Personal History of Writing


This essay is a draft: it is considered incomplete and there are plans to add or change information contained in it.

This essay is an explanation of my history with writing, focused on the tools I've used.

This essay was written by me, emsenn, and is released for the benefit of the public under the terms included in the "License" supplement. It was made possible with financial contributions from humans like you. Please direct comments to my public inbox or, if necessary, my personal email.

History of Writing Tools


I have always writen on a computer, with a keyboard - I was born in 1990, and my parents appreciated the role computers would have in society from then until now, so I've had a computer since I began to become literate.1

Even though I had a graphical editor like Word on my computer even back then, I tended to prefer Notepad. (Yes, I used Windows, I'm sorry.)

When I got further into elementary school and I started having to type papers in Word, I used it for pretty much everything, until time progressed and people started using Google Docs.

Most of these are not good tools for writing - they're decent at formatting documents, but in terms of handling text, they leave a lot to be lacking.

Markup Era

As I got into high-school I started using Linux as my daily operating system, which led to me using Vim as my text-editor. It was a revelation - I could suddenly easily move huge chunks of text, have lots of documents easily onscreen at once, and it looked cool: I ran it in a black and grey terminal, instead of a web browser with what was at the time a trend of glossy, space-wasting design.

Using Vim got me into using the Markdown formatting language, where you write things like this:

# This Is A Title

This is a sentence, here is some _italic text_, here's
some *bold*. This is a [link](

> Blockquotes like this.

It has more features, but mostly it's just a lightweight way to add formatting to text without needing a special formatting editor like Word or Google Docs. Markdown was - and is - very popular across the Internet; lots of forums and chat programs let you use it to add formatting to your messages.

The Current, Org-mode, Era

Last year, I started using Org-mode, which is another formatting language like Markdown, but built for use with the Emacs text-editor (though you can write it in any program, Emacs enables the more powerful features.)

For comparison, it looks like this:

* This Is A Title
This is a sentence, here is some /italic text/, here's some
*bold*. This is a link.

Blockquotes like this

It's a little more verbose, but Emacs has features that more than make up than that - hotkeys for quickly pasting well-formatted links and blockquotes, for example.

I'm not going to explain Emacs and Org-mode more than I have to as I write this, but they are an important part of my writing tools these days.

Another set of tools I haven't talked about is static site generators - these are software tools that take text, usually formatted with Markdown or another markup language, and turn it into HTML - usually in the context of making a website, not just a single document.

I've used quite a few different static site generators, and don't see a need right now to go into that history. Right now, I use Hugo as my static site generator.



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Copyright 2019 emsenn

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I will note, that as I become more proficient with digital writing, and gain a greater understanding of the concepts of text manipulation as a design tool, I am more often writing things by hand, as I find myself better able to plan the weft and warp of a piece in my head than I used to be.

Author: emsenn

Created: 2019-05-01 Wed 15:43