Ask LH: How Can I Write Without Getting Constantly Distracted?

What is the best device for a monkish/writerly existence? I want to get some serious writing on, without distractions or bloat. But I would rather not use a pen and paper, as I need the output to be digital. Do you have a recommendation for a modern day typewriter? Absent-Minded Author

Remote laptop user image from Shutterstock

Dear AA,

As a journalist working in the madcap, Nerf gun-totting Allure Media office, I can certainly relate to your plight. Distractions to the writing process tend to come in two main guises — annoying co-workers/family members and the constant allure of online time-wasters.

The latter is easy enough to curtail with a little forethought and self-discipline. One solution is to turn an old bare-bones laptop or word processor into a dedicated writing platform. Famously, Game Of Thrones author George RR Martin uses WordStar running on an old DOS machine.

While we don’t suggest going quite that old school, there are obvious benefits to using a dedicated platform that isn’t pre-loaded with distractions. As an added bonus, this will also make the task of writing feel more “official” which should help to get you into the right mindset. (i.e. — it’s not your everyday PC that you use for everything.)

For best results, plump for a device that doesn’t connect to the internet but can plug into your computer via USB to download your writing. Alternatively, you might be better served by a low-powered device such as a netbook. This will provide internet connectivity when you really need it, but will be too slow for the likes of YouTube and Facebook. (Just make sure it’s reliable!)

You might also want to consider a dedicated web application designed to keep you on task. This guide looks at some of our favourite distraction-free writing applications. If you’re on Windows, the recently overhauled Write! is also well worth considering. Crucially, it includes a borderless window so there are no tabs or popups to throw you off track.

When it comes to removing human distraction, I find a big pair of piss-off headphones usually do the trick — even if you don’t like listening to music while writing, their presence will discourage people from pestering you with things that aren’t important.

If any readers have suggestions of their own, let AA know in the comments section below.


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