Turning Your Computer into a Typewriter

Typewriters and Computers

This week’s blog post is a fun one. We’re going to talk about typewriters (!?) What do typewriters have to do with email newsletters? Read on.

The Unique Appeal of the Typewriter

What’s so special about a typewriter, anyway? After all, they are an outdated, rarely-used technology, usually only owned by hipsters and your grandparents.

Even so… there’s something magical about them. They seem more real and substantial than a laptop or smartphone. The actor Tom Hanks even wrote a love letter to typewriters in the New York Times. Sentimental? Maybe.

Not Just Nostalgia

Nonetheless, there are real, objective benefits to using a typewriter over a computer when creating content for your website or blog. Above all, a typewriter forces one to focus. A typewriter won’t send you notifications, it won’t run out of batteries, and it certainly won’t forward you the 14 Reasons Why Buzzfeed is Killing the Internet. (Sorry, Buzzfeed!)

And let’s be honest – at the end of the day, typewriters are just plain cool. So, the question is: how do we replicate the benefits of using a typewriter without giving up the benefits of a modern computer?

Typewriter on Desk
Image by Klaas

Step 1: Remove All Internet Connectivity

Obviously, typewriters don’t have an Ethernet port or a Wi-Fi card. (Other than the Frankensteinian monster Freewrite – a typewriter with a screen) For writers and content-creators, though, this is actually a feature, not a bug. Why? Because it limits our ability to be distracted by the Internet.

Thus, the first step to typewriter-ifiying your computer is to turn the Internet off. This one is pretty easy – just deactivate the Wi-Fi on your computer. Or, go somewhere without Internet, like the park.

However, if you still need to access some “research material” online, you can selectively block specific websites. Try using SelfControl, Focus or Freedom.

Step 2: A (Digital) Blank Sheet of Paper

Now that we’ve blocked all online distractions, it’s time to block offline distractions, too. The human ability to be distracted is endless, after all – Internet or no Internet. We’re all guilty of re-organizing our iTunes library (for the 12th time) when we should be writing our next eBook. The typewriter has only one function – to write.

As I mentioned in a previous post on focus, I don’t recommend using a complex writing program like Microsoft Word. A typewriter doesn’t have any formatting options.

For my money, the best minimalist writing programs on the market are iA Writer (Mac OS X) and Q10 (Windows.)

Photo from Unsplash.com
Photo by Chris Leggat

Add Some Cool Sounds

Finally, we need to make our digital typewriter sound like a real typewriter. There are a few software programs that make this possible:

Typewriter Keyboard (Mac OS X)
Typewriter Keyboard, made by AlphaOmega Software, is the best tool for adding cool typewriter sounds to your Mac. You can easily enable and disable the key sounds.

Noisy Typer (Mac OS X)
Noisy Typer is another “typewriter sound” software program for Macs. Check out a video here.

I had some difficulty getting it to work on my Macbook Air, but you may have better luck.


Ready to write? I’ll leave you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway (whom we talked about in our last post):

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

– Ernest Hemingway