Distraction Free Writing

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by tomsaint11I ran across an article over at Stepcase Lifehack: “Your Guide to Apps that Eliminate Distractions“. Always distractable, I look out for things like this. — particularly the first two, which lend themselves to distraction-free writing.

Major Writing Distractions

To me, the two biggest writing distractions are things outside my writing program and things inside my writing program. Stuff on the outside of my writing program include pop-up windows, the status bar, and the taskbar. On the inside of the programs, it is the color of the screen and text, icons, formatting and icons that won’t go away. (We’ll just assume that I have already done away with the pop-up “helpers” that come up in some word processing packages).

Limiting Outside Distractions

The first thing I do is to hide all icons on my desktop. I generally don’t keep much there anyway; I put the desktop into a popup menu (see How To Access Important Folders From The Taskbar). Next I put the taskbar into auto-hide mode so I can’t see what is open.

It also goes without saying that when I am trying to get writing done, I don’t run email, a browser, or instant messenger.

Limiting Internal Distractions

The Lifehack article talked about two applications that allow you to limit on-screen distractions: WriteRoom and JDarkRoom. While I like these application concepts, when I first heard about them, I decided to make Microsoft Word do the same thing.

Within the application I am working in, I like the ability to turn off the things at the top and bottom of the screen. I also find it easier to concentrate on my writing if I am writing in the old-fashioned color scheme of WordPerfect for DOS: fixed-width font on a black background with green writing.

Within Microsoft Word, I created two macros that will allow me to toggle back and forth between these settings. The code listings are below:

Sub WP()
    With Selection.font
        .Name = "Courier New"
        .Color = wdColorBrightGreen
        .Size = 12
    End With
    ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(0, 0, 0)
    ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.Visible = msoTrue
    Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
    ActiveWindow.View.FullScreen = Not ActiveWindow.View.FullScreen
End Sub
Sub UnWP()
    ActiveWindow.View.FullScreen = Not ActiveWindow.View.FullScreen
    ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.Visible = msoFalse
    With Selection.font
        .Name = "Arial"
        .Color = wdColorAutomatic
        .Size = 10
    End With
End Sub

While these macros make it easy to keep myself focused on writing, it doesn’t take away all the distractions: the little red squigglies under misspelled words, or the paragraph marks and spaces. These can be turned off as well, but I found an application that I don’t have to adjust, or remember to “undo” when I am done with my serious writing.


This is my creative writing tool of choice. PageFour is a straight-forward tool made for creative writers. It doesn’t contain a lot of bells and whistles; it contains the functionality of interest to most writers.

Just like Word, I can change the display to be green text on a full-screen black background. However, PageFour gives me some additional features, such as the ability to organize my writing in notebooks; and doing operations across all the pages in these notebooks, like word counts and phrase analysis. The application also allows me to do archives and track changes.

PageFour screen shot

PageFour screen shot

My strategy for distraction-free writing is very simple: get rid of the distractions, and make it easy to see what I am writing.

Photo by tomsaint11


  1. says

    I think when we set goals, they must be focused goals. There are many distractions, but focusing on the small goals work best. Great post.