When the Freewrite (originally Kickstarted as the Hemingwrite) and Freewrite Traveler came on the scene a few years ago, many writers took notice. The functionality is based on the writing process of author Ernest Hemingway, with a focus on writing new words and not going back to edit, like a high-tech version of a typewriter. For many writers, this is a great idea in an era of constant connectivity to emails, social networks, and other distractions. A device where writers can unplug and focus on getting words on the page seems like a godsend. Taking the simplicity of a typewriter and adding modern technology like an e-ink screen and wifi connectivity is brilliant. But, the $500 price tag is way outside most writers’ budgets.
If the aspiring author in your life added a Freewrite to their wishlist, here are some alternative and more affordable gifts to consider, that will also help create a distraction-free writing environment.
Alphasmart Word Processor
The most similar in function, but the cheapest option by price, is an Alphasmart Word Processor. These handy machines were popular in schools before computers were more affordable. Writers love them because the simplicity of the machine (it is literally only a word processor) creates a distraction-free writing tool that is great for first drafts. Autosave makes sure you never lose a word. They also come with a USB cable to connect to your computer to easily transfer your writing to Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or any other text program you use for editing. The Neo2 also boasts word count and a thesaurus.
Though they are no longer available new, used versions are extremely affordable and easily found searching Amazon and other online retailers.
iPad + a Bluetooth Keyboard
By combining an existing iPad with a bluetooth keyboard, you can create an experience that mimics the Hemingwrite. With so many different iPad keyboard options, you can really personalize it for the writer by color, style, and price. If you’re a writer on the go, frequently writing in cafes or libraries, an iPad case with a built-in keyboard may be your best bet.
Typewriter or Typewriter Keyboard
If you or the writer in your life like to kick it old school, you may consider investing in a typewriter. These are easy to find used locally or online used, and new electric typewriters are also available. The only downside is that once you type your writing on the typewriter, you will have to type it again to get it in a digital format on your computer.
A (pricey) alternative is the USB Typewriter Computer Keyboard. These can be purchased pre-modified or as a kit to convert an existing typewriter into a USB keyboard that can be used with any computer or iPad. Then the writer is free to use any writing software they prefer, but they have to resist the temptation to check Facebook while they work.
Wacom Bamboo Slate
This is the perfect gift for a writer who likes to work long hand, but hates the process of typing up their words later so they can edit them on their computer. The Wacom Bamboo Slate is a pen, pad, and paper that allows you to put pen to the page and then digitally records your drawings or words to the Wacom Cloud. No scanning necessary, and no typing later. It even converts handwritten notes into plain text for easy editing later.
The Bamboo Slate is compatible with Bluetooth enables devices, like iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.
“Hack” Your Computer to Be a Productive Writer
This is more of a hack than a gift, but still a great Hemingwrite alternative. Using your computer and a minimalist word processor, you can focus on writing without the distraction of the internet.
Scrivener features a composition mode (pictured) that uses your entire screen, turning it into a writing machine without sacrificing any of the awesome Scrivener functionality.
Buy Mac Version from Mac App Store
Buy iOS version from Apple
If you have a hard time truly unplugging, try disabling your wifi or using the Pomodoro Technique to help you focus. Try using headphones with ambient noise to really focus.