I find that writing on a computer is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s an absolute godsend. I can type way faster than I write by hand, and copy/paste is my salvation in revision. On the other had, my laptop is a sinkhole of procrastination. It’s awesome having all my music and TV shows in one place, but not when I have a term paper—or three—looming overhead. Here are two applications I’ve found and swear by for curbing distractions and getting down to business.
WriteRoom— $24.99, Free Trial — Mac OS X, iOS
I often find myself distracted by all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Word. Struggling with a thesis, I’ll get caught up in formatting instead of working my argument. WriteRoom is essentially a word processor circa 1980. It’s a full screen text editor with quietly integrated features like word-count and spell-check. The full-screen view shuts out everything but what I need to be focusing on. While I still rely on Microsoft Word for the finishing touches, I find I rarely reach this final stage without using WriteRoom to write my draft.
Freedom for Mac & PC— $10, Free Trial — Mac OS X, Win XP & 7
This application is recommended by writing celebrities, including Dave Eggers, Naomi Klein, Peter Sagal, Norah Ephron, Nick Hornby, and Seth Godin.
Freedom for Mac & PC continues this theme of self-restriction as liberation. Eliminating distraction is the best way to crank out words and craft a cohesive essay (see these tips for how to declutter your workspace). My number one distraction when working on my computer is the Internet—and I am not alone. Freedom helps me stay on task by blocking my Internet access for a set amount of time. While I was concerned this would be an impediment to my writing process, now when I’m writing and something occurs to me that I want to look up I just add it to my “to search list” for when I go back online. For anything wildly urgent, I’ll ask a housemate if I can check one thing on his or her computer, or look it up on my smartphone. Internet access is never far away, but it’s worth getting a little distance once in a while.
-By Zach Valenti ’12