Distracted Writing: Is It Sabotaging Your Career?

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 

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.

The Freewrite Distraction-free Typewriter

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?






















Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Contests, Experiments, Focus, Guest Post, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude, Writing Resources, Writing Time. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Distracted Writing: Is It Sabotaging Your Career?

  1. Pingback: Friday Favorites- Returns! – Stanalei Fletcher

  2. Is this what used to be called the Hemmingwrite, or was that something else? Either way, I remember lusting after it pre-release! I want to get back into writing, and in the summertime, that’s got to be outside. 🙂

  3. Jan Swanson says:

    Oh to be able to write wherever I am. I help in farming. I have lots of wait time at the elevator to unload grain, wait to be signaled to ease up to the combine for another load of grain to be transferred, and all the other wait time that occurs while seeding spring crops and harvesting crops. What a wonderful item to help with my writing projects.

  4. TL Coleman says:

    How wonderful. It reminds me of my old Neo, only much smarter. I’d love to win this. Where would I write with it? Outside when the weather allows, coffee shop, local cafe, cafeteria, and even on my writing and study desk (with the computer off). I tend to go off on research rabbit trails and wind up on the internet wasting time. Thank you for the opportunity.

    • Robert Doucette says:

      I got a NEO from eBay last year. It worked pretty well except for referring to my outline notes. Can’t beat the price, though.

  5. Louise Bihel says:

    Focus focus focus

  6. KT Wagner says:

    My biggest problem is heading down internet rabbit holes when I only needed to research something simple. The lure is too much. I need to go somewhere to write without any device to connect to the internet! Preferably somewhere inspiring, like a park.

    • Jeanne Mulholland says:

      That’s a great idea. My husband & I went to a park on yesterday. I had my notebook (paper) & writing utensils (pens), however, it was such a nice day we ended up walking.

  7. Patti Nielson says:

    I’d use it for all those times I’m usually watching my kids practice volleyball or basketball. I would have a much more productive hour and a half and I’d love something I could use outside.

  8. I’d write in my garden or my greenhouse. I’m not distracted by social media, this is one of the few times I’ve been on more than 10 minutes or so!
    But I love being outside, since I live in the frozen north of upstate New York, I treasure every sunny day.
    Thanks for the chance to win a Freewrite! I used to have an Alpha Smart, before I had a laptop!

  9. Sarah says:

    I’d use it to write outside Or while at my bi-yearly writing retreat. I hate being distracted by the net.

  10. Jay Hicks says:

    I would take the Freewrite anywhere I’d take a notepad and pen. I recently spent 4 days in the air – crossing the Australian Nullarbor from east to west – in a light aircraft my son purchased. Yes, I did write at 5000 feet! Unfortunately the transcription into Word is still waiting to be done – it’s never an inspirational task.

    I love to travel and I get some of my best ideas on buses, in planes and on trains. I live in rural Australia and am five hours away from major airports. There’s something about zoning into my made-up world until I arrive. I love this writing life.

  11. Sacha black says:

    OH MMMMMMMMMMY GOODNESSSSSSSSS i need one of these in my life. I literally just finished reading Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK which is all about getting rid of distractions and this is exactly the kind of tool I’d die to have. Might have to save my pennies

  12. Pingback: | The Write Life: How To Enjoy Summer and Still Be ProductiveThe Write Life: How To Enjoy Summer and Still Be Productive -

  13. Terrye Toombs says:

    I’d write on a warm, sunny beach. That would be my heaven on earth.

  14. Julie Hiner says:

    GREAT article!!! Even scheduling pieces of time to be focused on writing doesn’t always work. Great points in the article, and really practical tools to execute 🙂

  15. Laurie Evans says:

    I’ve been looking at those word processors. I think I need to try one.

    • Alex says:

      Hi Laurie! Stop by the website anytime for a quick chat. One of us is usually available through the live chat box at the bottom right of the homepage. We don’t offer trial Freewrites, however you can assail us with questions anytime. 🙂

  16. Robert Doucette says:

    Rather than to take the FreeWrite on a trip I would just take it around my house or neighborhood. There is a nearby lake and small forest. Even moving from chair to chair in my backyard to keep out of the sun would change how I write.

