Lovely MacBooks and changing contexts

Choosing my device

I’ve been saving up for a new MacBook since February. Based on the rumors I suspected we’d see a new design for the MacBook Air in the Spring or Summer. So I saved, sold some stuff on Facebook Marketplace, and planned my purchase. Then Apple announced the Air, and it was everything I could have hoped for, minus the lack of an HDR display. I went back and forth on specs, and finally sprung for the 512GB model with 16GB of ram, midnight blue.

I listened to about a dozen hours of podcasts and scoured review sites trying to make sure I was making the right decision. 24GB of ram sounds amazing, but at that point I’m starting to get into MacBook Pro pricing territory.

I woke up at 4:45am on presale day and secured my order by 5:01am. Then I waited. I checked the status of my order a few times a day. No, that’s not true. I checked it many times a day. The wonderful package arrived this Monday morning. I was so excited.

Now, let’s back up for a moment. I bought a MacBook Pro last year, and have absolutely loved it. I went for the M1 Max 14” model and maxed out its specs, other than hard drive. It’s a dream machine and handles everything I throw at it. I don’t even know if I’ve been able to turn on the fans yet. It’s a beautiful device, small enough to take anywhere, and has an amazing screen.

Why I want two computers

The main challenge I had was not any limit to the MacBook Pro — other than its limited battery — but rather an issue with contexts.

For the past three years I’ve pushed to always do something on the side, regardless of what job I have. That’s important. As a product designer I spent a lot of my day expending creative energy to help build fun products. I love it, and I don’t want that to change. However, there comes a time where it’s important to make sure I’m investing some time into things on the side. It might be a hobby project, writing a novel, learning SwiftUI; it doesn’t matter. The point is I need to always do something for myself every day. Practically speaking that means taking 15-60 minutes and putzing away on something.

The challenge I’ve had is a lot of the things I’m interested in require a computer screen. If I try to do something creative, for myself, on the same work computer I’ve used for my day job — well, that’s doable. I’ve done it, I’ve spent most of my career with a single computer. But it’s not fun. It’s not delightful. There’s something about picking up a separate machine, with a just different enough screen, different colored keyboard, slightly modified browser and desktop space. Those things help trick my brain into a new context. It tells me that it’s time to do something fun for myself.

That was the idea behind getting a second computer. This week has been a rather tumultuous one, a fact I may write about later. For the first few days after the MacBook Air’s arrival I didn’t really feel any extra energy to try and enjoy the device. However, by the middle of the week I was pulling it open at the end of the day and spending some time putzing around on it.

This has brought me an unexpected amount of joy. Last night I dove into a SwiftUI course and lost track of time. Over two hours later I came up for air with a tiny app on my iPhone. This is therapeutic. Now, I don’t know if I’ll keep doing the two computer thing forever. Due to some changing circumstances I may have to sell one of them. But if I can I’ll hold onto both and use one to push my work and the other to push my hobbies.

I read about this a year or two ago from an author I admire. He stated that he has two different computers, one for writing and the other for the work of running his business. I love that.

Writing to think

For years I failed at becoming a regular journaler. My longest stint was a couple months with Day One, years ago. It was fun, and I liked reviewing the pretty graphs over time. But it didn’t stick, it didn’t have any real value for me.

Since December I’ve been journaling almost nonstop. Before that I was writing fiction, and loving it. Over the past eight months, because of a few factors and partially related to my creative energy, I’ve just been journaling.

The effect has been a good one. I can’t say yet that it’s had a profound effect on who I am, but it forces me to take a few minutes out my day and write. In that time I force myself to write a thousand words.

Because I type fast, that often doesn’t take long, especially since I do zero editing. I just type whatever comes to mind.

