Computers, with all the windows, pull down menus and one-click access to the Internet, assault our attention, interrupting our muse, breaking our concentration, making creative writing difficult. Minimalist text editors like WriteRoom, Q10 and FocusWriter, try to eliminate these distractions by presenting a writer with a blank screen and a blinking cursor. I eliminate distractions by turning the damn thing off.
I love my desktop computer but it’s a left-brain tool that seems to short circuit my right-brain when I’m writing a first draft. I’m writing this piece on my AlphaSmart Neo while sitting in a comfortable chair on the other side of the room. My Neo has a small screen that someone on the Internet described as “about the size of a candy bar.” It’s not connected to the Internet and I can’t play games. Neo is only good for one thing — writing, writing on one of the nicest, full size keyboards I’ve ever used.
I keep my Neo on the floor next to my musing chair. When an idea pops into my head, I pick up Neo, press the on/off key and within a few seconds the blinking cursor is right where I left off last time. When I’m in first draft mode, I sit here and let my thoughts spill out as fast as I can type. I’m a touch typist so I don’t have to think about what my fingers are doing.
I don’t worry about typos or punctuation while I’m in first draft writing mode and never look back at what I’ve written. I’ve never been able to write this way consistently while sitting at my desktop, but with Neo, I’m relaxed and the writing seems easy. It weighs less than two pounds, doesn’t heat up and the only noise is from the soft clicking of the keys as I type. Neo gets out of my way and remembers what I type. When I’m ready to edit, I plug into a USB port on my desktop, fire up my text editor (I never use a word processor) and press the send key on Neo to transmit the file I’m working in (there are eight file spaces) directly to my editor.
I put fresh batteries in my Neo over a month ago, use it every day and the battery capacity is still at 91%. Believe it or not, three AA alkaline batteries will last about 700 hours in normal use.
Neo is one of my secret first draft writing weapons, the one I use most often. Sometimes I’ll grab a lined pad and uncap one of my fountain pens instead — depending on my mood at the time.
My Neo is the monkey bars in my creative writing playground and when I’m playing it’s impossible to make a mistake. I wrote the first draft of An Emerald Ring while swinging on those monkey bars.
If you missed the first parts of the series and would like to read them, here are the links:
And here’s the link where you can download the full text of An Emerald Ring with my compliments.