In his online journal, Neil Gaiman used to mention a rental cabin far from civilization that he liked to check into whenever he needed to finish a novel. Early last year, though, he noted that a renovation had spoiled his writing retreat. The offending change? The owners had installed WiFi. Most of us can empathize with Gaiman's frustration over the distractions of wired life. Nothing eats up my writing time more than checking the blog reader one more time, just to see if anything interesting cropped up in the last, say, seven minutes. And let's not mention Twitter, which I'm avoiding the way a caffeine addict eschews meth. If we have to be plugged in, is there anything that can aid us online fiends when self-discipline fails? Roy Jacobson of Writing, Clear and Simple has found something that helps him -— a freeware program called Q10.
Blackness. That's what you get when you open Q10 for the first time. Its creators call it a full-screen editor, which means that it subsumes every bit of your monitor, from top to taskbar. What remains is a night-black screen, a blinking white cursor, and a gray info-bar at the bottom that provides the time, document name, and number of words, pages and characters typed. That's it. If this sounds like a cheap replacement for WordPad (Q10 only saves your file in text format), think again. There's a good deal more power under the program's hood. Q10 also contains a built-in timer so you can write for a predetermined period; a global-target function that will track your progress against a specified number of pages, paragraphs, lines or words; a note utility to jot down errant thoughts; and a customizable autocorrect. Don't like the dark-as-my-depraved-soul background? You can swap out colors as you please. For a little aural encouragement, there's even a function that makes your keystrokes sound like typewriter chatter.
Of course, nothing can make you write if you're dead set on procrastinating. But if you'd like some blinders to keep you focused, you could do much worse than Q10. Weighing in at around a megabyte and contained in a single executable, it's perfect for toting around on a thumb drive or even downloading fresh every time. The price, after all, is right. Check it out at the official Web site.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Geekgirly)