Whatever Works: OmmWriter and Distraction-Free Writing

Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers
September 15, 2013
Comments 2

If you’re like me, the greatest threat to your writing—besides lack of confidence, or lack of inspiration, and all that—is getting distracted by other things in your environment.  These might include your day job, other people who live in your house, and—the trickiest of all—internet.  When you’re writing, and you’ve come to a difficult moment in the draft, how easy is it to check your email or Facebook, to read that Twitter feed (“I can’t believe she said that to the public!”), or to click aimlessly from link to link?  When I was a graduate student, I went to a writing talk where an author suggested un-installing the web browser on the computer that you use for writing.  At the time, this seemed like an extreme approach, especially because there was only one computer in my life.

In a previous post, I discussed the possible benefits of writing some, if not all, early drafts by hand.  Today, I enter the world of alternative word processing programs.  Because I’m not a computer geek (or, rather, I’m just ignorant when it comes to computers), I wasn’t really aware that anyone used anything other than Microsoft Word when they’re writing on the computer.  I’ve since learned that people use a variety of word processors.  And, as it turns out, I’ve found a new, strange one that I actually like.

I heard about OmmWriter from a friend of mine who is a poet, scholar, and artist. It’s a “minimalist,” full-screen word-processing program, one that lacks the clutter of the tool bars, rulers, and menus that most of us see in Microsoft Word.  This full-screen program prevents users from using other programs—like an internet browser—at the same time they’re using Ommwriter.

When I heard about OmmWriter’s special features—document background colors, as well soundtracks and sound effects—I was a little suspicious.  Honestly, I thought the program sounded cheesy.  But, when I discovered the free version of the program, and then the newer version–which you pay for on a donation basis–I decided to try it out.  For my first time using the program, I chose a pinkish-violet document background (“designed,” the creators of Ommwriter say, “to stimulate creativity”), and some ocean-like white noise in the background.  I found myself rolling my eyes. But, I was willing to try it out.

I’m happy to report that the folks at OmmWriter are onto something good.  To me, it seems that a full-screen word processor really does make it easier to concentrate on your writing.  The “chromatherapy” document backgrounds—while occasionally resembling school-picture backdrops from the early 90’s—are really a nice change from the anxiety produced by the glaring (sterile?) white background of Microsoft Word.   And the inclusion of background sounds, while also potentially cheesy, can actually be meditative, helping you tune out the distractions.  Without endless options (italicize? bold?), this program presents you with a truly  “blank” physical place from which to begin your work.   If you’re an anxious writer, OmmWriter is like yoga entering your writing.

It’s easy to save anything you create in OmmWriter as a text file, making it possible to copy/paste and transform your text into a traditional word document at a later stage.  The new version of OmmWriter, known as Dana, also has a save-as-PDF option.

So, I think I’m hooked.  You can download OmmWriter for both PC and Mac.  I recommend the newer, paying version, for which the minimum donation is $4.11.  You can find out why at OmmWriter’s list of “Frequently Meditated Questions.”

Has anyone else tried this program? What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Whatever Works: OmmWriter and Distraction-Free Writing

  1. Hi, thanks for this. I’ve downloaded it and played around with it and like it so far — especially the train sounds! But concerned about copying to MIcrosoft Word. Is it labor intensive, i.e. all the graphs need to be separated again, etc. And then what about when it comes to printing the copied version from Microsoft? Have you done that? Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing Omwriter, I will try it when I get back to my table. I also struggle with distractions and have gone to pen and paper for initial creation, then shift to the keyboard and hope for the best. I like the idea of sounds when not refining a scene. With scenes, I like to get into my character’s reference frame by creating a Pandora station for the music the character would think of or hear, so that when my mind wanders hopefully it will stick with the scene.

    I enjoy your blog.

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