I’m writing this post in Editorially, one of my favorite web apps of all time.
This tool I’ve grown to love excelled at simplicity, getting out of the way to let me focus not on words or fonts, but on flow. On Editorially, the terrifying reality of a blank white document didn’t seem so scary. Instead, Editorially invited you in, whispering, “Calm down, this is a safe place to settle in and write.”
So it just crushes me to see that simplicity marred by the red bar running along the top of my screen, a blood stain whose ink spells out that Editorially will be shutting down on May 30.
You can read the blog post that explains the shut down. I also encourage you to read Susan Robertson’s personal thoughts on the news. Susan is/was Editorially’s front end developer and did so much along with the rest of Editorially’s team to make something truly special.
I tried out Editorially for the first time last August. My memory is that Susan asked for volunteers to try out a beta of Editorially, and I provided some feedback on a presentation she was developing on style guides.
A couple weeks later, I drafted my first document in Editorially, a book proposal. As I open it up now, I can see all the comments and advice I received from those kind enough to take a look and share a few thoughts.
Next I see a revised book proposal, more encouragement and words of wisdom that helped me to have the confidence to press forward.
Some of the documents are comment-free. Drafts of blog posts, where words came much more quickly than in the year before, where I had stopped writing.
There’s my book outline. Over there a draft of a presentation that went more smoothly than any of my others, in part because Editorially helped me to let go of my fears and instead just write.
I used Editorially recently to brainstorm sightseeing ideas for a trip to New York for my brother’s wedding. My wife and I entered our notes from our laptops as we did our research, and we could see the ideas coming to life as we wrote.
Most close to my heart are the documents I used to write the preface and first two chapters of the book I’m working on. There were a lot of late nights where I found oh so many other things to do rather than write. Nights where I questioned my abilities to write, feared that others more qualified than me could do a better job.
Yet there Editorially sat, waiting for me. And once I stopped by and gave it a shot, the words just flowed. I could write for an hour, two hours or more. With Editorially, I didn’t need to worry about selecting fonts in Word’s klunky interface. I just used Markdown, noting a heading size, then moving on.
Editorially introduced me to Markdown, and their posts explaining how it worked made it seem simple. Even without Editorially, what Editorially taught me about using Markdown will live on.
After I finished writing, I could share what I wrote and then wait with anticipation for feedback. Just a few days, something as simple as email notifications of comments on my document captured me. I kept dragging down on my email list in my iPhone’s mail app, looking for the next comment. With Editorially, it felt like I was almost there with somebody as they reviewed my work in real time.
So many little details set Editorially apart. Such care for creating something that wasn’t just a website or a web app, but a cozy space to write and to share and to grow.
I’m incredibly sad to hear that Editorially is going away. I had looked forward to so many adventures ahead. I have six chapters to go in my book, and I finally felt I was finding a good rhythm for writing thanks to Editorially. One of my documents is a list of a dozen ideas for future blog posts, posts I hoped to write in Editorially.
Now I fear for the future.
There are other ways I can write, other tools I can use. I may find another app that gets out of the way so I can write, find other tools that allow for collaboration. Yes, Word allows for comments and Google Docs allows for a shared writing space. Neither has the simplicity and elegance of Editorially, though. The good taste, the typograhpical elegance.
I may find another app, but will I find something that is so much a part of the web? With Editorially, I could write anywhere I could login with internet. Will that be true of other options out there?
Writing has always felt like a calling for me. I could say that writing is my passion, or that I love writing, but I think anybody who has felt the urge to write knows that love-hate relationship. So many days writing hurts. Struggling to find the confidence to write, mustering enough kindness towards yourself to give permission to just write, even when the words aren’t perfect, even when the sentences don’t flow.
We write because we need to, because a small still voice whispers in the recesses of our minds: you must.
I stopped writing fiction a decade ago now. It doesn’t seem so long, but it’s almost exactly ten years ago now that I started receiving rejection letters from the MFA programs to which I’d applied. I wonder what would have happened if one of those programs had said yes, if I had had the time to buckle down and write.
Instead, after a decade of writing science fiction and fantasy stories, working on a novel, tales that didn’t see the light of day, I stopped. In 2012, I self-published a collection of short stories I had put together in college, in the hope that it would rekindle my desire to write. It sold a couple dozen copies, and then my wonderful, beautiful daughter was born. For a year after that, I didn’t write much, undertandably.
I still hope to get back to fiction. There are some stories inside of me I feel the need to write. For now, I’ll write this blog post. And then the next. And eventually I’ll complete the book I’m writing.
When I was younger, I dreamed that one day I’d be a writer. When I look back now, I realize my dream was actually to make a living as a writer, and that’s a very different thing. If you write, you’re a writer. If you want to be a novelist, you write novels. You can self-publish what you write if you like, or you can work with a publisher so that talented people can help improve your writing and hopefully spread your reach.
Either way, you’re a writer. You don’t need anybody’s permission to call yourself that. You just write.
You don’t need to exclusively be a writer. You can write while you make a living doing something else. That’s true of so many areas now. You can be a musician, an artist, a film maker, anything you like, and you can share your work with the world.
It’s true, doing that on the side, in the nooks and crannies of your life, is difficult. Writing when you’re out of energy from your 150 minutes of commuting this day and the next day and the next, it’s not easy.
So that’s what I loved about Editorially. Quite simply, Editorially helped me to write again. The interface gave me confidence, helped me along, and then just let me write.
Just as importantly, Editorially helped connect me with others who could provide meaningful feedback in a way that was there when I needed it and disappeared when I didn’t.
One of the highest measures of a success for a website, or a web app or a native app or anything you create is not whether it looks pretty, or whether it uses modern techniques, or whether it has a certain list of features. The true testament is does this thing make be better? What does it allow me to do, to create?
I felt like Editorially was making me a better writer, and I’m going to miss it just terribly.
Something this great doesn’t happen by accident. Some great people worked to make Editorially a reality: many are now looking for new things to create. If you want to create something truly wonderful, hire one or more of these fine folks for your team: https://editorially.com/about.
What does it mean that Editorially is shutting down? Does it mean there weren’t enough people who wanted to write? Not enough connections between writers and the editors who help to make writing sing? I want a world with great writers and great editors, where people can make a living through the magic of words.
I hope that if Editorially doesn’t succeed, something else will. People are certainly writing. They’re writing tweets and status updates and blog posts that I favorite and never find time to come back to read. So it’s not just about creating more, it’s about creating more quality. I can think of few better ways to do that than to bring together writers and editors, as Editorially did. If they can’t succeed, what will?
I wish all the best to the Editorially team. You created something I loved, and I’m so sad to say goodbye to a friend I was just beginning to get to know.
Keep writing, keep editing, and keep making wonderful things that make the world a better place.