Distraction free writing

If you're anything at all like me, you have a tendency to browse the web doing “research” when you should be working on that novel. Oh sure, I always start with the best intentions; I even open up Scrivener and bash out a few dozen words before I decide to go look something up on Google that just can’t wait. The worst part is that I’ve usually been running through scenes and plot points in my head during my commute, and all day at work. I’m even pretty enthusiastic about turning all of these great ideas into scenes when I get in front of my computer. So how do distractions overpower that desire to write? For me, it’s usually a matter of just popping over to the internet for a second, or checking my email, or posting to my writing group. Most of these actions only take a minute or two, but the problem is that those minutes add up, and the disruption to my workflow is often detrimental. I basically said all of that to tell you that the one device that has done more for my writing productivity than any other, is my Alphasmart NEO. The NEO, and other devices like it, offer simple distraction free writing. No email, no social media, no apps, just an old school portable word processor.

The NEO2 at work

The NEO is the perfect marriage of form and function. It has an impeccable keyboard with smooth and responsive action, and a screen just big enough to see the last few lines. I realize that writers generally like to be able to at least see the entire page they’re working on, but for roughing out that first draft, there is really no better way to go. The NEO’s screen forces you to keep writing, and punch that inner editor in the face. Well, maybe not in the face, we’ll need him during the revision process. We just don’t need him now. Now we need to get all of those wonderful ideas out of your head, and onto “paper.” That’s what I love about the NEO; it lets me focus on writing. I don’t do any editing at all on it. When I’m done, I just connect it to my laptop with a usb cable and hit send.

Another nice thing about the NEO is its portability and extraordinary battery life. It weighs in at under two pounds and can go over 700 hours on three AAA batteries. I know mine has been using the same batteries for six months, and the battery meter has hardly moved off of the full mark. The device is also instant on and off. It fires right up, and always remembers where you were. It even saves as you go, so you never lose your work. Of course, I’m very paranoid about that sort of thing, so I download my files every night, but I’ve never actually experienced any data loss.

The NEO is also very rugged; you can toss it in a backpack and go. I’ve even dropped mine on a tile floor before. I wouldn’t recommend doing it on purpose, but mine only suffered a minor scuff on the body. It still works like a charm. I bought mine brand new (and it is actually a NEO2) directly from RenLearn for $169, but you can often find older models for a fraction of that price on eBay. I also have the sister model, the Dana, which you can still find for around $40 on eBay. It has a Palm operating system and some Palm apps, so the battery life isn’t as good, but it does have a rechargeable battery that gets around 25 hours between charges.

Alphasmart Dana

Well, that’s enough gushing about the NEO from me, but if you want to know more about these wonderful machines, just click on my link to “Alphasmart Writing Tools.” It really comes down to whatever works for you, and hey, this works for me. Happy writing!


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