Monday, November 17, 2014

Distraction free writing a.k.a the Alphasmart post

If you're any sort of writer like me, then the internet is just one big, bright, shiny object and you can't look away. Something happened after I had kids and stopped working -- I got lonely. I love my kids but I can't have a deep conversation about publishing trends with my four-year-old, go figure. So I filled the absence of adult interaction with Facebook and Twitter and writer forums instead. Then, it got to the point where I couldn't even sit down to write and focus. I had to first check my email and then scroll through my Facebook feed and tweet my senator and then naptime was over and I got nothing done. In an effort to connect, I couldn't disconnect when I needed to.

So I began browsing the web looking for ideas on how to write without distractions (is that irony?) when I came up upon an awesome thread on Kboards about the Alphasmart. Alphasmarts are old-school word processors that were popular in elementary schools. They have a calculator screen and an old clickety-clack keyboard and they only show a few lines of text at a time. They run on AA batteries and turn on within seconds. You can upload your work to any program with a click of a button. They're super portable too. Since two AA batteries can last a year, you can take these suckers anywhere. Not to mention, they're pretty durable. Best part: no wireless.

I bought this duo on Ebay for $30. A B1G1 free deal. Good thing I have two because they are no longer made. And many writers do buy a backup just in case.



Alphasmarts have a cult following, including a Flickr group. Writers also get jazzy with their Neos -- some dismantling them to paint and customize them. I bought a can of pink Rustoleum, but I haven't taken my Neo apart yet to paint it. And when I say me, I really mean my husband.

In the short time since getting my Alphasmart Neo, I have nearly doubled my drafting time, writing up to 2,000 words in 90 minutes. That's unheard of for me. That's the kicker -- I can only draft in the Neo. After I upload my draft to Scrivener and I revise and edit in there. But I'm a natural editor. Revisions are my favorite part of the writing process and I find I'm less likely to d^ck around online.

So, dear readers -- do you use an Alphasmart? Do you love it? Did you customize yours? How has it changed your writing?

For those who don't use Alphasmarts, how do you write without distractions?

Does anyone draft on a typewriter?

Thanks for checking in,
KGG



20 comments:

  1. Great post, Kimberly! I must be Alphadumb because I've never heard of the Alphasmarts before. But I'm definitely going to look into them. Maybe there's still one or two out there on ebay?

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  2. There's plenty of them on ebay. And I hadn't heard about them until a few months ago. You're no more alphadumb than me. Ha!

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    1. Well I'm alphasmart now, Kimberly, 'cause my Neo is in the mail. Got it for $25.50 on eBay (free shipping). Thanks for the tip! I'll probably have to come back to you for some more when I have to figure out how to upload the files to Scrivener:).

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    2. It's crazy easy! You're gonna love it.

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    3. Check out the Hemingwrite, Kimberly!

      http://hemingwrite.com/

      Looks like a new version of the Alphasmart. Not even on the market yet though.

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  3. I'd never heard of them either, until Kimberly(you) told me about them. So cool! I used to have a typewriter as a kid, but I feel the sound of the clickety- clack would drive me nuts now(I'm getting so old...) I do way too much messing around on the internet, too. I'm getting better though. Some days... ;)

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  4. I'm lucky that I am able to disconnect, (and am about to for the next month) but I applaud you for the clever way you found the right vehicle to do what you need to.

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    1. I appreciate the compliment but I got the idea from the numerous other writers using the Alphasmarts. I stole a good idea.

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  5. I have never heard of this but this sounds ridiculously cool.

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  6. I know someone who uses her AlphaSmart specifically for NaNoWriMo. She says it stops her from editing while drafting, letting her write quickly. It must work because she always "wins" at NaNo.

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    1. When I draft with my Neo, I can write 2K words in 90 minutes. That's unheard of for me. It's mostly junk but at least I'm getting words down.

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  7. I had never heard of AlphaSmart before this either! Although, I don't think that would work for me. It would drive me nuts not to see more of what I just typed! I do 'unplug' when I feel like I'm too distracted. I close out the Internet and put my phone in the other room. Finally, I turn on the music and get focused.

    I'm also not using Scrivener, but starting to think I should... Are those of you using it happy with it? I'm just using Word at the moment. It works fine enough, but I do like cool software tools :-)

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    1. Scrivener's great, Carrie. It's cheap and has tons of functions. I don't use a lot of them, but what I find great about it is the ease at which you can structure your novel, and move from chapter to chapter, scene to scene. There's no opening new files or trying to remember where you wrote what, it's all there in one continuous, flowing document. You can also build files of research, pictures, notes, all within the one project. They also have a cool cork board/post it note view which allows you to story board and do all kinds of things.

      I'm probably butchering the description. You should check it out for yourself. I believe they still have their free 30 day trial (https://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php). That will definitely give you time to see if you like it or not.

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    2. Thanks guys! Looks like I know what my Christmas gift to myself will be this year :-) I'm almost done with my current novel, so I'll kick it off with my 4th.

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  8. I love Scrivener. I wouldn't go back to Word if you paid me. I write in scenes and Scrivener allows me to rearrange scenes and group them into chapters when I'm done. I probably use 5% of Scrivener's capabilities. I need to watch some tutorials.

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  9. I've been hearing more about these, but I wasn't sure how they worked. Now I'm very tempted...Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I'd never heard of Alphasmarts. You've definitely peaked my interest. I'll have to check it out. I have heard of Scrivener and I LOVE it. I'll never go back to word either.

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  12. No waaaaay, I'd never heard of the Alphasmart before, then a couple of weeks ago I was talking about NaNoWriMo with a coupla coworkers and one brought in the Alphasmart he'd used for a previous NaNo. He used that and a typewriter to complete his novel that year. I definitely have been contemplating buying a typewriter in the future!

    As for distraction-free writing... for a while I tried ZenWriter, which was a pretty cool program. It fills the screen so it's harder to access other programs, you can change the background, font, even add a little soothing music. Nowadays tho I use 750words.com - it compels you to write until you hit 750 words, at which point it unlocks a page of stats (how many times you got distracted, how fast you typed, your emotions and what you were thinking about as you were writing, a cloud of most used words, etc.).

    Also a fan of Scrivener, especially it's organization features!

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  13. I'd never heard of an Alphasmart either, before I heard about them from you. Am I the only one who thinks they look a little like a cross between a typewriter and a 1980s Gameboy? ;-)

    It's neat that you've found a writing device/program that you like. (And if I ever do any serious writing, I'm gonna give Scrivener a try too. Word annoys me in general.)

    Does anyone still draft with pen and paper?

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