Plaintext

05/30/20


After years of waffling, I've finally begun a complete conversion of all my word-processing, note-taking, and miscellaneous tracking and documenting into plaintext. Well, no, conversion isn't the right word, as barring a few exceptions (like my now nearly decade-old unfinished novel manuscript), I'm not actually converting anything. Transition, perhaps. I'm transitioning to plaintext.

I've been writing blogs, poems, and lyrics in plaintext for as long as I can remember, but I've relied on rich text and occasionally (regrettably) the odd closed format/databasey system for bigger things, like my notes, fiction, and screenplays.

Why plaintext? Because it's simple and open. That's all there is to it. I love the idea of accessing my writing on virtually any computer made in the last or the next thirty years without installing any special software. Because, dearies, if there is one thing I have learned about myself, it's that I have a deeply tortured relationship with most software, and what I love one day I will almost certainly loathe the next when I remember that I could much more simply and elegantly do whatever it is enabling me to do with a plaintext editor or, say, Photoshop, which I still think is one of (if not the) best pieces of software ever developed, contemporary popular opinion be damned. Text and images--what more do you need? Spreadsheets, I might suggest. I understand why there isn't one, sort of, but I wish we had a plaintext equivalent for spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are tight. Fortunately, it's not too difficult to fudge one in plaintext with software that offers a soft linewrap, like Sublime Text, for which I finally purchased a license after all these years. I think it costs at least twice as much now as it would've when I first started using it, but I am more than happy to support such great work.

This transition has been motivated in part by similar sentiments about this website. After less than half a year, I'm already pretty dissatisfied with what I have going on here. Which is nothing new or surprising--many designers obsessively obsess over their personal sites. What makes it different for me this time, though, is that it's not the look or the flow of the site with which I'm dissatisfied, but rather the tech: I'm using a CMS which was built in a language I don't understand and is installed on a server that, though I set it up, I also barely understand.

And dammit, I am sick of not understanding things! Why should I take on the burden of running something I don't understand if I don't have to? I shouldn't! So, sometime in the near future, I intend to convert (and likely make a few changes to the look of, because why not ...) this site to dead-simple, good ol' static HTML and CSS. Hard-coded everything. By doing so, my hope is that I will be able to create a more easily archived and shared website. Do you remember when you could just email someone a .zip of your entire website, and she could just open the fucking thing locally without any nonsense? I do, and I loved it. I miss using an FTP GUI. And despite my many half-hearted efforts, I still feel pretty lost in terminals, and anything beyond your most basic SSH and, like, file listing or vim editing requires me to do a lot of searching, copying, and pasting. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, of course, but it makes me uncomfortable and insecure about what I'm doing, and you know what, I don't like that. And while I would love to (and hope to one day) become a master of the command line, I have other priorities at the moment. That was a long aside.

Anyway, I'm not proofreading this or worrying about how rambly it is, because I am trying to get more words out more quickly and naturally, which feels like the natural extension of moving toward a simpler method of doing so. So hopefully you'll see me posting more web logs in the future.

Which, after typing that, I'm realizing is probably the most common thing for a blogger to write before abandoning his blog for ages.