A funny thing happens when you write for a thousand words. In order to keep going I have to dig deep and start to think while typing. It’s a function that feels meditative. It’s like going on a walk without any devices and just having time to think. Only, it’s more active than that. I’m putting my fingers to the page and pushing out ideas. Most of it is complete rubbish, not worthy of reprint. But occasionally, and more often than I’d have thought, I am able to generate clarity in my typing. Ideas crystalize as I type and help me decide what I should do next.

Writing has changed how I think, it’s altered my brain in profound ways. The journaling has helped. A daily habit such as this has become a way of life for me, three years later. I love it, and I would have a hard time without this form of processing at the start or end of my day.

Now, as I’ve shared before, I want to do more than just journaling, I love to create and share ideas; and that will take more than just a few minutes of smashing out letters on a keyboard. It’s a start though, and

I’m thankful for that. I’ve kept up the habit and found that it’s much easier these days to push out my thoughts without self-editing along the way.

If you’re curious to try this I recommend a number of words that’s a little higher than you’re immediately comfortable with. A hundred words a day is too little for me, and would allow me to cheat, so to speak. The longer word count, lets me take a bit more time, and encourages digging deeper into my brain.

Sometimes I start with a retelling of what happened in my day, focusing on the emotions, the struggles, the big wins, and essentially going through a retro of the previous hours. Closing my eyes helps, and often I don’t bother with all the details, just enough to force my brain to concentrate for a moment. As Field Notes likes to say on each book, “I’m not writing it down to remember later, I’m writing it down to remember now.”

Back to writing

Yesterday I got a bug in me and sat down to write. I began the day like most other, with a journaling session. That normally takes me about 7-8 minutes to write a 1,000 words.

Most of these sessions are just a brain dump of the day’s activities, where I like to process how things went. It’s useful and I enjoy doing it.

Later I had another time slot where I could do so some more writing. In that time, I busted out another 2,000 words, half of which was fiction. It felt so good to be back, to work toward creative writing again. I resumed a novella from last year and added an intro chapter to it. 

Today I was excited to continue and thought about what I’d written, looking forward to seeing if I could start a streak again. 

I sat down to write this evening and pulled up Ulysses. Now, in the past I’ve had some issues with syncing between Mac and iPad; namely that it is effectively a no go. Something happens between the two where it seems to just keep re-syncing forever. That’s a waste of time, so I leaned into just writing on the Mac. 

When I pulled up Ulysses again to write, I had a moment of shock. The 1,000 words from the previous day disappeared. After nearly a half hour of searching, and going through all my options, the words are just gone. That has shaken my confidence in the app. I’m now considering other options, IA Writer and Scrivener are top of the list. To have finally to back into creative writing, and run into a snafu on the first day, is a bit of a bummer.

I didn’t let that stop me, though. I channeled that frustration into a short story of a writer being frustrated that his fiction writing got lost. Yes, meta, I know. 

We’ll see how tomorrow goes, if I’m able to keep the streak going. Hopefully, I can recover those thousand words, but if not, I’ll try to just learn from it. 

Update: I put the note in the trash in Ulysses. All is well!

Finding a great author

Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed jumping around between enjoyable works of fiction. I like finding a great book, then spending time reading other books from the same author. For a few years it was Stephen King. So far I’ve read about ten of his books. He’s such a talented author, and I hope someday to be able to understand his ability to make characters interact with the proper tension and meaning. Other amazing authors have included J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Jeff VanderMeer, Max Brooks, Andy Weir, and a half dozen more.

I love falling into the world of these authors.

So it was with some interest that I picked up Brandon Sanderson a few months ago. I’d heard him mentioned for the past couple of years, highly recommended as one of the best fantasy authors writing today. At one point my barber sang his praises. On the recommendation of two friends I started out with his Mistborn series, all on Audible.

I was hooked immediately.

Within a short period of time I poured through the first three of those books. The world he created drew me in and filled my imagination. I often paused the books to contemplate the secrets I’d just learned, or to appreciate the literary genius of making a certain scene come together.

