Aspiring writers the world over know the perils of the digital age better than most. You’ve spent the morning vacuuming, organising your junk email folder, sorting all the fast-food leaflets stuffed through your door into alphabetical order and watered your geraniums – and you’ve finally sat down in front of your shiny new laptop to write that novel you’ve been working on. But, oh no! Disaster. Somehow you’ve found your way to a website for creatives who believe in giraffe sporting equality and are reading an article about some new-fangled typewriter. You check your watch and suddenly it’s 8pm and you’ve lost the day to youtube videos of cats riding tortoises and obscure articles about chaffinches. You’ve been distracted by the ravaging digital background babble. But don’t worry – there’s always tomorrow.
Of course, there are a whole host of ideas for how to get around this (apart from the obvious action of actually just writing your novel). You can press a button to turn off the internet. Or you can go cold turkey from social media. You could even pay a friend to tie you to a chair, sit you in front of your computer and unplug the Wi-Fi – promising not to return until you’ve produced this generation’s version of On The Road. But it’s another idea that’s got us talking here at Nothing in the Rulebook – the ‘Hemingwrite’: a minimalist digital typewriter.
Modelled as a distraction-free ‘smart’ typewriter, which stops you surfing the web but still lets you save files to the cloud, this is a Kickstarter-funded tool for procrastinators of all creeds.
A pair of designers have added a modern twist to the traditional typewriter, the inventors – Adam Leeb and Patrick Paul – insist “it combines the simplicity of a typewriter with modern technology like an electronic paper screen and cloud backups to create the best possible writing experience”.
And, because it doesn’t allow access to the web, it is claimed the Hemigwrite will help writers work more efficiently.
The device includes a mechanical keyboard, and e-ink display that can be read in daylight, and access to cloud storage, such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
The portable word-processor’s battery is also reported to last 4 weeks. Which, while longer than your average laptop, still falls someway short of the traditional – ahem – typewriter, which has a battery life of well, for ever, since it doesn’t actually need any batteries.
Retailing at around £300, the device may appear less for poor, broke writers and more for people who quite like the idea of popping up in Starbucks with a new hipster-typewriter to order a mochalattecino while they brood in a leather chair and loudly laugh at quotes from Machievelli, as if it were an olden-days version of Seinfeld.
Now that the prototype has been developed, its creators have lined up a leading manufacturing group to begin making these writing tools en masse. Mr Paul said: “The 2015 Hemingwrite will ship with a minimalist interface but we will also support a development kit (SDK) to fulfill the needs of more specialized professionals like screenwriters.”
Professor Wu’s verdict:
“Obviously, in theory any new device that helps writers concentrate on putting words to paper seems like a good idea. But for much less than half the price of one of these new-fangled gadgetizmos, you could just buy an actual typewriter. And if you want to access the internet and the opportunity to save your files, just stick with your laptop or desktop, and get on with the task at hand. The only way you’ll ever find out if you “have it in you” to write a novel, or a collection of poems, or a screenplay, is to get to work and see if you do. It’s hard to write, of course; but it can be harder not to. Maya Angelou said there was no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. It’s true. The only way to override your distractions is to focus on that agony and to produce. So stop reading this article, get to your desk and ask yourself ‘what would Hemingway do?’” Professor Wu says.
“In fact, the man himself told us exactly what we needed to write, and it’s pretty simple. All you need, he said, is “The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck.””