The Story of JumpWriter’s Transmogrification!

give a noun get a noun screenshot

A screenshot of JumpOff’s first PHP iteration.

It’s been a long road to the first fully public release of JumpWriter!

Since 2012, JumpOff has taken many forms. Initially motivated by a fascination with creative writing exercises learned in college workshops, it started off as PHP app that dispatched writing prompts in exchange for words submitted by the user. From there it turned in to a short-lived Rails project that combined a timed, minimalist writing interface (inspired by OmmWriter) with the prompt generator.

In 2014, when talking with a friend about what kept us from writing as much as we’d like to, I found I wasn’t the only one who found perfectionism to be paralyzing as a writer. We talked about the benefits of freewriting exercises using pens, which work because there’s no good way to go back and “delete” or change what you’ve written, so it’s easier to flow in the spirit of freewriting. On the computer, however, we struggled to resist editing on the fly, which would prevent us from getting into a state of flow. Then my friend (thanks Jay) said he’d like an editor that would disable his Delete key so he HAD to keep moving forward, knowing he couldn’t edit even if he wanted to. This made perfect sense. For the past 30+ years, writers have been given more freedom and more options, just look at the barrage of buttons and menus at the top of a modern word processor. These are great when you’re trying to edit or polish, but terrible in the initial writing stages, when writers are faced with sensory overload and a paradox of choice that can leave them paralyzed.

Ironically, by taking the opposite approach, and restricting our freedom to manipulate our writing, we actually free up our mind get into a state of flow, which is crucial in the beginning stages of writing where we want to prioritize idea generation, exploration and just get stuff onto the page. Not being able to go back and fix typos or reword things may feel awkward at first, but you soon get over it, and learn not to dwell on mistakes, and keep moving forward, since there’s nothing you can do about them anyway. So JumpOff continued to evolve (this time as a MEAN.js app) to implement a new, more restrictive writing interface, where deleting and backspacing were disabled and text faded off the screen as you wrote.

jumpoff main plugin page

Main Page of JumpOff WordPress Plugin

Then, inspired by the open-source ideology of the WordPress community and thinking JumpOff was a natural fit into the beginning of the blogging process, I reworked the app (yet again) to be a WordPress plugin. The Beta Version of the plugin is still open-source and available for free, though it isn’t being updated, and I won’t be offering support for it.

While beta testing the plugin I got a bunch of feedback from users (thanks everyone who took the time to try it out), and made some updates to the plugin, but ultimately the clearest message was that JumpWriter needed to change forms. One of the goals of JumpWriter is to make the initial writing process as simple and easy as possible to encourage people to write more. Limiting JumpWriter’s users to people with self-hosted WordPress sites, and requiring them to install a plugin, then navigate to the plugin’s page within the WordPress admin interface just didn’t fit with JumpWriter’s mission. I wanted to make JumpWriter a quick, modern experience and as easily accessible as possible, which meant a fully reactive web-app, powered by Meteor.

So I’m very excited to announce that today, JumpWriter is now accessible for free on just about any device at www.jumpwriter.com. You don’t even need to register or log in to start using it (though it’s free and more features are available if you do). For the best experience I recommend putting your browser in full-screen mode.

UPDATE:

JumpWriter is now a React application which communicates with a WordPress installation via the REST API as well as the Unsplash API. The code is available here:

https://github.com/jqlee85/jumpwriter-netlify

There are a many more features mapped out for the future, and I love to get feedback on what people like, or what would make JumpWriter more useful, so please drop me a line to let me know what you think. My hope is that JumpWriter will be the starting point for great writing and unique ideas, or even just solve the occasional case of writer’s block. Happy writing!

-Jesse

PS – I fully realize the irony of me doubling back 4 times to rework an app dedicated to freewriting and not letting you edit on the fly

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