“Writing Requires a Huge Amount of Love for Things That Happen Far Away From the Keyboard”

Silvio Gulizia is an Italian journalist and communication consultant. He has published the books “iProduttivo”, a guide to productivity apps and methods for iPad and iPhone, and “Sognare per Vivere”, an ebook about finding the courage to startup a personal project. Silvio also owns a blog about intentional living on vivereintenzionalmente.com.

Please tell us a little bit about your work: How do you combine your professions?

I am completely focused on telling great stories. As a journalist, you are required to observe the world, to look for stories other people can’t view and to work on them to develop a product worth your readers’ time and money. It’s not a matter of coming up with the news anymore. Well, you need the news, but once it is published, you need a story to spread it. Today, every company is able to reach its own audience and tell its stories without going through the press. I bring to companies, in particular those in the startup and innovation field, my passion for telling stories. I help them to dig out stories from their own world and serve them directly to interested readers.

Silvio Gulizia
Silvio Gulizia

What do you like about your profession? What are its downsides?

I love writing. And playing with creativity. As Amélie Nothomb said, writing is like falling in love. Writing is an act; it is something you make. I love feeling my fingers surfing the keyboard looking for the best words to fit what I want to tell. When you work on a story, you have to stress your creativity every moment to come up with something radically new, captivating and engaging. When it comes to the downside, you know, clients… I mean, newspaper, magazines and companies are clients at the end of the day: Clients who want you to do what they want, even when they want something that will not suit their needs. Even when you know that their audience won’t appreciate what you are working on. Fortunately, by working with them more and more, you end up developing trust and knowing them so deeply you can sell them what you want. Oh, did I say sell? Yes, I did: As a freelance journalist and a communication consultant you have to spend a huge part of working time in selling stories you dug out and wrote. And when clients ask you for something you won’t love, making love becomes doing pornography.

How much is the share of writing in your working life? What kind of texts do you write, and which ones do you enjoy the most?

I had been writing for at least 40 per cent of my working ours until I started consulting. Now I write for myself, and I have just launched a new blog about living intentionally, sglz.co. I write at least one hour for this project every weekday. But, you know, writing is not only the process of putting your fingers on the keyboard. Actually, it requires a huge amount of love for things that happen far away from the keyboard: reading, observing, speaking with people, questioning yourself and so on. How much you love a person is not only determined by the time you spend making love with her. I am working on a change in my business, and I hope to get back to writing for more time, hopefully even more than before. It will take a few months. The writing I love the most is blogging about how to live an intentional life, but I had and sometimes still have great fun writing about technology and startups or reviewing apps. I built my career on that, and it’s like a first love.

iProduttivo book cover

You have also written a few books. What is their subject, and who should read them?

I published two e-books last year: iProduttivo about productivity on iOS and Sognare per vivere (Dreaming to Live) about how to find the courage you had when you were a child to be able to dream again and pursue your dreams. While the first is intended to be a useful guide to apps and methods for being productive on mobile, the second is dedicated to those having a personal project locked in the closet and waiting for a kick in the ass to start working on it. I published the second one on my own, and a friend just offered me to translate it into English. With the first one, the decision to translate it is up to my publisher.

Do you have a typical daily routine?

For my writing, yep, it’s not so original, but it works. I decide the day before which topic to write about in the following morning. I am doing this since I’ve read a post titled ”The Note” from Shawn Blanc. I get up about 6 o’clock, have a brief yoga session followed by meditation. Then I read a couple of pages in a book, articles I saved with Instapaper or blinks from Blinkist. Finally, it’s writing time – usually for half to one hour, before having breakfast with my wife and daughter. After they go out, I sometimes write for an additional 30 minutes.

Which tools and apps do you use?

“I am a huge fan of Ulysses for iPad. Most of my writing happens there.”

As you know, I am a huge fan of Ulysses for iPad and most of my writing happens there. I started using it for editing on the iPhone with the last beta. And even if I miss the typewriter mode a lot, I could not imagine writing without Ulysses now. Other apps I rely on are Unread, to go through my RSS feeds; Instapaper, to save inspiring articles for later; Pinboard, to archive resources; Evernote, to store ideas; Drafts, to jot down thoughts and ideas; Blinkist, to read inspiring summaries of books or to listen to them (and, sometimes, to recall a book I have already read); Mindnode, to create mind maps before writing; Quotebook, to store quotes. There are other apps I use a bit less, like Byword and Workflow, to publish to WordPress on the go, especially if I need to create a link post, since the WordPress app won’t let me do that; Marked, when editing on my Mac; Things (it was Omnifocus until a few weeks ago), to organize tasks related to blogging and writing; Phraseology and Terminology when writing in English on Medium, together with iTranslate and Grammarly. I also use index cards to organize ideas and to structure books, and I am struggling to switch to a bullet journal for tasks. Another great tool I use to write is Day One, an app that helps me journaling, so I can write even if I don’t publish anything. Sometimes a journaling note is the beginning of a blog post or an idea for a book. Free-form writing is a great tool to connect with yourself and stories from your life.

Could you describe the way you’re using Ulysses, your typical workflow?

If it’s a blog post, I put the outline output from Mindnode in a sheet and start writing. I am now using the iOS Share Extension to save inspiring quotes and references in a folder and then mix them together to define the outline. For my new project I created a group with a few sub-groups for the particular states of the posts: idea, planning, outline, writing, editing, reading, published.

When I start, I usually write without editing, only commenting here and there, which will be helpful during the first review. I really love this feature. If there are images, I store them as an attachment to the post. If I happen to write on the Mac, I write in distraction free mode with highlight on the current line at the top. I would love this feature to come to iOS, and I miss it when at my iPad!

A glimpse on Silvio’s Ulysses library
A glimpse on Silvio’s Ulysses library

When working on books, I usually create a folder and start writing. I write down everything that comes to mind for days, and then I read through it and create index cards for each topic, which become separate sheets thanks to Ulysses’ split option. When all index cards are organized, and new subjects must be added, I start re-writing the book. After that I read through the book, focused on answering my own comments and annotations and completing the tasks that require a browser. I’ve learnt to stay out of the browser from the guys of The Soulmen, who forced me to write without distractions when Ulysses for iPad first came out. Finally, I read the text aloud and put annotations here and there. I come back to the text later to re-read it and go through the annotations, before letting it go. To do this, I always export the text in ePub, but I would prefer Ulysses to have a read-only mode.

“Having a goal can be useful to keep writing even when difficulties arise.”

I am starting to use the goal function to focus on writing 500 words each day. I don’t need it, but when I fall into a busy period of life (like this last one), sticking with a goal I can easily accomplish is helpful to keep my motivation at a high level. When I am relaxed and with no others duties, I usually write between 800 and 1500 words in a nonstop writing session of about half to one hour. But I am a minimalist: I love to publish less words full of meaning instead of focusing on counting how much I write. I believe in this Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. So I usually delete lots of what I have written. Nonetheless, having a goal can be useful to keep writing even when difficulties arise.

What do you like best about Ulysses? Do you have a favorite feature?

The iOS Share Extension is becoming my favorite feature. It is the missing link between apps I use to be inspired, to read, to surf the web and my writing. I am thinking of using it to turn Ulysses into a substitute for Evernote, for writing. I hope The Soulmen will add an option to tag sheets created via sharing and release another share extension to attach text, links and images to existing sheets. The Share Extension allows me to create newsletters (thanks to Ben Brooks idea), store resources like quotes and links for posts, and collecting references for books in a specific group. Tagging would make it perfect.

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Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.