For a writer, there's no greater tool -- or obstacle -- for writing like the internet. All the accumulated information on the planet nothing more than a keystoke away? Want to know what they called those little windows in castles for shooting arrows at invaders? Want to know the correct name for those long, angular sleeves you always see ladies wearing costume dramas? Want to know, well, anything at all?
But, along with the everything you also get the everything else.
Click through for pictures of castles but why not check out that silly Monty Python video? You know, the one with the guy doing the bad French accent? Then Youtube wants to show you the killer bunny, or a clip from A Fish Called Wanda. Or maybe -- God help you -- you start looking at captioned cat pictures.
Wait . . . weren't we writing? Crap, when did it get so late? Well . . . guess I'll get some work done tomorrow . . .
Hold on, folks. As always, I'm here to help.
Let me introduce you to the best ten dollars I've spent in my entire life: Freedom.
What is Freedom?
It's an app you install on your computer. It costs ten dollars. It got its start on Mac, but it's also available for Windows.
What Does it Do?
It turns off your internet. Boom. That's it. Open it on your computer before you start writing, type in how many minutes you intend to work, and you're off to the races.
Here's what the main window looks like:
That's pretty much it. Hit OK and you'll get to choose whether you want to kill everything or allow for local traffic (like, if you're streaming media from another computer in the house).
What's So Great About It?
Freedom's strength is in its simplicity. It literally does one thing: turn off your internet. And it does it very well. Short of rebooting your computer -- which is just enough of a pain in the butt to feel like giving up -- you can't make it go away.
Now, the technically-inclined writers out there -- my brothers and sisters! -- will say: "Pssh! I don't need a ten dollar app to do this! I can do it myself!"
Sure you can.
But you don't want to. Firstly because it's annoying digging into your Preferences to turn off -- really turn off -- your internet. And secondly because if you do things that way there's nothing stopping you from turning it all back on.
Freedom is amazing because it just does what it's supposed to do. Want to take two hours to write? Punch in 120 minutes, hit OK, and that's it. When your two hours are up, Freedom will pop up a window asking if you want to tweet your stats (something I've always been amused by, but I don't think I've ever taken it up on). You can also give yourself more time, if that's what you feel like doing.
It works. It's simple. It's the single best productivity tool for writing I've ever seen, heard of, or tried.
But Wait! I Need to Look Something Up . . .
Okay. Don't. Just . . . don't.
You may want to dash into the next room and go online. You may need to find out what those little arrow windows (protip: arrowslits) are called.
Write around it. Leave a blank for it and get back to it when your time with Freedom is up. A neat trick someone (I forget who) taught me was to insert (TK) somewhere you need to go back to. The reasoning is this: there are so few words in the English language that have a T immediately followed by a K, you can just search for TK after you're done writing, then go back and fill in your blanks (If you're writing a novel about the Atkins Killer Diet, however, I suggest using something else).
Also, this could just be me, but I find I prefer to spend writing time writing and research time researching. Even popping online for a second means I'm going to feel the pull of my email, want to check that thread on boardgamegeek I'm following, need to see if a new Order of the Stick has been uploaded . . .
Oh hell, where'd my writing time go?
It went toward writing. Because I let Freedom push the whole, wide world away for two or three hours so I could focus on writing and only writing.
Above all things, Freedom protects you from yourself. It draws a line in the sand and says, that's how long you're writing and NOTHING'S going to get in your way. It helps ensure your writing time is spent on writing -- or on taking notes, or on daydreaming about your characters, or on whatever you do to get your head into the story -- and not on looking at silly cat pictures or reading about the latest controversial knitting patterns.
Freedom helps you write.
It costs ten dollars.
Oh -- and just like so many other, awesome, game-changing things online -- you can try it for free. But once you try it, you'll be scrambling to give them your ten dollars.
And you'll be thrilled at what a great bargain it is.