How I manage my creative process on an 11-inch MacBook Air

Last week, I waxed poetic about the largest iPhone Apple makes, the iPhone 6 Plus. If I told you a week later that I bought a new MacBook, you’d be forgiven for thinking I would write an article about how much I missed the Texas-sized 17-inch MacBook Pro. Instead I bought the smallest MacBook Apple makes, the 11-inch Air. I’ve found that managing my creative process has never been easier.

How I ended up with an Air

I had mentally pencilled “new iPad or MacBook” into the budget for later this year. However, on Friday my live-in mate texted me, “The computer isn’t working. Can you look at it when you get home?” The computer in question was a 2009 MacBook Pro that had developed a nasty habit of going through hard drives. I got home, took a look at it and when it refused to accept a hard drive I knew was in perfect working order, I decided the time had come to get one of us a new computer.

She wanted a larger MacBook and I wanted a small one, so I decided to get an Air for myself and hand down my 15-inch MacBook Pro. Wins all around. Off to the Apple Store we went.

I had pretty much ruled out getting the 11-inch model. I thought going from a 15-inch to a 13-inch screen would be hard enough. Going down to an 11-inch made me feel as if I was going to live in one of those tiny houses that’s all the rage. But it turned out that compared to the 11-inch model, the 13-inch MacBook Air felt almost obese. I wanted a laptop I could toss in any bag and feel productive. So, I walked out the door with an 11-inch Air.

What I think of the Air

I’m very happy with it. Because I’m an analyst and critical by nature, I’ll say that I’m not happy with the spring in the keyboard. My 15-inch had some lively bounce to the keys and the Air’s keyboard feels a little denser.

I adjusted to the screen very quickly. I also find the device is a lot speedier than I expected. It actually runs “World of Warcraft” better than my old 2011 15-inch that had a dedicated GPU.

The Air is easily as portable as I dreamed. My shoulder bag is a now-discontinued Osprey Veer. The 11-inch just barely fits in it, so I ordered a Tom Bihn Ristretto bag that’s still on its way. I love having a light and portable device that I can get work done on without many compromises.

How I manage my creative process

I’m involved in a number of creative endeavors. There is my band, model-making, writing and whatever else strikes my fancy. A few years ago I watched Adam Savage’s TED talk about his obsession with objects and the stories they tell. He mentioned that he uses a “Creative Projects” folder as a dumping ground for ideas and material. Since then, I’ve adopted a similar process using a Finder folder and Evernote.

Here’s an example. I’m working on making a replica of the trap in Ghostbusters. I’m storing all the photos and plans I come across in my Creative Projects folder, as well as PDFs of forum discussions on how people have built them. I use Evernote for storing links and information I come across on my iOS devices. The amount of data that gets sorted over the course of a month will likely exceed my Evernote quotas, so I prefer to store it on my iCloud Drive instead.

While I’ve seen a lot of pictures and some rough plans of the Ghostbusters trap, I don’t have anything detailed enough to start building from. I could either wing it — which I could get probably away with given the small size of the prop — or generate a build document. I went to architecture school a long time ago and miss creating those types of documents. When I create the build documents I’ll use Omnigraffle. It’s perfect for those types of diagrams. I also love that I can set the scale of the drawing so I don’t have to draw it at full scale.

What does this mean for my iOS use

My iPhone usage will continue as normal. After the 2009 MacBook died, I took a long look at whether it was possible to go 100 percent iPad for my mobile needs. If that had been case, I’d have bought an iPad Air 2 and a keyboard case and call it a day. Unfortunately, while I can do more on iOS than I could this time last year, I wasn’t comfortable going all-in on iOS.

The deciding factor was that I didn’t have some sort of file-level access. I didn’t need the depth of an Android device. What I do need is something like an iCloud Drive app where I can choose what app I want to open a file with, and have the app save the file back to iCloud. Right now, not all apps support all third-party cloud storage solutions, and I’ve run into some problems with apps and the iCloud document picker.

Given those problems, it made sense for me to still stick with a MacBook for many of my writing and note-taking needs. I’ll be interested to see is if this is the last MacBook I buy.