So yes, I got a new writing toy. Well, tool, yes, a tool, maybe. Anyway, I’ve been eyeing something like the Freewrite Alpha for about a decade now. I tried building something similar with a raspberry pi, but it didn’t really end up working like I wanted it to. I thought about the main Freewrite and then the Traveler…but the main one is wayyyy too $$$ and the Traveler doesn’t have a mechanical keyboard, which I’m obsessed with. For awhile I used a home setup that had no internet access and a mechanical keyboard, with my writing right there and on all the time.

my freewrite alpha, with luridly old school giallo-blood red keycaps and cool horror stickers

And that works, for the most part, and I’ll still use that for editing. But the main issue is I work on a computer all day for my main job, and when I’m done with the day…I want to be off of it. No screen blaring at me in the face, and I need a break. The eyestrain sucked, and I began to equate being on a computer with coding, which ew. Coding. So I eventually bit the bullet and got the Freewrite Alpha. It is good for what I got it for, writing without a computer screen and without internet access. It turns on instantly, and you can start writing right away, these are good things.

And for that, in my mind, it’s worth the price range. But, well. I have some thoughts. For one, I don’t like the default keycaps (though some people love it), they are too thin and too much like a regular laptop. I like having nice typewriter style keys to write on. Thankfully, since this is a mechanical keyboard, I was able to buy nice new (Hammer Horror/Giallo blood red) keycaps for less than 30$ and replace them easily. Now it’s amazing to type on. The screen doesn’t bother me, it’s not too dim, not too small. I used to use tons of wordprocessors in the 90’s and they were all pretty much just like this. So I’m used to it, that’s fine.

What I also don’t like is how it tries to force you to use their writing philosophy. No way of writing works for everyone, people each have to cobble together their own way of doing things. This “our way is the best way, for real authors” is bunk, and I also feel like it might be preying on the fears and insecurities of new writers who are constantly looking for a way to get better. I do work around it, I find that it’s enjoyable enough writing on it that it’s worth it. BUT.

If getting away from distractions and a screen is so important for writing, then why isn’t it as important for editing? Why do we have to get to a computer and be dazzled with distractions and a screen when we’re going to do that step of this work? It is one thing I do wish I could get around, and at times regret having to edit this stuff on my computer. Even though it isn’t connected to the internet (the one for editing), it does have a blaring screen. SIGH.

But other than that, yes. This tool is really nice, it’s what I need for writing on the go and being away from computers and phones and all their screens blinding me and annoying me. And I can live with moving it to the computer for edits. What I currently do is write either a whole short story and send it up for manuscript formatting and editing, or I do a chapter at a time for a novella/novel. The chapter at a time is to keep my sanity, and to allow me to write chapters elsewhere, on other devices, if I want to. My main writing/editing PC is a nice, chunky, all in one with a really great mechanical keyboard. I then just press the send button whenever I’m ready to edit a chapter or a short story, then I shred it after it’s moved in for edits on my editing PC.

My main editing machine, with my really cool mechanical keyboard (and Dracula keycaps!), and some fun stickers.

One other benefit to writing each chapter as a stand alone file (instead of one giant file for the novel) on the freewrite is that I can easily write chapters on a computer if I need to, or feel like it. I’m not just tied to one device. This makes things a lot easier. Anyway, I do like it, I think it was worth the money, for me. But I didn’t need it, it’s a tool like anything else. If you’re eying one for whatever reason, just remember that this won’t make you a writer, writing will. It can help, sure, but we don’t need expensive toys or a certain “writing philosophy” we have to obey to keep us in the game. All you need, at the least, is something to write with and something to write on.

And I happen to disagree with Freewrite’s slogan- “words are hard”. They are not! They are a joy to me, as is writing. Which is why I like dumb little tools like this, and why I own a typewriter and still use it from time to time to write short stories. Sadly, the OCR isn’t really all that great, so bringing it into the computer is a chore. But it’s all fun, and interesting, and helpful.

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