We’re pleased to welcome Alex from Astrohaus, the makers of the Freewrite Typewriter, which is one of the coolest devices for writers I’ve seen. In fact, it’s so helpful we’re giving one away, so stick around for more on that. But first, let’s talk about distractions that compete for our writing time, especially those we really must learn how to subdue if we want to succeed as writers. Over to you, Alex…
As writers in the modern world, we face endless time-stealing distractions throughout the day. Everywhere we look, little digital villains rob us of our focus, keep us from doing the research we need for our story, and stop us from editing that next chapter. The main culprit? The internet!
How many of you have a smart phone close at hand in your writing space? You know, to check Instagram and Facebook and post the occasional selfie so we stay connected with followers. Just a quick break, right? But wait, is that a funny picture of Jared Leto? And wow, our old roommate invited us to an event? Better see who’s going!
You get the picture. Social media is an insidious antagonist, playing upon our weaknesses, our curiosity. Losing the phone doesn’t end the problem. Even on a laptop or desktop we end up surfing far too much because distractions are a click away. Our entire workflow is disturbed. They used to call it “Internet Addiction.” Now it’s just routine…but for a writer, it can destroy your career.
Author Alain de Botton has particularly strong words on this subject:
“The internet to this generation of writers is as alcohol was to previous ones: anxiety suppressant, enemy of talent, challenge.”
So what’s the solution: Airplane Mode? Stronger willpower? Or maybe we can follow in the footsteps of these master writers as they wall themselves off from writing distractions.
George R.R. Martin: A giant of the literary world, Martin has produced the outlandishly successful A Song of Ice and Fire book series, which spawned TV’s Game of Thrones. While Martin may use a standard computer to “cruise this interwebby thing,” everything changes once writing time comes around. As he states on his old school LiveJournal blog, “I still do all my writing on an old DOS machine running WordStar 4.0.”
DOS? Really? But Martin’s Internet-free setup has allowed him to spin out over two million words. Try to match that when you’re playing Candy Crush all day!
Jonathan Franzen: Franzen, the author of Freedom, The Corrections, and other award-winning novels took the WiFi card out of his laptop. Then, just in case he ever felt tempted, he plugged an Ethernet cable into his laptop’s port–using crazy glue–and then hacked off the cable’s head, thus permanently blocking access to that little route. There’s a man who doesn’t trust his own will power!
William Gibson: Ironically, the cyberpunk author of Neuromancer claims, “I’d never so much as touched a PC when I wrote Neuromancer.” Indeed, he typed his groundbreaking, futuristic novel on a 1927 portable typewriter! Not what I would’ve expected from the man who invented the term “cyberspace” back in 1982 in his story “Burning Chrome.”
Okay, these drastic measures might be over the top…but at the same time, we have to do something.
If we don’t plug the hole on distractions, that novel will never get written and rather than build strong writing habits that will turn our dream into a career, we’ll continue to waste time on internet fluffery.
4 modern tools to try to free yourself from distractions:
Calmly Writer is an online text editor, “designed to help you focus on writing.” As you start typing, all distracting options disappear from the interface and it offers a “focus mode” to let you work on one paragraph at a time. If you find minimalism helpful, this might be a fit for you.
Similar to the above, Sprinter is another option but is also terrific for writing sprints. And if you struggle with “butt-in-chair” syndrome, Sprinter encourages you to focus by providing a non-distracting counter set to 15 minute increments. The counter allows you to turn writing sessions into bite-sized pieces if you wish, which can be easier to fully commit your focus to.
Write or Die is a unique, fun spin on writing software where you can set up challenges to force yourself to take action. If you are really serious, you can set it to a mode where it deletes what you write if you pause too long! Lots of bells and whistles, but perhaps the program itself is a bit of a distraction.
We at Astrohaus built Freewrite to help writers get into a writing flow and stay there. The Freewrite is a word processor designed for the current digital age. Featuring an E Ink screen, full mechanical keyboard, sturdy aluminum housing, and room for one million pages, it’s the ultimate drafting machine.
Unlike cheap-feeling laptop keyboards, this smart typewriter uses high quality mechanical technology for a more tactile experience (typing on the Freewrite keyboard feels similar to playing the piano). Screen-wise, Freewrite utilizes high-contrast, easy-on-the-eyes E Ink (think Amazon Kindle e-readers), meaning you can type outside on the brightest of days.
Use it anywhere, anytime, completely off the grid. Take it to work. Camping. On a road trip. Anywhere! Freewrite is a distraction-free tool that fits your lifestyle. Connect your Freewrite to WiFi to have your drafts automatically backed-up and synced to DropBox, Google Drive, or Evernote.
I think we all agree…with everything competing for our attention, we need to be more protective of our writing time.
What are your favorite distraction-free tools?