Zen for Writers: Finding a Calm, Peaceful State For Your PC That Would Inspire Productivity

Tina Sieber 30-10-2012

Writing is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It’s lonely and you have to focus and think at the same time. Our brain, however, is constantly looking for new stimuli. It loves nothing more than entertaining random thoughts and shifting attention to attractive signals. That’s how you get distracted and side-tracked and this is what makes writing so hard.


Most professional writers have a routine and a matching workspace to get into the flow of writing. At MakeUseOf, you will find everything you need for a calm and peaceful PC setup that will help you become a productive writer. To save you time, I have compiled this ultimate resource guide to finding digital writer’s zen. Follow the 5 steps below, add a bit of patience, a grain of brilliance, a healthy dose of persistance, and writing will be just as hard, but it might flow much more easily.

1. Turn Off Noise & Notifications

Distraction is your worst enemy. A sure way to get distracted are random things popping up on your computer screen and capturing your attention. They need to be turned off. This either means shutting down the respective application or changing its settings so it won’t interrupt your work. Unless you need music to focus, turn off the sound altogether. Also don’t forget to turn off or mute any other devices in the same room with you: the TV, your phone, the tablet etc.

pc productivity tips

Not sure what notifications I’m talking about? See 5 Distracting [Windows] Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] When you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask. But even if you manage to restrain yourself, many programs manage to throw in... Read More for details.

2. Block Online & Offline Distractions

Are you dying to check your email? Do you feel the pull of Facebook? Didn’t you need to tweet something? Giving in to these temptations can be a death sentence for your productivity. If you are an easy victim of the internet, block the internet or at least the most distracting websites for a period of time during which you want to write.


pc productivity

My personal favorite right is Blockr, a Chrome add-on that blocks internet access until you meet your self proclaimed writing goals. Similar tools that we have profiled on our Directory are StayFocusd, Cold Turkey ColdTurkey: Block Distracting Websites When You Are Working Read More , FocalFilter, and KeepMeOut KeepMeOut: Stop Email or Facebook Addiction Read More . Aaron has looked at StayFocusd in more detail Stay Focused With StayFocusd For Google Chrome And Say Goodbye To Distractions The Internet is a vast place, with loads of information that can often be overwhelming. It would be an understatement to say that it’s the primary resource for research and getting work done. But don’t... Read More .

Offline distractions typically are clutter in your surrounding, including your physical and your virtual desktop. It only takes 7 Simple Steps To An Awesome Minimalist Windows Desktop 7 Simple Steps to an Awesome Minimalist Desktop Read More or 5 Great Tips and Tools For a Clean and Minimalist Mac Desktop 5 Great Tips and Tools For a Clean and Minimalist Mac Desktop Read More . But rather than wasting time with cleaning up your desktop, you should simply…

3. Use a Simple Writing Tool

While you are writing, there is no need to format the text. Picking fonts and colors and header formats is just a way to procrastinate, kill time, and yet feel busy. Stop yourself and choose an application that won’t let you do stuff like that.


pc productivity

My personal favorite is OmmWriter, which is available for Mac and Windows. If this particular software is not your cup of tea, don’t despair, there are dozens more. Below is a selection recommended by MakeUseOf authors. Please make it a point to pick one quickly and stick with it.

The three points above are also reflected in my article 3 Ways To Stop Multitasking & Stay Focused To Be More Efficient & Productive 3 Ways To Stop Multitasking & Stay Focused To Be More Efficient & Productive [Windows] At MakeUseOf we have written countless articles on how to multitask. As it turns out, however, multitasking messes with your brain. Research shows that people who multitask a lot are "more susceptible to interference from... Read More .

4. Take Care of Your Body

Writing requires your mind and, as the Roman poet Juvenal recognized, a sound mind resides within a healthy body. In other words, sleep well, eat well, drink lots of water, and breathe. Drink water to stay juicy and get a quick run to the toilet every hour. Take breaks to stretch, open the window and breathe deeply, do a quick exercise and get the blood flowing. This will pump fresh oxygen into your brain. When you feel mentally exhausted and if fresh air just makes you tired, take a short nap to refresh your brain.


pc productivity

When you have to work long hours at the computer, your eyes will tire. Technology can help reduce eye strain, so you can be productive for longer stretches of time. Have a look at the following tools:

5. Cures for Writer’s Block

So your computer is so perfectly calm and peaceful that your mind is completely blank. Congratulations, you have successfully been meditating! Sadly, this is really bad when you need to get thoughts down on paper. The condition is also known as writer’s block.

pc productivity tips


For a chance to find inspiration, you actually have to stimulate your brain and let your thoughts flow freely. If a brief (!) break, a short (!) nap or a glass of water don’t help and if you are regularly suffering from writer’s block, develop a routine to deal with it.

