Distraction free writing


There’s been a flurry of interest in distraction free writing recently. I think it’s a symptom of the always-connected, notification-popping environment most of us now work in.

You can now buy loads of dedicated apps to encourage distraction free writing including Calmly writer, Ommwriter, WriteMonkey, and many more.

Aside from the dedicated apps, Google Docs, Scrivener, and even WordPress have ‘distraction free’ functionality.

I understand the appeal – staring at a busy screen with buttons and menus all over the place isn’t the best environment for a productive writing session. I’d like to share how I get my own distraction free writing done.

When working on a writing project I like to break down the process and use different tools for different stages of writing. You can read about some of the writing software I use here. But I don’t quite see the need to buy dedicated distraction free writing software (though great if they work for you!).

For me, the need for a distraction free environment usually comes right at the beginning of a project when I’m trying to overcome ‘blank page syndrome‘. So in my writing workflow a way to write without a cluttered interface is important, but I’m not convinced I need a specialist tool.

Why I use TextEdit

Recently I’ve been using TextEdit on my Mac a lot for this developmental stage of writing, aka the ‘vomit draft’.

Let me sell you (the free) TextEdit: If the goal of distraction free writing software is to remove as much friction as possible between the writer and his/her words, then TextEdit is a great solution:

  • It’s free – no financial barrier
  • In-built to OSX – no annoying reminders to apply new upgrade
  • Resource-light – it’s very unlikely to crash
  • Tiny learning curve – few funky features to learn how to turn on/off

I like nifty writing software as much as the next person, but if I’ve scheduled some writing time to generate some formative text I find that I turn to TextEdit more often than not.

Using TextEdit

I said ‘tiny’ learning curve, because you can set up TextEdit to display your freshly crafted words how you’d like.

  • If you like working in ‘page view’ (I do) then in ‘Format’ select ‘Wrap to Page’.
  • If you like the margin ruler displayed (I don’t) then press ‘CMD + R’
  • If you like a background colour other than white (I don’t) then in ‘Format’ select ‘Font’ then ‘Show Fonts’ then click the colour under the page icon.

After making these choices, you’re good to go. Get writing!

After TextEdit

I have a thing about very consciously splitting out writing tasks and completing these tasks in different applications. Granted, this is a little convoluted, but works for me. It helps me visualise how to move a project forward: drafting, editing, proofreading, etc all happen in separate applications. Even the largest projects become less daunting when they can be broken up and dealt with in manageable chunks.

Once I’ve thrashed out my stinky vomit draft in TextEdit it’s a simple copy and edit function into the next stage of writing, generally into either Libre Office or Scrivener (depending on project length). Then it’s time for multiple rounds of editing and integration into the project as a whole.

When getting words-on-page is the priority, I find TextEdit a great tool to get that done.

Useful Link: Top 10 surprising TextEdit for Mac tips

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