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Being something of a curmudgeon, I tend to be skeptical about changing my various workflows. I’ve grown accustomed over many years to writing in the midst of a whirlwind of distractions. Twitter and chat clients sparkle and ding at me from the sidelines while I try to work or write. And of course, as the tools I use to write have grown more complex over time, they’ve introduced distractions of their own. Still, I’ve forged ahead in pig-headed resistance to enhancements that might reduce distractions.

Or I’ve done so until recently, at least. Lately, I’ve been using three tools that I think have had a positive impact on my work and writing.

The one I’ve used for the longest is Scrivener, which I’ve used for a couple of years now for offline writing. It’s a nifty tool for organizing material and just getting your thoughts down on the page. It’s reportedly good for compiling manuscripts as well, but I haven’t done much of that. Only in the last few months have I tried out Scrivener’s fullscreen mode. I was, of course, skeptical, but the more I use it, the more I find that looking at the uncluttered screen as if confronting a clean sheet of paper helps keep me focused on the work at hand.

Also recently, I’ve been using Concentrate, a simple program that lets you define tasks to concentrate on and things your computer should do to help you zoom in on those tasks. For example, you can have it shut down your Twitter and instant messenger clients so they don’t chirp at you while you’re trying to concentrate on a given task. At the end of the time window you’ve specified, you can opt to have the programs fire right back up. It’s a handy way of forcing yourself to put aside distractions, and I’ve found that it really boosts my productivity when I’m in magpie mode.

And finally, there’s WordPress’s very own Distraction Free Writing mode, which I’m using to type this very post. It works in much the same way that Scrivener’s fullscreen mode does, peeling away the clutter of the blogging screen. I would never have thought that the various panels and links in the admin screen were so terribly distracting, but now that I’ve tried bypassing my curmudgeonly tendencies and have given distraction free writing mode a shot, I’m surprised at how liberating it is.

What tools do you find indispensable when writing? Maybe it’s a cup of tea or soothing music (I can’t abide music at all when writing). Or are you one of those lucky folk who can work and write just as well from in the midst of the maelstrom of distractions we’ve increasingly had to learn to contend with?

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  1. I find it incredibly difficult to type/write/read with music in the background. I quickly found that instrumental music is not a problem, but any music with lyrics is. I can only conclude that for me, having someone singing in the background works in the same way as someone shouting out random numbers while you’re trying to count – I can’t concentrate on what I’m saying and what they’re saying simultaneously.

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  2. You might like to take a look at http://pangurpad.com, from a creative writing perspective it is a full screen, distraction free writing editor, but has many features essential to creative writing available ‘off screen’ for when you need them, character notes, plot timeline tools etc. It also keep working/saving if your internet drops out unlike other online editors.

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