    While I like the idea of FreeWrite, there are less expensive alternatives.

  17. :Donna says:

    Great giveaway, btw! Basically, this typewriter is a throwback to what I was looking at back in the 90s. Yep, a word-processing typewriter 🙂

  18. :Donna says:

    There is NO question—this is one of the biggest problems in my life. Too much of my life is tied to the internet and once ON the internet, I become E.T. following a never-ending trail of M&Ms!

    • Alex says:

      I hear you! What starts out as “research” turns into an hour of aimlessly browsing the web and completing various online quizzes. Facebook, Twitter and the like are very good at grabbing your attention and keeping it.

      During writing time lose the phone, turn off your laptop’s WiFi and maybe only have a simple landline phone nearby in case you need to “phone home.” Also, a never-ending trail of M&Ms sounds like a dream.

  19. Tamara Meyers says:

    I would sit in my patio swing, my Freewrite in my lap, before anyone else is awake. Oh, the stories I could create, with only hummingbirds and butterflies, and an occasional honeybee, as distractions…incredible!

  20. Angela Peart says:

    Sometimes, I want to follow Jonathan Franzen’s idea, but then I think about how much I spent on my Mac laptop, and the plan goes right out of the window. I have a hard time, staying unplugged from the Internet, even when I try hard. Ah, the temptations of my weak soul!

    Freewrite could be a valid option for my Internet addiction (yes, I admit I have a slight addiction – I suppose it’s better than drinking or drugs, lol ?). I’m just wondering about its small screen. As I’m a visual person, wouldn’t that distract me, since it would be a major change in my writing setting? Something to ponder upon.

    Thank you for introducing Freewrite and the other distraction-free-mode options ? As always, a fabulous post.

    • I was thinking about this, too. But I think (for me) the opposite might prove true. My biggest problem with writing is my need to go back and edit as I draft. With a small screen, I know it would be harder to do that and I’d be forced to keep moving forward.

      Hey, maybe that’s another idea we could implement: software that doesn’t let you go back more than a page until you type THE END, lol.

      • Tamara Meyers says:

        I’m with you, Becca. I find it almost impossible to force myself to keep moving forward when I NEED to go back and edit that part I wrote yesterday, because I thought of something that would work so much better! I guess I need to find a mental rope I can use to hogtie my internal editor!

  21. SE White says:

    I like the idea of a laptop with no WiFi access. Which I suppose is exactly what the Freewrite is, with some extra bells and whistles. 🙂

    • Alex says:

      Correct! The Freewrite does have WiFi, but only to back your drafts up to the cloud. Don’t worry, there’s no Facebook on the Freewrite 😉

  22. I would take it to the beach! I hand write at the beach but would love a tool I could take with me. Als on the plane while travelling. This looks amazing!

  23. Heather O'Connor says:

    I’m flying up to Northwest Ontario next month to be writer in residence at Quetico Provincial Park. No Internet. Just woods and water outside my lakefront studio, with a canoe and hiking trails to take me and my imagination into the great outdoors. I’d love to take the Freewrite along for the ride. 🙂

    • Alex says:

      Your upcoming residency sounds lovely! There is nothing quite like nature to clear the mind and get away from digital distractions. While canoeing, “accidentally” drop your mobile phone overboard to disconnect completely. 😉

  24. Donna P says:

    I’d write in the park. Out in the open. What a free-wheeling feeling that would be. And oh, the ideas that would flow into my head and fingers would be awesome.

  25. Aimee says:

    I’d love this to write outside! It’s my biggest pet peeve that I can’t write outside on a clear summer’s day. This is brilliant. Outside my budget at this moment, but maybe I’ll win one!

  26. Kessie says:

    Hear hear! I saw a meme lamenting over how many novels remain unwritten because of the Internet. I hadn’t thought of it like alcohol, but you’re absolutely right. Writing is hard, even when you love it. The free write looks like that other writing … thing … the name escapes me at the moment. But it’s old and expensive and hard to find, and writers I know swear by them. Nice to see a new product coming out. 🙂

    • The internet really has become an addiction, hasn’t it? Glad you like the Freewrite. I love the idea of something you can literally take anywhere. On the site I read that it has up to 4 weeks of battery life. 4 weeks! That’s just awesome. 🙂

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