December 12, 2014

Screenwriters, Want a Pared Down Writing Experience? Meet the Hemingwrite Digital Typewriter

If you're a screenwriter wanting a new way to tackle that script, you might want to take a look at the Hemingwrite, an open-source digital typewriter that combines the old distraction-free writing experience of analog with the cloud-based efficiency of the digital age.

Electronic typewriters are not a new technology; they've been around for 30 or 40 years. Hell, there are even those conversion kits that transform old typewriters into digital ones using some circuitry and an iPad. However, the Hemingwrite not only offers cloud technology for easy accessibility, but it works right out of the box requiring nothing more than to push the on button.

It's features include a 6" daylight readable, high contrast electronic paper screen, 4+ weeks of battery life, mechanical keyboard switches, status bar, folder navigation (you can work on three documents at once), Wi-Fi, and cloud storage. Essentially, the Hemingwrite gives you the bare minimum in order to keep you focused solely on writing -- a recreation of pre-computer writing conditions. For instance, you can backspace and scroll through your work, but there is no way to cut and paste text. The creators explain that, "The intent is to force you to just keep going! If you aren’t happy with what you just wrote, you can write it again."

​Really, it sounds like the Hemingwrite is not meant to be your be-all-end-all writing tool, but rather a stepping stone in the process; a platform for just getting your script ready for some real, hardcore editing.

Okay, I know that something like this will be met with a lot of skepticism and eye-rolling -- possibly because it seems to be taken a little too seriously by its creators. (Do writers need a distraction-free writing experience? Yes. Is a digital typewriter, or any tool for that matter, going to give them that? Probably not.) If you're able to be distracted you will be, regardless of what you're writing on. Plus, there are quite a few methods and free apps that help keep you from being distracted as you write -- writing by hand, turning your Wi-Fi off, as well as apps like SelfControl and Freedom.

The thing that drew me to Hemingwrite is not the promise of keeping distractions at bay or looking cool writing on a typewriter (because I won't -- no one will). It's the simplicity of it. This is why I write my first drafts by hand, because I don't want to look at a bright, busy screen with a million icons and windows all over it. In fact, I seriously considered following in George R.R. Martin's lead and writing on a DOS machine. Aside from that, it looks like fun!

The Hemingwrite has already been fully funded on Kickstarter, and if you move quickly, you can get one for the late early bird price of $369, otherwise you're looking at $399. If the price sounds steep, it kind of is. However, if you're a fan of typewriters it may not seem all that expensive when compared to the price of real vintage (non-collectable) analog ones -- especially considering the fact that it has digital and cloud technology to make things easier on the back end. 

For more information, check out the Hemingwrite Kickstarter campaign here    

Your Comment

14 Comments

I can get a new laptop for that price, put nothing potentially distracting on it, and write in a place with no wifi. At least in case I absolutely need to browse the web or answer an email, I can do so. With this digital typewriter I can foresee future users having to bring both this and a laptop.

December 13, 2014 at 12:00AM

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Miguel Sotto
Cinematographer
267

I've used something similar to this in the past:

http://www.amazon.com/Alphasmart-NEO-AA-0410-10971-AQ-Neo-Handheld/dp/B0...

great for distraction free writing. I forgot about it with the advent of tablets, macbook airs etc. Dusting it off now to see if it still works! I need to find a PS/2 to USB adapter (that's how old mine is), but the the one in the link above is USB I believe.

December 13, 2014 at 12:49AM

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Looks like something made in the 80's for a kid, like the Pixelvision camera.

December 13, 2014 at 3:33AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

I can't believe this got funded, must be a lot of hipsters out there with money to waste.

If you believe in what you're writing there shouldn't be too many distractions because you'll want to write it, and nothing will get in the way.

December 13, 2014 at 5:48AM, Edited December 13, 5:48AM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
413

After trying a bunch of different methods, I also found that writing first drafts by hand is still the most productive approach. Writing is re-writing, right? Type it into a computer later for editing. You'll have best of both worlds (for way less money).

I agree that when you are really into your project nothing "should" distract you, but none of us are perfect. You google one thing and you suddenly find yourself replying to an email 15 minutes later. Our technology influences our behavior despite our best intentions.

I've tried the Alphasmart NEO as well. It does exactly what this does for much less, however, you don't have cloud backup--you transfer the text with USB. Not hard, but another step.

Another option is to buy a $10 typewriter at a thrift store, a $10 ribbon online and then use a $10 OCR app like Prizmo to transfer into the digital world for editing.

Couldn't they come up with a better name than Hemingwrite? It's kind of embarrassing.

December 13, 2014 at 9:53AM

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B Joseph
Filmmaker
74

I would prefer a more streamlined and user-friendly version of this: http://www.amazon.com/KINGJIM-digital-Pomera-DM20-Lizard/dp/B002YQ2Z6A/r...

December 13, 2014 at 4:26PM, Edited December 13, 4:26PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
912

That's WAY closer to the price I'd actually pay for this. In fact, someone should work on making a mechanical keyboard to go with a kindle. Awesome battery life limited distractions etc, but you still get the usefulness of the kindle to go along with it. Something like this, but with less hipster bullshit mixed in:

http://www.qwerkywriter.com/

December 15, 2014 at 5:06PM

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Chuck McDowell
1st AC
436

Also the whole presentation shouted "I want to be Steve Jobs!".

December 14, 2014 at 12:11AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

For that price you could get a decent condition typewriter. Or several hundred pens and notebooks.

December 14, 2014 at 3:46PM

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I thought it was device for tablet to be plugged on. Real mechanical keyboard version of those "keyboard covers" for iPads etc.

Nope, this one is retarded.

December 14, 2014 at 5:16PM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1325

Hooray, the TRS-80 Model 100 lives on.

December 16, 2014 at 12:43PM, Edited December 16, 12:43PM

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Neil Russell
Producer/Director/Editor/Multi-Hat Wearer
81

I use a 11 year old 12" Aluminum Powerbook. It's small and runs scriptwriting software like Celtix. It's too slow to effectively browse the internet or get distracted by Facebook or a cat video. Best of all these things are dirt cheap.

December 16, 2014 at 5:11PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
657

those will just be bought to show off in the local starbucks for the attention whores that will be "Look at me, I'm a writer"

December 19, 2014 at 2:39PM, Edited December 19, 2:39PM

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gandulf charpentier
director of pornography
749

It's a nifty looking portable machine, but I doubt I'd make the investment. Mainly, because, if I want distraction-free writing time, I'd stay home and work.

December 20, 2014 at 10:25AM

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MsNeet
74