One proven method to overcome writer’s block are freewriting exercises. You simply write down anything that comes to your mind for a set amount of time. For support, try one of these 5 Websites for Freewriting Exercises 5 Websites For Writers To Cure Writer's Block With Freewriting Exercises Read More . A similar technique are Writing Prompts. The difference is that you are asked to reflect on a question in writing. Try one of these 10 Websites for Writing Prompts 10 More Websites That Help Cure Writer's Block With Writing Prompts Having a tough time writing? These websites will definitely give you the boost you need. Read More exercises.

As mentioned above, writing is tough because it’s lonely. What can help is to compare yourself with others and enter in a fun competition. This is where 750 Words comes in. A distraction free online writing space on the one hand, it encourages you to set a goal and write at least 750 words a day, complete challenges, compare yourself with other writers using the service, and earn recognition. See How To Inspire Yourself To Write At Least 750 Words Per Day How To Inspire Yourself To Write At Least 750 Words Per Day Read More .


I can only repeat what I said in the beginning: writing is hard work. To be an inspired and productive writer takes not only talent, but most of all a lot of discipline and patience. While routine can get you very far as a writer, don’t expect writing to become easy at any point. And once you find yourself procrastinating and not being productive again, which you will, don’t beat yourself up. Every writer goes through these valleys. Some even write articles about it, for example Joshua, who revealed How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps As you may know, MakeUseOf isn't staffed by robots that churn out articles daily through an automatic system. All of us have our own methods of getting down to the writing. Since I'm not a... Read More .

What are your worst distractions and how do you get into the writing zone?

Image credits: Mouse Ying and Yang via Shutterstock, Time to Focus via Shutterstock, Distracted Boys via Shutterstock, Girl with Pencil via Shutterstock, Yoga Hand via Shutterstock, Woman Throwing Waste Paper via Shutterstock

Related topics: Ergonomics, Writing Tips.

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  1. Gary Mundy
    November 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

    What distracts me usually has little to do with the computer ;)

  2. Harish Jonnalagadda
    October 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks so much. Just getting into writing, very useful advise.

  3. Cheryl De Pace
    October 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Here at the National Academy of Sciences, we do work very hard to write well. Our goal is nothing short of perfection. Unless you engage in this type of work, it is difficult to understand just how daunting this can be. It may surprise you to know that this article was soothing for me. I work on a team and we have a discussion along the same vein as this article with a bit of venting that is better left at the coffee machine.
    Thank you for writing it.

    • Tina
      November 1, 2012 at 12:24 am

      Thank you very much for your feedback, Cheryl. I'm very happy you enjoyed my article!

      Do you experience writer's block in scientific writing?

  4. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    October 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Here is my current method: Boot into Puppy so I get clean slate, with no application I might check and notifications I should be aware of. Then keep my modem as far as possible.
    Once I'm finished, mount my windows partition to save the writings.

    • Tina
      November 1, 2012 at 12:17 am

      Very radical method, Lisa. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Adrian Rea
    October 31, 2012 at 12:14 am

    when writing long or short pieces, notepad is fine for me at first. the idea is to get down the bones as quickly and not fuss about the font etc. Realtime spelling and grammar checkers just make me bunny hop back and forth losing my concentration. What I do do though is to add *** at places I want to come back to to revise my text as it makes searching much quicker.

    • Tina
      November 1, 2012 at 12:17 am


      adding a space holder for when you do not know the perfect word or phrase is a great point. This can cost so much time when you get stuck, but when you come back to it later, it may just take you a few seconds until the right words fall into place. Sometimes you just have to let go and re-visit. :)

  6. Corina Carrasco
    October 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I love this! I will be sure to check out the links while I brainstorm my NaNoWriMo project today and tomorrow.

  7. Dino Pearsons
    October 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Just in time for NaNoWriMo, eh?

    My favourite writing tool is Byword. Sadly, it's a Mac-only app, but out of the lot of the minimal writer apps, I found that one to be the best (and I've tried them all, trust me. OmmWriter, WriteRoom, WriteMonkey… Even giants like Scrivener and Ulysses in full-screen mode. I had over a dozen of those apps installed on my computer at one point.)

    • Tina
      November 1, 2012 at 12:16 am

      Ha! Actually I didn't write this article with NaNoWriMo in mind. But happy that the timing is well. And thank you fro sharing your favorite app. I'm sure some Mac users will see this on here and try it.