Tag Archives: Work


“This sucks!” Isn’t helpful. It might be your gut reaction, and it might even be right. But it doesn’t point the way to improvement, and it almost unfailingly makes people get defensive. 

(Side note: telling them not to get defensive almost always produces the exact opposite effect.)

Ask questions instead:

  • “What was the thinking behind this word choice?” 
  • “How do you think the user will interact once they reach this page?” 
  • “What are you trying to convey with this color scheme?”

Questions start a process of improvement. Judgement, valid or not, prevents it.

Lost in the Mail

There was this computer hardware store that I loved. They offered good products at reasonable prices, assembly services and guarantees that made sense. 

Not to say that things went flawlessly. The carriers they worked with weren’t always the most professional. But customer support always solved issues to the best of their abilities.

You don’t always need to be able to solve the problem to make the customer happy. Sometimes it’s enough to be polite, to be attentive, to show beyond the shadow of a doubt that you did all that you could do (as far as it’s true, of course). The service need not be the same thing as a result.

Last week I emailed that shop I loved to ask about the estimated delivery time for a product. This happened on Saturday, during office hours. On Monday there was still no answer. I called. There was no one to answer. Wednesday. The same thing.

On Saturday, exactly a week later, the answer comes, with an apology but no justification. They let me know the estimated delivery time, as I had asked.

Am I to trust this estimate, as given by someone who takes a week to reply to a work email?

Trust is a fragile good. Hande with care.

Tools of the Trade

When you need to get the job done, when you can’t live without doing the work, then the tools don’t matter nearly as much. I’ve written several chapters of my first book on a notepad app on my mobile phone. Good tools put a spring to your step, but they won’t push you out of the door.

But some of you asked me what I use when I write, so here are the main things:

Scrivener ( OSX / iOS / Windows) – This is what I use to write my novels. It’s excellent software for writing books, so long as the books don’t depend on visual gimmicks like expertly formatted illustrations or text boxes. It’s infinitely customizable and has tools to facilitate any writing, from science textbooks to fantasy fiction, but at the press of a button, it can be just you, a word count, and a blank page. They have a generous free trial – I have written a full novel on trial alone.

Pages (OSX, iOS, Web) – I use this for longer essays or any book that necessitates the use of colourful and precise visual elements (think marketing e-books). It’s got two significant advantages over the competition (Google Docs and Microsoft Word). First, it’s much more responsive, especially when it comes to image manipulation and formatting.  Second, it uses tags to categorize documents. I won’t go into the benefits of tagging as it has nothing to do with writing, only organization. But when you want your writing to look beautiful AND not bust open your head against the keyboard in frustration? You want responsive software with intuitive styling menus. Pages delivers. The web version is much worse but passable.

Bear App (OSX, iOS) – For short-form writing. 99% of my blog essays are written in Bear. It has a beautiful, minimal interface; robust, hash-tag based organization and formatting, and painless export to a variety of formats. It’s Evernote without all the bloat, fine-tuned for writers. I use the pro version for sync, but if you don’t care about using it across multiple devices, free is great. They’ve promised that a web version is in the works, but are a small team and don’t want to commit to a release date.

Photo by Leah Kelley (Pexels)