Posted in writing

Distraction-Free Writing: What Works For Me (and Is Cheap)

I’ve recently started seeing online ads for the Freewrite word processor, which has gained some popularity among writers looking for a distraction-free instrument.

Back when writer’s block reared its ugly head during my writing sessions, I switched to a minimalist word processor called “Q10.” This is a nice piece of software, but only works under Windows. When I switched to Linux, I would just open up a shell and run the GNU Nano (Pico) text editor.

At one tag sale out West,  I found an old Smith Corona typewriter for $5.  That was pretty fun instrument, and I even found mail order sources for ribbons and onionskin paper to type on.  However, as fun as it was, one still had to transcribe the typewritten material into digital format.  I discovered that the stock OCR software that came with my Linux distro was too persnickety with typewritten letters for my taste. After the move back East, a lot of downsizing occurred and the old Smith Corona found a new home.  It was replaced by something I picked up for a few bucks at a Goodwill just before moving West, and had re-discoved in a box of stuff I had put in storage.


It is an Alphasmart 3000 portable word processor. It’s compact, runs quite a while on a few AA batteries, and acts like a keyboard when plugged into a USB port. After you generate your polemic, you plug it into your workstation, hit send, and all your words get sent right into your word processor software. I use LibreOffice, by the way. OK, it doesn’t have as much retro-coolness factor as an old Smith Corona, but takes up less space and is a lot more practical in the transcription department. Maybe one of these days I’ll get bitten by the typewriter bug again while visiting an antique store, and come home with an old Royal or Remington Rand, but for now one of my distraction-free writing instruments of choice is the Alphasmart.

The other instrument is a notebook/journal that can be found at any department store, along with Bic Atlantis “Exact” fine point pens (the gray and white ones), or black Ticonderoga #2 pencils.  Although really when the muse hits, you grab whatever writing implement is in your immediate grasp and get to work. With Moleskine no longer being made in Italy, I’ve been favoring the very nice wood-covered Bindewerk notebooks from Germany. They are a little on the spendy side, however.

My advice is to find a comfortable writing implement, a nice notebook/journal that you like (I’ve seen and bought many good ones at Target), and keep both handy for when the muse strikes you. Just get the words down, and worry about the rest later.