The Freewrite—and even more so, the Hemingway Edition—is a polarizing device, and perhaps it was always destined to be received thus. In a world of pocket-computers with millions of apps on hand to do everything from control your home’s thermostat to calculate the orbit of comets, Hemingwrite is a ludicrously expensive piece of retro technology intended to do only one thing, but do it well: write.

If you feel the need to justify such an indulgence you may sense an uphill battle ahead of you. I, for one, am unapologetic in my perspective. Why spend $800 on a Mont Blanc when a Bic will do? Because I work hard, I can afford it, and I like nice things. Most of all, because I sense the personal value I can find in the object. Hemingwrite is a beautiful tool, in the same sense that a set of finely crafted chisels and planers might be to the artisan woodworker.

I am just old enough that when typing-up reports in primary school, it sometimes happened on an electric typewriter. I am also no stranger to mechanical typewriters; I still have my father’s old Adler (though good luck finding ribbons for it). Nevertheless, that same father was also forward-thinking enough to buy me a Macintosh for Christmas back when they were still all-in-one, little beige boxes. I have subsequently been doing my writing in full-featured software programs for virtually all of my adult life. To go back to a device with minimal editing functionality has been a bit of a culture shock. Or a paradigm shift. Or just plain disconcerting. Call it what you will. The bottom line is this: it takes some getting used to, but for certain styles of writing, I am beginning to feel it really is the best method.

I have learned that the modern school of composition favors the separation of drafting and editing into two distinct activities—something I was never previously taught. However, as I use the Hemingwrite more, the new lesson is starting to make a lot of sense.

Much lip service is paid to Freewrite being a “distraction-free” writing environment. Freedom from your web browser, from Facebook notifications and Twitter and attention-demanding email messages are often cited. If I’m being honest, I have never been terribly active on social media, and could not care less about any of that. For me, the Internet has rarely been much of a distraction from writing on a computer. What has been a major distraction, ironically enough, is my own previous writing. When I open a project in Ulysses, for example, with the intention of writing a new section, I often find myself drawn into older portions of the text. I am tempted to read and reread my previous work, making minor adjustments as I go. Last week’s Me is my own worst enemy when it comes to unleashing creativity. Hemingwrite frees me from that trap and makes me focus on drafting new material when such is my immediate goal. My computer, with its more featureful editors, is still here, but it is a different tool for a different job.

I had owned Hemingwrite less than two weeks when Astrohaus sent me a charming email notification, informing me I had already crossed the 10,000 word mark. It had seemed effortless. If I were to maintain that rate, it would be the equivalent, in word count, of finishing (if not in itself completing) a full-length novel in about four months. That alone may stand as testament to the productivity this device represents for the crafter of prose.

Hemingwrite makes you want to sit down and Just Write. I cannot think of higher praise.

Read More