5 apps for distraction-free writing

Sometimes my butterfly brain frightens me. Easily disturbed it flutters from writing to LinkedIn to Twitter to writing, to googling something utterly random that’s popped into my head. Most days I despair of myself!

So, on the basis of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ I’ve been looking for ways to remove my most common distractions  – social media and the internet – and help me write more mindfully.

Here are the top five apps I found in my search:

1. Anti-social

Anti-social lets you allow your computer to block access to those sites you find most distracting. So, if you want to spend the next hour writing just turn on Anti-Social and schedule it for one hour. Simple. It costs $15 (around 9.50) and is available for Mac and Windows.

2. Write or Die

This app, for Windows and Mac, adopts a carrot and stick approach (it used to be all stick, but now recognises the importance of a little encouragement!). It costs $20 (around £13) and has several modes to choose from each time you sit down to write:

Reward mode
In reward mode you can adjust how frequently the program rewards you. Set a word count goal and tweak the incentive frequency slider to increase or decrease the frequency of rewards. You can also select photos as custom reward images – a perfect opportunity to use all those cute cat pictures you’ve been hoarding!

Stimulus mode
Stimulus mode provides a neutral, positive stimulus to keep you writing. When you stop writing, the nice environment goes away. You can choose from a variety of sounds and backgrounds to inspire you.

Consequence mode
Decide on your writing period and word goal. If you stop writing before you reach both of them there will be consequences. In Kamikaze mode, for example, if you stop writing your words become systematically disemvoweled (as painful as it sounds)!

3. SelfControl

This free application for Macs only blocks you from accessing the websites that distract you the most for the time period you choose. But beware, until that timer expires you won’t be able to access those sites — even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

4. PenandPaper

No, this isn’t really an app. It’s a tool. Sometimes, to get into the writing flow and stay there, we need to mix it up a bit. If your brain sees your laptop or Mac and automatically thinks “yay Facebook!”, then turning your laptop off and reverting to old school writing implements can be just the incentive you need to stay focussed. As a writer you’re probably rarely found without a pen and paper, so why not whip them out for some long-form writing, rather than just jotting down ideas?

5. OmmWriter

This is the app I have plumped for. It offers a lovely blank page for you to add character after character, carefully and mindfully, or rapidly with a blast of creativity.

You get to customise it in a few ways to suit you, eg the size of the text, tippy-tap keyboard noise and chill-out music. In fact the music is so nice sometimes I leave it playing while I’m pottering around the office doing admin.

Unlike the other options I’ve outlined above it doesn’t prevent you from visiting any websites. And that’s not a bad thing as sometimes we writers need access to all sorts of sites for research and fact-checking. Instead, the beauty and simplicity of the page quickly removes all other temptations from your mind until all you are left with is the purity of black characters appearing one after another. For me, OmmWriter allows me to inhabit another space – to go to my online writer’s room – where all that matters is the creation of words, and the demands of email, updates and blogs fall away.

It’s available for Mac, Windows and iPad and the suggested donation is a minimum of $5.11 (around £3.30).

So, that’s my top 5. What tools do you most favour to help you write more mindfully?

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