less) enjoyable. Ironically, at least for me, the best containers provide a context where I forget about them. They reduce friction.

One way that I like to express myself is through writing and publishing. So, I’m always in pursuit of better tools to contain my work. Of course, avoiding writing until I find the perfect instrument isn’t the point. When I do that, I’m just kidding myself. The fine art of creating distractions aside, when I do find better tools that fit for me and my personality, I tend to enjoy everything about the creative process more.

In selecting the right instruments, there used to be a digital divide. You either created as a luddite or you created in a digitally native environment. Thankfully that’s not true anymore which I think is great news.

There are times for example when what I crave more primal technology like pen and paper. When I’m in that mode, I’ve become a huge fan of my Livescribe Sky Wifi (affiliate link with discount). While I write with ink, the pen captures video of what I’m writing (yep, a little camera up the barrel of the ink cartridge). It simultaneously records the audio of what’s being said around me. Then, it links it all together without me even noticing it, bookmarking what I write in ink so that I can get back to a particular audio moment simply by touching a phrase I wrote down with the pen itself – it will literally play that part of the conversation instantly. I know… crazy, right?! Then (this is the Sky part), the next time I come across a wifi signal, everything is uploaded to my Evernote account automatically (see more on Evernote below). This analog to digital approach removes barriers between me and those I’m with (I hate how screens get in the way of relationship), especially if I’m interviewing someone or taking notes at a lecture or presentation. Talk about seamless.

Of course, direct to digital works too. On the hardware side, I wanted to make tablets work, but they never did it for me. After a spin on most every size and weight of portable Mac, I’ve landed with a deep affection for my 13″ MacBook Air because it’s thin and light and magical.

With software, I stumbled onto the usual suspects: Omm Writer’s Dana II to find my Zen, Evernote for almost everything and now, Livescribe capture, Nisus because I wanted to be like Seth Godin and Scrivener to collect, order and assemble my bigger projects.

But what about publishing my content online? Candidly, I’ve been discouraged with this part of my workflow for a long time. I have always craved a minimalistic aesthetic but when it came to blog platforms, what was cast as minimalistic felt dated and simplistic. I felt stuck.

I had a growing sense of what I liked (Ira Glass says that’s good news by the way), but because I’m not skilled as a designer or developer, I couldn’t solve my own publishing platform problem.

I liked the feel and workflow of places like Hi and Medium, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to have the core of my expression be housed exclusively on corporate platforms I don’t own. It’s fine to post fresh ideas on Google+ and Facebook, but not as home base. I want to own what I create, not sharecrop.

So, if I was going pro as an online writer, I wanted pro online writing tools. Like photography, having good gear or getting published doesn’t make you a pro. At best, those are just a signs that you’re in the game.

Over the last year, I’ve discovered some really helpful resources to help. I’ve come to trust – among others – places like Copyblogger (for deepening my understanding of writing online) and Studiopress, home of the Genesis framework and child themes for WordPress as my protools for digital publishing. If you don’t know what those are, they’re worth a peak (affiliate link). This exposure also led me to some brilliant writers, designers and strategic thinkers, including Brian Gardner – the founder at Studiopress.

A few weeks ago, Studiopress published their new Sixteen-nine Pro theme. I liked it a lot. But, simultaneously, I found a subtly cooler theme at Brian Gardner’s personal site. I figured he just tweaked with sixteen-nine but after taking a deeper look, I couldn’t figure out how to modify sixteen-nine to look quite right. A few days later, Brian shared that his blog was actually an upcoming theme called Wintersong and ran a contest for folks like me who were interested in it. Well, I entered and who knew? I won. And, I couldn’t be more pleased. Like Cinderella’s slipper, his new Wintersong child theme just fit. Bottom line: I’m more motivated than ever to publish online.

So, why am I sharing all this? Because context matters. Without it, content is just flesh without bones. Why all the links? Because I’d love it if you could find your way quicker than I did. That said, don’t just go with my choices. Let them be jump off points to find your own custom fit. Be you. Take your time too. Maybe even share what you find.

Most of all, don’t distract yourself from the more important work of making… but don’t neglect setting yourself up to win either.

 

 

Photo Credit: Patty Maher via Compfight cc

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4 comments
Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

I've always loved how you kick it old school Ann. I like the idea of us being livescribe buddies too. Think of how we could geek out - without being so obvious about it - at southX!

Ann Handley
Ann Handley

Lots of great links in here, Dane. But they also filled me some anxiety - because I don't use any of them...! I tend to kick it old school and low-tech. But the Livescribe pen is calling me.... so I might just check that out.

Dane Sanders
Dane Sanders

Thanks Brian. It's inspiring to see all you and your team have created over at copyblogger. Glad to be on board.

Brian Gardner
Brian Gardner

Well said, Dane -- really well said. So great to see you sporting the Wintersong theme, and really excited to see what you do here on your blog!