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Being something of a curmudgeon, I tend to be skeptical about changing my various workflows. I’ve grown accustomed over many years to writing in the midst of a whirlwind of distractions. Twitter and chat clients sparkle and ding at me from the sidelines while I try to work or write. And of course, as the tools I use to write have grown more complex over time, they’ve introduced distractions of their own. Still, I’ve forged ahead in pig-headed resistance to enhancements that might reduce distractions.

Or I’ve done so until recently, at least. Lately, I’ve been using three tools that I think have had a positive impact on my work and writing.

The one I’ve used for the longest is Scrivener, which I’ve used for a couple of years now for offline writing. It’s a nifty tool for organizing material and just getting your thoughts down on the page. It’s reportedly good for compiling manuscripts as well, but I haven’t done much of that. Only in the last few months have I tried out Scrivener’s fullscreen mode. I was, of course, skeptical, but the more I use it, the more I find that looking at the uncluttered screen as if confronting a clean sheet of paper helps keep me focused on the work at hand.

Also recently, I’ve been using Concentrate, a simple program that lets you define tasks to concentrate on and things your computer should do to help you zoom in on those tasks. For example, you can have it shut down your Twitter and instant messenger clients so they don’t chirp at you while you’re trying to concentrate on a given task. At the end of the time window you’ve specified, you can opt to have the programs fire right back up. It’s a handy way of forcing yourself to put aside distractions, and I’ve found that it really boosts my productivity when I’m in magpie mode.

And finally, there’s WordPress’s very own Distraction Free Writing mode, which I’m using to type this very post. It works in much the same way that Scrivener’s fullscreen mode does, peeling away the clutter of the blogging screen. I would never have thought that the various panels and links in the admin screen were so terribly distracting, but now that I’ve tried bypassing my curmudgeonly tendencies and have given distraction free writing mode a shot, I’m surprised at how liberating it is.

What tools do you find indispensable when writing? Maybe it’s a cup of tea or soothing music (I can’t abide music at all when writing). Or are you one of those lucky folk who can work and write just as well from in the midst of the maelstrom of distractions we’ve increasingly had to learn to contend with?

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  1. I, too, love the new wp Distraction Free Writing. I go to it all the time, daily. πŸ™‚
    The larger view of what I am doing makes it much less like working in the dark. With my eyes closed. At midnight. During a storm. πŸ™‚
    Technically speaking, it is the full view, the ability to glance at the last writing, that makes it. I used to write on my computer, then copypaste to wp, but I can SEE what I am doing, now, and no longer have to use that step.
    Yea!

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    1. Awesome, I’m glad to have introduced you to the feature! One tip that helps me out is that sometimes the default font in Distraction Free Writing mode is a little small for me. I just use my browser’s font adjustment settings to bump the size up one notch, and the editor still works great and is a little easier on my eyes.

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  2. Ya know . . . somebody “up there” oughta invent a tiny machine that is useful only for blogging. Only. A sort of “blog-o-matic-pad” or something. Like a kindle in reverse, but with a full screen. And tons more apps. etc. Like the old time red telephone. That connects me directly to you guys, and nowhere else, when I turn it on. I would buy one if it were $500 or less.
    Think about it. Or is it already out there?
    I mean, just the act of booting up can distract some people. I want to push one button, then blog, then push another button, then go get breakfast.
    Can’t take much more distraction than that.

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  3. I do like Katharine’s idea of a “blog-o-matic” – sounds good for people like me who find distraction in the least little thing, but especially all the games and the other things online. Me, when I write, I like BOTH a cup of tea (hot is usually better) and some music. Type of music depends on whether I need something peppy (Beach Boys radio on pandora.com) or just a slower, more soothing style (classical, Baroque). Think I’d like to check out that Scrivener program – sounds intriguing. Thanks for the post, and for letting me know I’m not the only curmudgeon out there!

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  4. Depends on the music and what am writing but I can actually write with earphone on but if I am in a time crunch with serious writing goal to achieve quiet wee hours are the best! πŸ™‚

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  5. Love the new WP distraction-free writing mode. That, combined with a simple F11 to put your browser in full-screen mode, and you have a lovely workspace to type in.

    I’ve heard a lot about Scrivener, but I don’t find the need for it. On Ubuntu, I keep one workspace clutter free with only my writing program open, and discipline myself to just take notes on what I need to research more instead of switching to the browser immediately to look it up. On Windows, I find I have to force myself to keep nothing else open – I haven’t found a workaround for this yet!

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  6. I’d heard about the Distraction Free Tool when it first came out on wp but I had no idea how to make it happen. Thanks for showing where the button is! Then I get so distracted with all these other little supposedly helpful buttons and themes that I get lost and forget what I wanted to write. Learning the technicalities itself is a distraction. I wonder when it will be before I can actually write and organize in my head and immediately sit down and get it recorded. Usually by the time I sit down, turned the computer on, checked out wp dailypost2011 and the day’s topic ideas with their responses, I can feel the thing that I wanted to write about drift away, lose its importance somehow and so I fiddle about a bit more,shut the lid and move away. Is this common, or just another excuse for myself? Scrivener looks great. I will have to hunt for a corresponding windows version, since the Mac sits in the office and my writing is done at home with Windows. Or really, it should be the head that holds and organizes the writing and therefore all tools, pen and paper count for nothing? I believe I answered my own question. Twice in fact !

