There’s been quite a bit of buzz at CES this week – the Consumer Electronics Show – about a new device for writers called “Freewrite,” which is billed as “The World’s First Smart Typewriter,” and promises distraction-free writing. The Atlantic called the tool “a soulful gadget”… is that even possible?
I’m about the furthest you can get from being an early adaptor. I guess I’m a bit of a digi-phobe, much to the dismay of anyone who has ever tried to reach me by text, phone call (what’s that?), or any other method besides a tap on the shoulder. I’d be perfectly happy with my iPhone 5 if it weren’t for the fact that it just literally doesn’t work anymore with the current versions of apps and things.
But I have to say I was intrigued when I first read about the Freewrite device. It took me a minute to understand what it was, and then I realized it’s a device created for people just like me. Basically what we have here is an 80’s-era word processer made modern for the cloud-connected world. It’s high-contrast screen promises easy reading in various lighting conditions, and the fact that it’s not connected to the internet (except to upload your documents to your cloud backup) means writers won’t be drawn into the rabbit hole of the internets instead of focusing on their writing.
Many authors I work with to help in their design and book layout have complained of their struggle with distraction. Whether it’s distraction from the environment around them, or distraction from the constantly-pinging social media messages, the struggle is real. I know many who prefer to retreat with their pencils and journals to quiet corner of the world to work through difficult aspects of their stories. You can read some of their stories here. I think there is something about that glaring screen that can become like a wall, blocking the writer from inspiration that exists outside of our computers.
I think the new Freewrite bridges the two worlds. It’s like journaling in the cloud. The screen is small and rudimentary, which doesn’t allow for easy corrections – forcing the writer to trudge forward and just get the words out. Brilliant. Who ever read back over their journal, obsessively correcting passages? No. Journaling meant letting it flow. If you got stuck, you could look up into the clouds or people-watch. With the Freewrite, you can do that too. And the fact that it’s portable and holds a charge for a super long time (a week – wow!) means you can take it with you to wherever you feel inspired. The park, the library, the museum, wherever.
And I have to say – as an artist and designer – I love the look and feel of the thing. It looks solid, and feels retro. It’s like having a record player that you can also stream music on.
The only drawback I see to this is the price. At $500 I think it’s a big investment, especially for writers – the lowest paid profession! C’mon people! But if you struggle with distraction, it might the perfect tool for you.