Tech Tips for the Distracted Writer

I had a good writing session on Tuesday (got about half the next chapter for The Sky Below done as well as some blog posts), and it was due in large part to writing on my old netbook.

See for me I have two competing urges. On the one hand as a techie and a fan of open source software and just plain tinkering, I like to give every device I own as many capabilities as possible. But at the same time I try to take away distractions like the internet, or games on the computer or just all the myriad  organizational tasks I get myself into so I can get down to real work.

My old netbook is probably my least distracting device and it still has some games, reading material, videos and other distractions. It also happens to be the perfect size to actually fit in a lap when there are no tables at the coffee shop, and taking it along is still lighter than my other netbook (whose bag admittedly is also weighted down by the addition of hard drives, flash drives, tablets and little notebooks).

I’m still figuring some of this out and as always would love to hear what works best for you, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • First up is the easy one, work somewhere that isn’t the same place you play. This can be a spot in your house, maybe a comfortable chair away from the TV or an office if you have one. Or for me since my office is often very distracting the old cliche of the coffee shop works well.
  • I’m not a big fan of “distraction free writing” software, mainly because of the limits in formatting and methods of saving out. But for blog posts one thing you can do is hit F11 (works in most browsers). This makes the browser window fullscreen and hides the menu, which can be helpful on tiny screens like the netbook, but can also take some of the temptations like links out of your way. Some word processors work this way too.
  • Prepare a “go bag” containing only the stuff you’ll need for your writing session. Pens, paper, a computer and any reference materials.
  • If you’re like me and you keep drafts on your tablets for reference, use your eReader instead of your tablet. It’s easier on the eyes and comes with less apps and distractions (though mine still has Scrabble).
  • Schedule play time as well as writing time. Probably one of the reasons I’m productive during the week is I let the weekend be a time when I relax and don’t worry as much about getting stuff done (especially in the evenings). For me that’s Neverwinter Nights with my wife. For you that could be reading comic books, watching TV or playing other games.
  • If the problem is really bad you can always pen and paper it. This can feel very slow if you’ve been a typing writer forever, but it can be a good exercise in choosing your words carefully. And there’s something about the texture of paper that’s been creased by writing that is irreplaceable.
  • If you’re using a computer, don’t take a mouse with you. I’m not a fan of touchpads generally, but they usually can get a document open with little trouble. The rest of the work you actually need to do is using the keyboard. The mouse will only take you places you didn’t mean to go.
  • If you can, use a different computer or piece of tech from the one you typically game on. But if you only have one, maybe consider dual booting. Since almost everything is harder in Linux you’ll be less inclined to do anything but the thing you came for.
  • Take a phone with you for emergencies only. The rest of the time keep it in your bag. If you need to listen to music, let the computer do it. The phone is a many armed temptation.

What do you do to make sure you actually get some work done?

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1 Comment

Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing

One response to “Tech Tips for the Distracted Writer

  1. Ben, reposted this on our CGSA FB page. Good practical stuff.

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