From Mistborne I started on The Stormlight Archive. This one took a bit longer to get into, but I enjoyed it even more than the Mistborne series.

Something I love about Sanderson, a bit in contrast to King, is his ability to handle mature topics without delving deeply into salacious details. The way characters interact with each other feels like more like Lord of the Rings fantasy, and less like Game of Thrones.

I’m excited by this, and wondering about the implications for my own writing, to tackle important themes while keeping the books available for a wider audience.

It’s so fun to find great books and to be inspired by other authors.

WWDC 2022 hot takes

I really enjoy watching Apple events. It’s been a joy of mine to tune in and catch up on what’s new. I don’t have all the Apple hardware, but I have integrated quite a few different devices into my daily life over the years. A change in software across their various platforms can have a decent sized impact on my day to day productivity. I haven’t had a chance to watch the entire keynote yet, but I’ve skimmed through a few sections and caught up on a number of highlights.

Following are a few of my hot takes. The angle I’m taking for each of these is a mix of my personal time using Apple devices, as well as my time as a product designer working with a team on a mobile app.


This is one of the most exciting announcements for me. While it won’t be out for months, and I haven’t had a chance to actually play with it, the general idea is fantastic. Live sketching and white boarding with others. Amazing.

I’ve used just about every iteration of iPad apps for sketching and collaboration. Each have their pros and cons, and I’ve written about them on a few occasions.

Having great collaboration for realtime users to sync across a network is key to my work. Figma has changed how I work as a designer, being able to work directly with other team members in a live environment. Its limited though, to hi-fidelity designs; when we’re further along in the design process. I’ve struggled to find an exact match for the more lo-fidelity aspect of my job, when I want to think through rough ideas.

The real-life counterpart is a whiteboard with markers (not chalk, I cannot stand the feel of chalk). A physical whiteboard is perfect in a room with others, but over the internet it just doesn’t work.

So I’m quite keen to test this out and see how it works with several of my team members. Currently we use a mix of Miro, Linea Sketch, and a few other things, but all are imperfect for live collaboration.

Continuity Camera

Amazing. I want to use this. Webcams on Apple desktop devices aren’t great. They’re passable, but not anything like the quality of camera on a recent iPhone. I’ve been thinking about some of the third party software to hook my iPhone, or even buying a digital camera or webcam, but all of that feels too complicated (and potentially expensive). Being able to use my iPhone in meetings for a great camera experience sounds perfect.

Stage Manager

This looks pretty sweet. I will have to try this first to see how it feels. Having this new window application tool across Mac and iPad OS could help to bridge the gap between the two operating systems.


I haven’t looked into this enough yet, but having dictation on device with improvements could help pull me back into my workflows. I’ve tried to dictate for writing, but working live doesn’t work because of the timer limitations set by Google and Apple. At the moment I record via voice memos, then pull into Otter.ai. I’ve even been thinking about re-using my physical Sony recorder. If on-device dictation has improved, and is without limits, it could be perfect for my writing use cases.

Making it personal

There’s so much more I want to talk about, but I’ll keep this short for the moment. I am struggling with a decision on how I’ll move forward. The new MacBook Air M2 is perfect; it’s exactly what I’ve been hoping for, and it’s within the budget I’ve saved for this year.

I’ve been planning to buy a second laptop for a while now, in hopes of separating my creative writing from my work life. After spending all day as a designer, I often want to close my laptop and not use it again until morning. However, I also really enjoy creative writing. If I had a second device, preferably one that looked and felt different, and only used that device for personal things; well that might help with my motivation for pushing my writing forward.

I thought the iPad could be that second device for me. But it just doesn’t handle multi windows the way I want, and the writing software I use isn’t as good as the Mac equivalents. Now, with the iPad getting some much needed window management, as well as true external monitor support; it’s looking more tempting.

However, the M2 is exactly what I wanted. I’m likely going to keep forward on my plan for the new laptop, but it’s exciting that the iPad has become interesting again.