Sunday, October 18, 2020

Reference management

In keeping with my previous post, I asked my Twitter mutuals for suggestions on reference management. I'd been pitched EndNote and Zotero, but hadn't made much use of either. One person asked if I'd tried org-ref. I hadn't, so they linked me to John Kitchin's demo video. I was sold within the first two minutes, and about a week into the honeymoon phase, I'm ready to move my writing into org entirely. I'll spare you the zeal of the new convert (not least because my rhapsodizing will look stupid if I end up abandoning it in two weeks), but I did want to write a quick post about my approach to footnotes and bibliographies to date.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The fantasy of distraction-free typing

To date, I've done much of my Real Writing™ in Microsoft Word. This is chiefly out of necessity. In the benighted humanities, Word is the industry standard for edits and comments, and so if I'm sending drafts to anybody—readers, colleagues, referees—they have to be Word documents. Word, of course, is horrible. Everyone knows this. It's legacy software, bogged down with decades of accreted features for specific use cases, which mostly get in the way of the program's ostensible purpose: word processing. On the occasion that you need one of its niche formatting tools, the tool will be difficult to find and the formatting easy to break. I can drive myself nuts with keeping the formatting just so, only to see the fruits of my labor destroyed when someone opens the document on a PC or an iPad, adds comments, and sends it back to me. Keeping Word formatting from looking terrible is a Sisyphean distraction from the actual act of writing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Writing without a library

Lockdown threw into sharp relief how much I ordinarily depend on physical libraries. One of the greatest advantages of working in the City University of New York system is that you have access to university libraries across nearly two dozen campuses. Prior to March, I made much use of the physical library spaces at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, and I requested materials from other CUNY campuses incessantly. I frequently need academic books that have been out of print for decades, which are often difficult to find through online vendors and prohibitively expensive if I do find them. When it comes to nineteenth or early twentieth century publications, the only commercially available copies may be cheap facsimile reprints. So lack of physical library access has made a lot of resources harder to track down (through legal means, anyway).