Saturday, October 9

Distraction-free writing

I downloaded the free version of a writing program that is simplicity itself. When launched, the computer screen is wiped clean—no menu bars, task bars, any bars. Depending on your choice, you can have a white background that encompasses the entire display, or a snowy scene with sparse leafless trees at the bottom of the screen, or the display I am currently using, a soft textured gray background. The writer is freed from the mechanics, the nonessentials that are always present and in your face when dealing with a standard word processor or writing program on a computer. Here the display is only about the words, not the word count, the font size, or the margins—just the writing. How wonderful to not have to be confronted by all that extraneous stuff. How nice to not see even a tiny bit of the computer’s interface. It is the closest thing I have experienced to writing on a blank sheet of paper, but with the addition of contemplative soothing musical sounds.

If you need a word count, move your mouse or stroke your trackpad. The word count shows up as a figure at the bottom of your composition. It isn’t labeled; it is simply a number, in this case, 163. (Now 164, since 163 counts as a word. But this can get circular and feed on itself, like now it’s 184, not counting the number 184 itself, which skews the count—you get what I mean, I hope.) When you move the mouse, six small round icons appear on the right side, offering you the options of changing the size of the display, the font, the background sounds you’re hearing, and other parameters. Once you’ve made your selections, the icons disappear.

The sound accompanying my current writing is a temple bell, being struck by either a felt-covered hammer or maybe a frozen yak butter wand wielded by a young monk seeking penance for having the forbidden thought of wishing he owned the latest iPod touch with the Retina Display instead of his scarred brass rice bowl and ill-fitting saffron robe. Pray for his soul.

You needn’t pray for my Apple stock because this wonderful program is currently available only to Macintosh users. I’m using the free version, but may opt for the paid upgrade unless I’m seduced into believing that simplicity truly is the essense of simplicity.

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