Clever Content Podcast

As you perhaps know, these days I run my own freelance content studio. That means lots of writing for clients, but also a fair bit of podcasting, video making and workshop running too.

One of my current projects is for a Sheffield agency called Content OD. I’m helping them out with their own marketing and communications and, as part of that, recently helped them launch the Clever Content Podcast.

We’ve recorded three episodes so far (two are published) and as with all new podcasts, we’re still finding our feet. The format is purposely simple. We find three or four content-related news items or things of interest and talk about them on the show.

For those of you who used to listen to my Write for Your Life podcast, which ran for 150+ episodes, this is probably the nearest thing I’ve done since. Give it a listen and see what you think. I think it has potential.

How to convert a Google Doc to Markdown or HTML

There is no easy way to quickly convert a Google Doc into Markdown or HTML using Google’s built-in tools.

This reality previously made me sad on a near-daily basis. Just thinking about all those hours lost to copy and pasting into other apps, fixing formatting problems and reinserting links brings a tear to my eye. It was a terrible state of affairs, for sure.

But then I found a Google Docs add on called Docs to Markdown and my life changed forever. It’s easy to install. It’s completely free. And it converts perfectly every time.

How does it work?

First of all, you need to open a Google Doc and write something brilliant.

Then you need to go back and make sure that you’ve applied your styles correctly. That means no using bold for headings. Use headings instead. That’s what headings are for. Add your links and any other formatting until you’re happy that your brilliant writing is also styled correctly.

Now go to the menu and follow Add-ons > Docs to Markdown > Convert. You’ll see a window slide in on the right-hand side of the screen. From there, you can choose to convert your document to Markdown or HTML using the handy buttons that say those two things on them.

Now in the space below those handy buttons, you should see the converted version of your document. You’ll probably need to scroll past the how-to advice and conversion notes first. Select your text. Copy it. And now the converted version is yours forever. Assuming you remember to paste it wherever it needs to be pasted.

What the hell is the point of all this?

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons you might want to convert a Google Doc to Markdown or HTML. In my case, Google Docs lets me share and work on documents with pals and clients. It’s fantastic for that.

But to publish those documents to the web – think blog posts, newsletters etc – I need them in HTML format. Mac apps like Ulysses, Bear and Byword are great at the converting part of the process, but they don’t have the collaboration features of Google Docs.

And so this is the problem that Docs to Markdown solves. You can use Google Docs to work with other people and still quickly convert a document into a format that you can publish on the internet.

Ever thought it might be nice to convert a Google Doc into HTML? This is how you do it. 

Ultimately, it means you don’t have to copy and paste rich text into WordPress, Squarespace or whatever CMS floats your web-boat. Because that always (always!) leads to faffing on an industrial scale and all your brilliant writing getting broken into bits.

Where do I get this magic from?

Again, this is an add-on for Google Docs. It doesn’t come built in, so you’re going to have to install it. I suggest you check out the GitHub page and then head to Google’s add-on store to install Docs to Markdown from there.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I reread Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale earlier this year and my goodness, it felt more pertinent and devastating this time around. It is brilliant. Beautifully written. A powerful and painful experience that I highly recommend.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale – ooh, what? – almost 20 years ago. It was one of the texts on my English degree and for two now-obvious reasons, much of it washed over me.

First, I was cramming so many novels, scripts and poetry collections into my bonce that book-fatigue made it hard to fully engage after a while. Second, let’s face it, I was a daft 19-year-old with all the privilege in the world who, at that point, had been through very little in the way of crap life things.

In some ways, The Handmaid’s Tale was just another book I had to read. That meant the seriousness and significance of the novel’s plot and premise passed me by. I suspect that goes for quite a lot of my reading when I was at university. My shelves are still full of books that I read at that time. But how many can I truly remember? Not sure.

Anyway, though my memory of The Handmaid’s Tale was pretty sketchy, I did remember how much I admired Atwood’s writing. One of her earlier novels, Cat’s Eye, which I read when I was still at school, was one of the key moments in me wanting to write fiction of my own. I just loved the way she ended chapters. The single sentences that knocked the wind out of you.

And of course, that’s all there in The Handmaid’s Tale too. The TV series and current political climate has brought the novel to a much wider audience and a new generation of readers. It is very much an important book. But it was always an important book. I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

Weeds

It was National Flash Fiction Day over the weekend. Apparently. I don’t really know what that means, but it does give me an excuse to publish this piece of tiny fiction that I wrote a while ago.

It was brought to life by my designer-pal, drawer-friend and all-round maker of things, Rich Wells. He tricked me into sending him the words and then produced the artwork as a surprise Secret Santa gift for me.

I really rather like the end result.

My dad made me a pen

Like many 70-year-old men from the north of England, my dad isn’t one for emotions. I don’t recall him ever telling me that he loves me. Compliments are always thin on the ground.

So like many children of 70-year-old men from the north of England, I have to assume that a) he does, and b) he thinks I’m doing all right.

A couple of years ago, my dad bought a woodturning lathe. He started out by making small wooden pots, coat hooks and vases, that type of thing. Being long-retired, he’s had plenty of time to practise and now, his shed looks like a fully-fledged joiner’s workshop. He bloody loves it.

And he’s made me a pen. Out of wood. A lump of cherry that he found lying about in the garden. At my childhood home.

This is about as close as I’m ever going to get to an emotional outpouring. I know that he’s been quietly impressed that I’ve been able to turn a pretty shitty situation into a rather better one.

I run my own writing business. So he made me a pen. Pretty cool.