As much as I hate to admit it, I get distracted easily. In fact, in the time that it’s taken me to write these first two sentences, I’ve watched two films, played on the Xbox for 3 hours and have made, and eaten, roughly 12 sandwiches.
In this age of laptops, tablets and phones, it’s never been easier to be distracted. The seemingly endless number of texts, emails and notifications we receive on a daily basis is staggering, and certainly enough to pull our attention away from the task at hand, even if just for a moment at a time.
The reality, is that it can be difficult, if not almost impossible, to switch off. Our phones are glued to our side “just in case”. There is always something going on, some social media platform constantly vying for our attention, some hilarious picture attempting to tear us away from our current job, which, in this case, is writing.
Unfortunately, we can’t all retreat to a secluded cabin overlooking a sleepy beach that borders the clearest, quietest ocean you’ve ever seen when we need to get some writing done. However, what we can do is use some excellent writing tools that have been created with the sole intention of improving our writing through the art of being distraction free.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a number of these tools and below I’ve presented my findings for you, so don’t go anywhere or give me the “I just need to check my Twitter in case I’ve been tweeted by a celeb” excuse. Stop. It’s not going to happen.
My first foray into the world of distraction free writing, WriteMonkey still remains a firm favourite for me. Although, unfortunately I can’t use it at home (not Mac compatible, sigh), it is always my weapon of choice when some writing needs doing. A perfect combination of simplicity and customisation makes WriteMonkey a must for any writer, even for those of you who have mastered focus.
What I like about WriteMonkey is that it can be as simple as you want it to be. Want to open it up and just start writing? You can do that. Want to change the background colour, font, and make it sound like an old-fashioned typewriter every time you press a key? You can do that too.
On the surface, WriteMonkey is a great, distraction-free writing tool, one that upon opening presents you with nothing more than a page to write on. But with a bit of exploring, you’ll quickly realise that WriteMonkey integrates a number of features that not only help you to focus, but help your writing process in general.
So what can you do with it? Besides write fantastic copy, you can display your progress and set yourself writing goals based on time and number of words. You can write with mark-up language, set columns widths and line spacing, you can even dim the screen so you can see the screen behind WriteMonkey. Snazzy.
The most important part is that, while WriteMonkey implements a plethora of features, you’re never distracted by them. In fact, they even help. By presenting you with the ability to customise your writing environment, you can make it as relaxing and helpful as you want, thus helping you focus on the task at hand.
Oh, and did I mention it’s free?
Unable to run WriteMonkey at home, I was forced to look elsewhere for a writing tool. After 20 minutes of exploring the App store and munching 3 sandwiches, I stumbled upon WriteDown. A ‘minimalistic text-editor for distraction free writing’, WriteDown looked perfect and I somewhat hesitantly (it had 0 reviews or ratings) paid the £1.49 asking price. Fortunately, I was well rewarded.
My now tool of choice for distraction free writing at home, WriteDown is incredibly easy and as simple as you could want. While it borders close to a level of simple I might have considered not paying for, it was a reasonable price and I like the design. So what do you get for your £1.49?
WriteDown has four simple features. You can change the font, the theme (black or white), and the width of your page – narrow, normal and wide. While this might not sound like much, this is all you really need. It’s enough customisation to allow you to make it look like you’d like it to but not so much that to confuse you.
The fourth feature, and one that attracted me as a trainee SEO and new pupil of coding, allows you to style your writing with mark-up language, then view it instantly within WriteDown. This is great for improving your skills with mark-up language and is extremely simple (See image).
There’s not much else to say really, it’s simple, it’s cheap, and most importantly, it’s distraction free!
Light up an incense stick and dim the lights, it’s time to use Ommwriter. Delivering a writing experience like no other, the aptly named Ommwriter (Omm, get it?) is guaranteed to keep you focused on the task at hand. Why? Well it won’t let you do anything else.
So what does it offer?
You’ll find no preferences or settings tabs for Ommwriter, everything you need is easily selectable on the page upon opening. When you start it up, you’ll immediately notice two things.
Firstly you’ll notice the bright background which is one of three available; a snowy field, plain white, and metallic grey, all of which are easily selectable within the side menu. The background images are nice enough, although a few more options might have been nice, especially an option for a plain black background.
Secondly, you’ll notice the background music. Again, a choice of three is available, ranging from high and medium pitched bells, to deep, low-pitched bells. While these songs are relaxing, the option to listen to your own music would be nice. Fortunately, the integrated songs aren’t catchy and you won’t find yourself humming along to them; you can turn them off easily if you want to.
Other customisations that Ommwriter features are the ability to change your font (from a small range), alter the font size, and select whether you want to hear a noise when a key is pressed.
While Ommwriter is a great experience and offers a completely unique way of writing, at times it feels like it’s trying so hard to put you into this Zen state, that it’s actually quite distracting. It’s obvious a lot of work has gone in to making this software a real experience, but for many people it’s likely not what they want; the very features that are meant to prevent distraction end up distracting you.
For example, at the bottom of the page is a word count, very handy. Unfortunately, once you start writing it fades like everything else, and the only way to see it again, is to move your cursor. What’s more, you can’t use a second screen, Ommwriter does not allow it. While this is sure to keep you from being distracted, when it comes to writing I usually need a second screen for research. The option to include or exclude a second screen would definitely be an added bonus.
While it left me longing for my own music and a second screen, Ommwriter certainly didn’t leave me longing for my £2.99 back. Though it has its flaws, it’s a fantastic experience and one that every writer should at least try. Besides, it’s the closest you’re going to get to that cabin by the beach.
One day in the future maybe, just maybe, we will all have access to our own personal holo-deck, where we can sit at a desk on the moon and stare down at the world and get our best writing done. But for now, we have some great tools to aid us in ridding ourselves of those pesky distractions and getting down to business. Go forth, try these out, search for your own, find the one that helps you shut yourself off from the world even for just 10 minutes, and start writing.
Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear about any writing tools that you use in the comments below, as I’m always on the lookout for new ways of getting my writing done! Also, if you have a holo-deck, please get in contact right away.
Featured image credit: “Distraction” by Stefano Corso