Ommwriter – A must for the distracted writer

I suspect it isn’t every writer’s cup of whiskey, but if – like me – you find yourself easily distracted…and struggling to get some decent writing done…then Ommwriter  could be the answer.


Having told you last time about my discovery of OneNote thanks to the girls at WITS, I have since discovered another helpful program courtesy of Linda Formichelli at The Renegade Writer. This program – called Ommwriter – has revolutionised my writing routine; and it can do the same for you too.

I’ve started boring to my family and friends because I’ve done nothing but rant about OneNote and Ommwriter  for the last week. While my wife could get excited about OneNote as a general research and laptop ‘housekeeping’ tool and so set off to find the equivalent for her Mac, she’s not a creative writer and really can’t see what’s special about Ommwriter .

And I have to admit that when Linda wrote about it I was not overly impressed by the sound of it. Basically, Ommwriter blanks out your desktop, gives you some music in the background and lets you write. Why not just open your word program up and let Windows media play your favourite CD or MP3 files? You could, but usually I find I get too into the music and I quickly start editing my work on Word rather than writing it.

I genuinely can’t remember why I clicked on Linda‘s link – perhaps it was just a whim? Perhaps it was to check it out anyway because I knew I was struggling to get down to writing. It seems that being a freelance writer these days is more about promotion, accounting, pitching and planning than it is about writing. Indeed, squeezed into that writing has to come that vital food substance for all writers – reading. If you’re really lucky, you get some time for editing before the deadline is actually on you. But I find that I can spend my day fighting so many fires that I sit down at the end of the day (or is that stand up? Being a writer means sitting down for most of the time, after all) and see that I’ve done little or no real creative writing for all that effort.

Multiply that by six (the number of days I work) and that adds up to a lot of things getting way behind schedule.

I decided I needed to make myself chalk out two hours in the day when I would definitely write – no interruptions, no researching, no checking references and DEFINITELY no web surfing.

Just writing. The way it should be.

I hated the beast (the typewriter, not my mother) but remember the sound of the keys fondly.


So, as Ommwriter is supposedly all about just that, I checked it out. Sure enough, as Linda promised, you can download a version free and I did just that.

I am so glad I did.

Even when I describe it now, it doesn’t make sense why this is so good. I see friends furrow their brows trying to figure out just why I’m excited about it. You have to try it for yourself and see.

Simply put, the program turns your entire screen in a blank canvas. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the gentle hues of blue, red and white, fade and mix into one another. It has a calming – but not sleep-inducing – effect.

At the same time it plays one of seven ambient music tracks. I was most worried about these as cheesy music is a real turn off to me. I’ve worked using all seven and all are good. They play continuously, looping back to the beginning after a long period of time. I can’t tell you how long that is because I’ve barely noticed it happening, the joins are pretty seamless.

My favourite tracks aren’t music at all. One is the sound of being on a train and listening to the wheels clicking over the tracks, gently and slightly muffled. You could believe you were on the train for real, working away.

The second is the sound of the ocean waves lapping up near you as though you were writing on a deserted beach. Having just come back from Thailand, where my family and I stayed on just such a deserted beach, this is a wonderful track for me. You even take a brief dip IN the water and listen to the sound of waves through submerged ears.

Of course, if this is not your thing, you can turn the sound off and there are background choices too if you don’t like a particular kind of backdrop. A secondary feature is that is has seven sets of keyboard tapping sounds so you can hear yourself typing away if you so wish (again, you can turn this off). I thought this would annoy me but the sounds are well-designed and in the background and, in their own way, quite pleasant. So far I haven’t turned them off. They remind me of the old days when I first started writing on my mother’s typewriter. I hated the beast (the typewriter, not my mother) but remember the sound of the keys fondly.

What I love about Ommwriter more than anything though is the way it removes even its own tools from sight. If you stop writing and move your mouse cursor to the side, the simple tools reappear and the dotted lines indicating the edge of the writing space reappear along with a word count at the bottom. There’s no spell check, no grammar aid, not much in the way of text options (I’ve not really checked out the ones I have as that isn’t my particular thing but I have noticed you can write in a cursive style if you wish. There’s no bold or underlining though.

For me, this is ideal. It’s not about editing, it’s not about ‘getting it right’. It’s about ‘getting it DOWN’ – exactly what I should be doing.

And it works.

It really is a joy to use in all its simplicity and beauty.


Possibly the worst thing about the program is also something simple and clever. If you click the minimize button in the corner (hidden until you move your mouse like everything else) the music fades out suddenly and you are jerked, rudely back into the ‘real world’ of your laptop’s normal desktop. Your journey ends, your swim ceases, the ambience is gone and, despite how gently the creators of Ommwriter make the music fade, you can’t get away from the harsh reality that you’ve stopped writing. I hate it and just want to get back to the writing, every time. I guess that makes it brilliant in its own way. The program makes you want to remain there writing forever rather than go back to that cold, horrid world you know so well.

I absolutely LOVE writing with Ommwriter. I’m finding myself trying to find reasons to use it even when I’m NOT creatively writing. Long emails, day schedule planning – anything! It’s almost like a drug. The result is over the last week I’ve put in far more than my two hours a day and written thousands of words more than I have in previous weeks.

Of course, I have to tip the hat towards OneNote again. I’ve put all my current book projects on to separate OneNote notebooks (all interchangeable at the click of a mouse) with separate chapters under different tabs and instantly accessible. Simply, each day, I choose the book I want to work on, the chapter I have in mind, copy the text from OneNote, paste it into Ommwriter and off I go. when I’m done, I copy the text and paste back into OneNote and, when the chapter is complete, paste that back into the original document ready to start the publishing process. Simples.

You can, if you prefer, save Ommwriter files in themselves rather than copy and paste, but I like to have the text in traditional word or rtf form. That’s just me, I guess.

Anyway, go check out the program – the link is here:

I suspect it isn’t every writer’s cup of whiskey, but if – like me – you find yourself easily distracted by the jobs of the day and struggling to get some decent writing done without constantly being interrupted by other ‘urgent’ things to do – then Ommwriter  could be the answer. It really is a joy to use in all its simplicity and beauty.

And yes – I did write this (or at least the first draft) on Ommwriter . I took a train journey and let the words flow. Truth be told, I’m rather sad it’s come to an end.


3 thoughts on “Ommwriter – A must for the distracted writer

  1. Impressive write-up Ken, I really love this wee magic tool! Celebrating simplicity and especially for someone like me, requiring paper and pen to put thoughts down in writing a great inspiration. There’s a difference between writing and typing, but OmmWriter makes this intricate tightrope walk far more enjoyable… 🙂
    All the best and I really hope there will be quite a few more remarkable “train journeys” for you! Kind regards, Oliver


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