Getting Focused on Writing (on the Mac)

I was beginning to read Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury, recommended by Corey Doctorow on Boing Boing, and I immediately had a fantastic impulse to write. Not one to lose out on these moments, I put down my Sony Reader and grabbed my Black Macbook.

As I got up from bed and walked to grab my computer, I had an epiphany.

Earlier I had been reading Paul Graham's Holding a Program in One's Head, and this ironically enough, was still loaded in my memory. It spoke of the tremendous concentration, and distraction free environment that is required to write great code, or to simply get a problem loaded in your head well enough, that can make the attempt.

With Mr. Graham still in RAM, and Mr. Bradbury's exquisite words still oozing from my brain like honey, I stumbled upon an a realization that my lack of writing regularly, and writing well was based upon (a) my lack of commitment, but more importantly (b) my inability to stay focused writing on the computer when I have a hundred other things begging for my attention. I'm talking to you Google Notifier, Adium, and Twitterific!

My solution thus far (and that has provided me with the ability to write this post in one sitting!) is this:

  1. Create another user account on you mac via system preferences, I simply named mine "writing". Maybe don't make yourself an administrator on this account, so you won't fiddle with settings.
  2. Choose one writing app and stick with it. I have chosen Textmate for it's fabulous Markdown Bundle, Blogmate, Flickrmate, and other wonderful tools within Textmate that make my blogging experience 100 times better. Although I like Scrivener a lot, and I do think MarsEdit is a good product, at the end of the day I just need something that is low profile and works damn good for what I do.
  3. Don't fuck with the simplicity of the system! In other words, once you have all your distractions gone, and it's you, the computer, your writing app, and your ideas, don't add back those darn distractions that you're trying to get away from. Don't even think of firing up Meebo. I mean it!
  4. Write, write, and write some more for your own peace of mind.

In one of the many hacks of getting through a writer's block (in this case, to write about writing), I've managed to spit out over 500 words in a blog post, which is not too shabby for me. I'd be interested in seeing what Mr. Merlin Mann thinks about this approach to distraction free writing on the mac.