Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice


I must have been rather cranky last week. Being tired, I guess, can do that to you. In addition to being somewhat worn out from all the driving, I think maybe I was just a little under the weather, as well. Aside from dragging my butt around work and the house all week, I found myself also being somewhat disagreeable on the web, with other writing blogs.

On Wednesday last week, E.C. Myers, over on Pub Crawl, wrote excitedly about a device “built for only one purpose: writing.” Called the Freewrite by a company called Astrohaus, it is also branded as “Your distraction-free writing tool” and “the world’s first dedicated device for distraction-free writing composition.” I would argue that that honor actually belongs to the typewriter, unless you believe the rattle of keys, a dinging bell, and the ratchet and slam of the carriage as it returns to home is a distraction (I learned to type on a heavy Royal typewriter that made a lot of noise; I can’t quite remember what sound the IBM Selectric made, except it wasn’t quite as noisy). Typewriters and early word processors had no distractions: no games, no internet, no e-mail, no streaming videos of kittens and puppies. They weren’t especially portable, either–there’s a reason why Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery was able to build upper body strength by lifting his, those things were heavy–which I guess is one advantage of the Freewrite, as it only weighs about four pounds.

As Myers enthused over the Freewrite’s capabilities, I found myself imaging writers prone to distraction eagerly plunking down their $500 for the device, taking it to the library, the coffee shop, the city park, the far side of the room from the desktops and TVs, powering it up, and–bing, buzz, chirp, it’s the mobile phone, alerting them to e-mails, tweets, and status updates from Facebook friends they’ve never actually met in real life. And I started thinking about this:

Can the Freewrite help people? I guess so, sure. For me, however, I actually find things like music helpful when I write. I also find that there are times when I need to step out from my manuscript–maybe it’s to research something pressing, or to look up the spelling of a word that’s really, really bugging me, since Spellcheck is so unreliable. Those little breaks help keep me fresh. I realize I am not Every Writer; we all have differences in how we work, and the Freewrite maybe be perfect for some. Yet there’s part of me that can’t help but view it as yet another thing invented to help separate writers from their money–and $500 is a lot of money. Maybe you would be better off spending $15 instead on a good book on time management and maintaining focus instead.

What do you think? Is Freewrite something that would help you?

6 Responses

  1. Gee whiz! Did they starve that dog or what? Hahaha!

    As for Freewrite… No thanks. I started out writing with paper and pen (which is a whole lot cheaper) and if I didn't want the Internet, I could turn it off. I just choose not to. Besides, I'm back and forth in my document all the time. I couldn't imagine only seeing a small portion of my story. Ugh.

  2. -Stacy–I just love that it ate EVERYthing–AND had to stop and play with a toy. Not only is it such a small portion visible on Freewrite, there doesn't seem to be the ability to edit, either. So, a typewriter actually has MORE functionality.
    -Patrick–Or drop $10 or so at a garage sale for a typewriter.

  3. OMG! I laughed so hard at the retriever – and the music – that I cried. And the other dogs were so obedient. I guess it's back to dog-training 101 for this guy! LOL!

    I cannot believe the money that people are willing to plunk down on things they don't need. Everyone wants the cheap, effortless way to do things, like the next fad diet. I'm not against distraction. Working too hard is unhealthy (and I think I de-stressed 5 yrs worth from laughing at the retriever!). I do, however, wish I had a newer laptop that would allow me to make book trailers/AV excerpts. Mine is about 8 yrs old and apparently the sound & graphics cards & whatnot (?? I don't even understand the names of the things I don't have that it says I need) are unable to handle making and editing videos. *sigh*

    On a cheery note, my vaccuum cleaner finally blew up after 20 yrs. It was an expensive one, and I always put off buying new things until the old ones truly die. And it did. Engine ripped to shreds. So maybe my laptop will shuffle off to the land of the dead and I'll be "forced" to buy a shiny new one with all the bells and whistles! Here's hoping! lol

  4. Loved that video!! 🙂
    Yeah, I figure the distract issues are all on me! If I'm tired, it's easy to distract me, but when I'm in good form, I'm generally good to go. And I like those mini-breaks too – keeps my brain working!

  5. -Lexa–"Yakety Sax" (aka, "Benny Hill Music") makes everything funny! I hope you've got everything on your laptop well backed up, because it sounds like it can go any minute–8 is pretty old in laptop land!
    -Jemi–I think the mini-break is underrated. As long as they don't consistently expand and meld into one long maxi-break!

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