The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide

Markdown (David Sparks, 2013)

One of the biggest problems writers face is distraction. It is especially frustrating when the very tools designed to help you become a distraction. That’s why I am now writing everything in a simple text editor, using a method called markdown. It enables me to remove the clutter of technology and just write. If you want to markdown, I recommend The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide by David Sparks and Eddie Smith. I read the whole thing in one sitting.

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14 thoughts on “Markdown

  1. I’m almost done with it! Started writing some blog posts and some notes on “markdown language”… It is still not as free as I would like it to be, but it is a work in progress!

  2. Sounds interesting, Michael. Distractions are a BIG deal. I currently use Scrivener for writing books, and with one click of a button I can be in a distraction free environment. With another click, I can be in outline view and see the structure. Markdown seems like the perfect vehicle for blog posts, with all the links and HTML references.
    When I really want to go distraction free, I pick up pin and paper and go out of the office where bright shiny things live. Works well. I rarely get distracted with low tech pens and plain paper.

  3. Like everyone, I deal with distractions, but I am able to work in a way that allows me to write in cycles that lead to completing projects. For me it’s a matter of delegating time to a variety of projects regularly and in the long run it works. When I’m simply on Pages I can get writing done.

  4. When we are looking for a reason to do something (or not do something) any reason will do. I work with writers who have mastered the art of excuse-making ( They see the end result and have a grasp of where they are, but they can’t connect the dots. Rather than do the hard work, they use distractions and other flimsy excuses to justify their lack of productivity. Tools like markdown help eliminate distractions and excuses. Then we can see if a person is really committed to the task or not.

  5. Instead of learning Markdown, wouldn’t it be more useful to learn regular HTML? Unless one is a slow typer, I don’t see much difference between typing *emphasis* or emphasis [spaces added in order to make the tags visible], except that knowing how to write it the latter way may come in handy in a variety of situations.

    • The problem with HTML is it is too clunky. For me, it gets in the way when I am trying to create. For simple things like emphasis there’s not a lot of difference. As you point out, *emphasis* or emphasis is not much different. (The tag has been deprecated.) But then you go to **bold** or bold..

      It gets even worse with lists. For example, to create a bulleted list in markdown, you just precede the bulleted items with an asterisk:

      * This is item one.
      * This is item two.
      * This is item three.

      This is natural and what you would assume. Anyone can understand this.
      But in HTML, you would have to write this:

      This is item one.
      This is item two.
      This is item three.

      Obviously, use whatever works for you, but I find markdown enormously liberating. When I am done writing, I can convert to HTML or RTF with one click. Thanks.

      • You’re probably right. Markdown is quicker and easier once you’ve mastered it.

        For the longest time, I was puzzled by the fact that words and phrases I had italicized in my Disqus comments came out regular; until I noticed that Disqus doesn’t recognize the tag, but if I use the deprecated tag instead, it works.

    • I know exactly what you mean Cyberquill. I felt just the same way. However, after messing around with Markdown for a while I can totally see the benefit.

      Any code in Markdown takes far less typing than HTML and this allows the brain to keep flowing, whilst at the same time knowing that you won’t need to go back later and start formatting things correctly.

      It is even far faster than highlighting text and clicking bold, italics, Heading 1, etc, and a lot less distracting.

      I was just like you and wondered what the point was for a long time, but now that I’ve given it a go I’m a reformed character. Give it a go on your next piece of writing and you’ll see just what I mean. It is pretty cool!

  6. I have been really interested in Markdown for writing instead of the word processing route. Thanks for sharing this book.

  7. Completed this book this past weekend. They did a fantastic job on this book and I’m started to use Markdown and a number of the tools they talk about this week in my writing workflow.

    Highly recommend the book. Extraordinarily well designed and put together. Also, a great example of what is possible on the iBooks platform.

  8. This has been a huge help to me in my writing process. Since you recommended ByWord, I have not returned to Word since! (With the exception of writing business letters.) The distraction free style keeps me focused and my brain running in creative mode.

  9. I just got this book and read it in one sitting also. It blew me away. I loved it and now am rereading it. It is so simple that it is an elegant way to write.

    I am now using Markdown in my Scrivener projects and have not opened Word in many days. Yay! Thanks Michael!!

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