The Trick I Use to Help Me Write

Look how beautiful that minimal interface is?!

This isn’t going to be some huge revelation, but hey, if it helps somebody else, then I figured I’d write about it! There’s a basic trick I use to help close the window of distraction around my brain as I write, and it’s Microsoft Notepad.

For as long as I can remember — and I don’t know how or why I started doing it this way — I’ve written everything in Notepad. And I mean everything, whether it’s my articles for the newspaper, this blog post, stories I’m going to submit to a journal, even Tweets sometimes, I write them in Notepad first.

If you’re unfamiliar, Microsoft Notepad is a bare bones application that comes with Microsoft and has since 1985, according to Wikipedia. My understanding for you Mac users out there is that TextEdit is the Mac equivalent to Notepad.

Let’s be honest, Notepad so basic and minimal, that it seems to have not changed much at all since 1985. While it looks like something out of 1985, there’s no reason for it to change much; it accomplishes exactly what it needs to. And for my purposes, what writing in Notepad accomplishes is that I’m not thinking about the blank page I’m writing into, whether that’s my blog window, Google Docs, or another platform. It’s more a psychological trick than it is a functional trick. I’m not thinking about what page I’m on or what the word count is or any of that. I’m just writing.

Another psychological trick is that with Notepad, I can write “kitzhen” (and I’m not that bad of a speller, I promise) and I don’t get the dreaded red squiggly line, or I can write “and and” and not get the dreaded blue squiggly line. In other words, I can write without worrying about the imperfections. It’s a draft. Draft it up, and worry about fixing it once it’s in the Google or whatever platform you’re using. The focus should be on spewing that first draft out. That’s it. That’s the objective and Notepad helps with that objective.

One other helpful aspect of Notepad is that there’s something about writing in a small window, like Notepad, although you can obviously expand it to fit the entire screen if you wanted to, but I keep mine tiny, that also helps psychologically. Perhaps it’s that it feels manageable? Whereas when I’m writing into Google Docs, I’m now swimming in the vastness of the blank page.

Writing in Notepad is a little thing I do that helps with my writing process and productivity. The more I can do to make the writing environment amenable to writing, the better. Whether with the writing process or life itself, I try to keep it simple and more importantly, I try to think in baby steps rather than the whole picture. If I think big picture, I get overwhelmed and stalled in my productivity. Notepad was particularly helpful to this way of thinking in college where you’re assigned, say, a 20-page paper. The last thing I want to do is be writing and thinking, “Welp, 10 more pages to go.”

Also unrelated to writing, Notepad has the benefit of being, well, a useful “note-taker.” I jot notes and ideas into it all the time, to where, as we speak, I have four different notepads open for different ideas and reminders.

What are some of your writing “tricks,” if you so want to share? And if you find this “trick” useful or helpful for your own writing, let me know!

5 thoughts

  1. That’s a neat strategy that I’d like to try sometime! I especially like that it doesn’t underline words in red or blue because that can get very distracting and makes me lose my train of thought. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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