Friday, November 26, 2010

iPad’s Writer App: Another Toy for Distracted Writers

Distractions abound for writers, especially those of us who work from home. While most of our friends are jealous of the fact that we could choose to work from our own beds if we wished, they forget that it also means:

1. We are tempted to perform household chores because we’re in the house, anyway.

2. We are tempted to answer the home phone as well as our cell phones (and update our Twitter accounts, our Facebook statuses, our blogs. . . .).

3. We are surrounded by our children, our whiny pets, and the Internet, our greatest friend and nemesis.

Distracting Writing Programs

Writers have enough distractions outside the screens of our computers, but at times, our own writing platforms can be distracting. In fact, many of us prefer typewriters or simple programs like NotePad to steer clear of petty playthings like styles, links, and incorrect autocorrections. While those can be nice in editing phases of our work, the point of the first draft is to transfer the ideas in our heads to paper (or screen). Our clutches on The Muse can slip easily, however, when the talking paperclip slinks into the corner of our screens or we just don’t like the font with which we’re working.

iPad’s Writer

Information Architects claims to have found a solution for such distracted writers. The iPad’s new app, called Writer, has a simplified interface without all the fancy Microsoft Word touches. Writer takes it back to the old school so it’s much like typewriting without the clacking and pinging.

A few intuitive modes make the writer’s job easier. For example, the “Focus Mode” fades out everything on the screen but the current three lines of text the writer has written. This keeps writers intent on writing more rather than editing or rereading what’s already been written. Editing too early in the first draft not only loosens our clutches on The Muse but it also hampers our progress (making it easier to slip into the dreaded block) and destroys the organic structure of our lines of thought. “Focus Mode” makes us write now, edit later.

Those of us visually inclined spend much time fiddling with fonts and styles—Writer takes this out of the equation but makes its own typeface conducive to distraction-free, focused writing. In fact, Information Architects consulted several type, screen, and graphic designers before deciding on the font Nitti Light, a readable, simple, yet pleasing typewriter-esque font. The iPad can also be used in both landscape and portrait modes with column width, text size, and contrast best for any writer’s eye.

Just Another Toy

While Apple and Information Architects have the right idea, this seems like just another toy for already distracted writers. Focus is most easily influenced by environment and state of mind—having a personal office with strongly enforced work and play hours, turning the phone off, and using a different browser for research and writing versus social media and online shopping are just the beginnings to being focused writer.

While a Spartan and intuitive writing platform might help some writers, they would most likely still be sidetracked by existing distractions the iPad can’t cure. The cat will still meow at the door and the dog will still get into trouble. The dishes will still need doing and your friends who assume that because you work from home you have free time will invite you out for a night on the town. Rather than spending money and experimenting with writing platforms, writers should focus, instead, on clearing their environments and minds of distractions. A weed can only be removed by its root.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
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