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  7. When I write, I need music to play. However, when I go back to edit or re-read, I can’t have anything going because I sometimes like to read it out loud to make sure it sounds right. As odd as that is.. πŸ˜‰

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  8. I have heard a lot about the benefits of Scrivener, but never heard of Concentrate or Distraction Free Writing. I will have to check them out. As far as writing goes, I tend to take a few shots of tequila (Kidding!) Actually, I still have a lot of people coming and going all around my workspace so I can never bank on quiet. I think I’ve gotten used to it.

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    1. Poet Maya Angelou has claimed that when she’s staring down the barrel of a book deadline, the way she wraps it up is to lock herself in a hotel room with a bottle of whiskey until the dang thing’s done. So don’t knock the tequila! πŸ˜‰

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  9. I am ready and itching to try this new writing mode. It’s been so great this year to see WP step up and reach out to us!
    Bonnie K.

    I just wrote a post with this new feature and it was GREAT!

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  10. I used to use the Full Screen mode in WP and loved it. I hate the new “Distraction Free” mode because it is also free of any useful tools that I regularly use in blogging. I don’t have the ability to change the font color or to insert symbols. It is just too limiting. But the editing screen on the dashboard has too much clutter around it and is too small. It doesn’t really work at all on my Netbook when I travel.

    Thankfully, I recently discovered that in MS Word 2010 you can create a new blog post, with all the formatting tools I could ever want, and publish is directly from Word. I usually publish as a draft so that I can add tags and categories before I make it live, and so I can schedule posts ahead of time to go live at a certain time. I love Word for this feature because I was already familiar with it for general word processing.

    As for outside distractions, if I really have something I need to write for my blog, I can tune out almost anything. Peace, Linda

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  11. Thanks for putting me onto “Concentration” – as soon as I get home tonight, I’m going to download it and hopefully it’ll help me stay on track. I get so distracted when I’m studying!

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  12. Yes, I can write in the middle of mayhem, but also when all is quiet. As I age, do better with the quiet. Do thank you, however, for urging the Distraction Free Writing Tool. Think it will be useful, but have to see as my brain might prefer the cluttered life. Staying strong.

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  13. MarsEdit now runs in full-screen on the Mac under Lion (Mac OS X 10.7). It’s an incredibly useful offline blogging app that I love more and more all the time.

    If you want something even simpler, you could always go with WriteRoom, the grandaddy of distraction-free writing apps on the Mac, or even just run a Terminal session full-screen with either Vim or Emacs (if you’re geeky).

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  14. I am a blogger too. I want everybody to go to my website.

    funkypassionfruitworld.wordpress.com/

    i am telling you right now that i am a child blogger. i am 8 and almost 9.

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  15. Much to my ongoing amazement, I write better in the midst of distraction — so long as I’m not in my own home.
    Most productive time — in libraries or cafΓ©s. I look around, fuss with papers, computer, and then settle in and the world disappears.

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    1. Ok, I’ll admit that. If I’m in an area pulsing with creative energy that isn’t intent on getting my attention, then it’s very, very helpful. πŸ™‚

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  16. Meditation/Relaxation music, something to drink (because I’m nearly ALWAYS more thirsty than hungry), and some peace and quiet.

    If I’m interrupted for any reason…even just during a forum post…it’s hard for me to get back on track again.

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  17. INstrumental music is great, anything with lyrics is impossible. Good musical styles to help me write: dub, ambient, chill out, classical (not opera! singers distract me!) Nature sounds are wonderful – either real or recorded. Jazz and blues don’t work because they are too engaging for me, as is experimental music. If I want to do some really serious writing I disconnect from the internet. And yes, of course, a bottomless cup of tea!

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  18. I should also mention that any technology is a major distraction because I become so engaged with that – like WP and Zemanta – I’m way too fascinated by what both have to offer to do any serious writing in WP. But I do write 99% of my blog post in the WP window….no wonder they take me so long to write!!!

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  19. Great post! This information is extremely helpful. I have been told wonderful things about Scrivener but I have yet to try it. Think I will give each of these a try. Thank you so much!

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  20. While I’m writing I hAve found I need either total silence,or low worship music,unfortunitly I am not wre I want to be with writing,I also have a problem getting my thoughts tOgether at times,but I’m working hard at solving that problem.

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  21. Thanks for the great ideas. Only problem is I use my PC to write and my Mac only if the PC goes down because the screen is larger on my PC. Anyone know if there are comparable software programs for the PC? Either way, good thoughts, thanks.

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  22. To write, I need silence. At the office (or the coffee shop, or sometimes even the library[!]) silence can be difficult to come by; so at those times, I listen to white noise on my headphones. [Several free whitenoise apps can be downloaded online; I use “Relax Melodies”.] I also like a clean, uncluttered page to write from; so I either use a blank Word document (and then copy/paste the text into WP), or MyWritingNook.com (especially helpful when I’m on my iPad and don’t have a wifi connection).

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  23. Well on the other half of blogging/writing would be reading, and I used always have trouble reading.

    When I was young it was mostly due to lack of interest. Now that I am older, I get easily distracted if I can’t word a sentence logically. It’s mostly from text books I’ve learned there are some companies to try to look ‘too professional’ by using big words that don’t make sense.

    My biggest pet-peeve in reading (and writing) anything is getting lost reading a large paragraph going down to the next line. I usually read the same line over and over again and start feeling stupid because it almost makes sense >.<

    I've only recently started to enjoy writing, so I can't completely relate to the given topic. All I really need is just some thinking time.

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