I’m a huge procrastinator. I know we all are, and we’re probably as bad as each other, but I feel like I’m really really good at procrastinating. Exceptionally so. Which is why I want to talk about FocusWriter, and how it’s helping me to overcome my addiction to ‘getting distracted’.
Writing isn’t easy. You have to sit in front of a computer or typewriter and really concentrate. Note how I included the typewriter. Typewriters are great tools for writers because they do only one thing. You can’t check Facebook or Twitter on a typewriter, you change the font or the colours on a typewriter. It just types. That’s all you need.
Sure, you need the net occasionally to look things up and to do research, but the internet is probably the Achilles Heel of every writer. It’s so easy to kick up the browser and get lost in research or other stories, in locating magazines to publish new work in, or read articles. Oh, I’ll just check my emails. Oh, how’s Johnny doing I wonder? I’ll open Facebook…
So a large number of ‘professional’ writers have a dedicated computer for writing. These machines are disconnected from the internet, so as to avoid distractions. In an ideal world they’d also sit in a study somewhere, a place full of books, a room dedicated to reading and writing. No phones, no games, a room wholly for writing. If you’re like me, and like most writers out there, then you’re probably poor and writing in from a flat with thin walls, and there’s a family upstairs who have kids who spend all day RUNNING FROM ONE SIDE OF THE FLAT TO THE OTHER AND BACK AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN.
Anyway, I found FocusWriter a few months back, and I love it. This is what it looks like:
Or like these:
It runs full screen, so there’s no access to the startbar. You can alt-tab out if you need to, and all of the settings for the program can be found by hovering around the top, bottom, and sides of the screen. You can load a number of files up all at the same time, and they’re kept in neat tabs at the bottom of the page for quick access. You also get a handy word count, it tells you how long you’ve been working on your project today, you can set timed writing goals, or goals tied to word count. The background is fully customizable, so if you’re working on a fantasy text then you can set a lovely fantasy background to keep you inspired. The fonts can be altered, and even the shape and position of the main text box can be altered.
All these things are just extras though. The best part of this program is that when you’re typing you’re just typing. There’s nothing else there other than you and the words you’re forming on the page. It also saves in Open Document format, which translates well to Word for editing purposes. It also plays well with Notepad and Wordpad, so it’s perfect.
I think for some the customization options might be a turn off, I think a lot of writers just want that place ‘to write’ and my response to this would be – there are a number of default templates, and I’ve basically been using those (other than for the larger sci-fi novel, which I just had to use a cool background for). The green on black or white on black makes it really easy to focus, and oh! I forgot to mention! There’s a wonderful little ‘Focus Text’ option that, when switched on, dulls the text in the background that isn’t either; on the same line, within three lines of the selected line, or the paragraph you’re working on. So you can super focus. Super super focus.
So why don’t I just use Word on fullscreen, with the ribbon minimised? Because there’s still too much junk in the way. There’s just junk everywhere, from the small things like scroll bars, to the bigger things like buttons, and that awful spellcheck icon in the corner that constantly flashes up the little red x on the open book. I fucking hate that.
FocusWriter is free, but you can also donate when you download. I’m totally goig to give the dev some money next month (I can’t this month, because my bike needs fixing, and it’s costing me a stupid amount of money), because this is the best little program I’ve ever downloaded. It’s so simple, and that’s exactly what I need.