Updated: Jun 30, 2022
"Less than two hours left," I told myself as I scanned the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for an empty table.
The place was about three minutes away from my son's preschool by car, however if you take into consideration the congestion, the traffic lights, and parking — not to mention ordering, and finding an empty seat — it usually took me around fifteen to twenty minutes to get to finally get settled down.
And that left me with less than two hours left to work on my writing.
Because laptops suck...
It was around this time that I really hated laptops. Or, to be more specific, I really hated my laptop.
It had gotten so old and so slow to the point that booting it up took me a good fifteen minutes in itself. And by the time I was ready to work, I had less than an hour and half left before I'd have to go pick up my son.
And so most of the time, I resorted to working with old fashioned pens and notebooks.
Thinking back, though, it was probably best that my laptop could only do so much. It gave me more time to focus on my work and not get distracted by things like "research".
Setting my thoughts to pen and paper gave me true focus and helped me navigate my brain better. The slowness of writing helped me capture and filter my thoughts as I wrote.
Still, in those days I would always feel as though an hour and a half just wasn't enough. Often, I wondered: If only I had some way to maximize that time without having to deal with all these different delays.
Fast forward to a time when I'd finally saved enough to buy myself a new laptop. I was determined to get something fast, something that could help me manage my time better and not keep me hanging due to slow loading times.
Once I had it, the new laptop performed swimmingly. It was perfect. It was amazing. It was better than anything I'd hoped for.
Until it wasn't.
The idea of better speeds also brought with it it's own complications. Suddenly, because I didn't have to wait so long each time I opened, minimized, or closed a window, I found myself doing "research" more and more.
And because my laptop was now fairly high-end, I'd ended up installing a couple of games (to be played during my free time, of course) and found myself enraptured for hours by their perfect pixels instead.
Faster did not necessarily mean better, in this case. I was drowning in an ocean of distractions (and potential distractions) that it was eating away at my time for writing.
And I absolutely hated it!
And because I started gaming on my laptop, I noticed that it started to clock slower speeds once again. It was bogged up with all these different apps and software that kept it from running smoothly. It was filled with all sorts of Malware and viruses that hampered its performance. And while I was still able to work, I was able to squeeze less and less into my two to three hour focus time.
In the end, I found myself relying once again on old fashioned pen to paper.
In came the Freewrite
It was around that time that I found this thing called the Freewrite.
It flashed onto my Facebook feed as an ad and pulled my eyes straight out of my sockets.
"Distraction-free writing," it promised, and the ad showed exactly how the device accomplished that. It seemed like the perfect device for me: one stripped of all the things that made laptops such a time-suck!
No web browsers. No apps or games to install. It was just you, a blank page, and blinking cursor.
Finally! This was it! I saw this as the best opportunity for me to get some writing done. I could say goodbye to whatever excuses held me back from my writing and actually get down and do the dirty work.
I had a bit of money put aside to help me buy myself a unit when it launched, and so I jumped in, head first, knowing that this might be the device that changed my life completely.
Was the Freewrite all I ever dreamed it would be?
I don't know if it's just me, or if it's a common thing amongst creatives, but there's a certain side of us that wants our work to be absolutely perfect. Every word has to fit into the bigger narrative, every character relatable, every plot point seamless and engaging.
Now that I had the Freewrite, I found out that I was spending more time "planning" and "brainstorming" rather than actually writing.
"It still isn't good enough to go into draft," I often told myself, tweaking a couple more bullets on my outline. Or sometimes my head would instead go, "I still don't know enough about this character to write about him."
Call it perfectionism. Call it quality-control. The truth of the matter is that I was just plain scared.
I was afraid that my writing sucked and that I would never be able to write something worthwhile or worth reading.
We often tell ourselves, "If only I had the right tools," or, "If only I had the time," not realizing that if we really wanted something, we could make do with whatever tools we have with whatever time we had.
Did you know that John Grisham wrote his first 2-3 novels writing an hour every day before he started his work as a law firm? He'd come into the office an hour early, get his writing done, and then transition to his day job once his shift started.
When you think about it, centuries ago, writers didn't use laptops, computers, or even typwriters. They used plain and and paper.
And they still, they complained about being distracted.
I love my Freewrite. I absolutely do. It's freed me up to not worry about whether or not my laptop has enough batteries to keep going, and has eliminated the itch to do "research" for hours and hours.
However, despite all that, it's still ultimately up to me to actually put in the time and the effort to write.
I can gather all the advanced tools, gadgets, and strategies that every writer in history has sworn by, but if I don't take the time to actually do some writing, I'm no closer to achieving the kind of success that they have.
Want to know the most ironic thing?
When I first got the Freewrite, I spent a few minutes every other day writing on it. I'd have half-hour sessions every now and then to get some writing done, but never really did any serious writing on it.
I'd brought it on a trip to the beach one day, thinking that the idea of writing on the beach would free me of any inhibitions I was used to at home or in the city.
I barely opened it while on that beach.
When I got back I figured I'd try and write about my experience as a quick exercise to make sure I wasn't getting rusty. And so I pulled the device out of my bag, set it on the table, and pressed the power button.
I pressed it again. And again. Eventually I reset the device and got it to work.
"Whew!" I thought as I sat down to start my writing session. "That was a close one."
My fingers breezed through the keys, typing away. And because I was a touch-typist, it didn't take long for me to notice that there seemed to be some errors in my sentences. Some of them weren't capitalized, not to mention the many glazing typos that suddenly showed up.
Was I really that rusty? Had I really stopped writing for so long?
Turns out that wasn't the case. Because the truth was...
Some of the keys had stopped working.
And it was at this point that I realized that I was wasting so much time worrying and procrastinating about my writing, blaming my productivity on loser laptops and lack of time. But in the end, it all came down to me.
Here was what I believed to be the perfect product and device for me, something that could actually get me to start writing. And it was gone. Broken before I could ever take it seriously.
I was able to have the Freewrite repaired and replaced for free (since it was still under warranty).
But it was at that moment that I finally realized that it wasn't the lack of proper tools that were keeping me from my craft. It was simply me, my fear of failure, and my fear of not being good enough to be called a writer.
And at that moment I remembered Jeff Goins' amazing book and manifesto, and told myself, "Damn it! I'm writer! So I should just freakin' write."