Got writer’s block? Try this.

Will SFor many people, MS Word is practically synonymous with writing on a computer. Even die-hard Mac fans frequently use it in preference to the Apple alternatives.

I used to be among this group. But in the past year, I’ve found a way of hugely improving my efficiency when writing.

And it meant ditching Word until I was happy with what I had written.

The problem with Word

Word has so many features that you can actually enter competitions to show your mastery of it.

In one way, this is great – if you have a specific formatting need, the chances are there’s a way to do it in Word.

But in another way, it’s an invitation to distraction. Many of us want to personalise our documents, to set the font face and size. To zoom in a little closer, and to make sure to style the initial heading for impact, and …

Never biting the bullet

Generally speaking, formatting a business document isn’t that hard. You’re not expected to be a great designer, and the basic rules (make headlines and subheads bold, use a good font for business documents, leave plenty of white space etc) are reasonably easy to apply.

What is generally much harder (and, sometimes, more dull) is writing your document. The ideal tool is one which only helps you do that, and helps you do that well.

Draft

Draft is a completely free, cloud-based website which lets you draft documents. You can save them, name them, and store them in folders just as you normally would.

Its core strength, though, is its simplicity. Unlike other tools, when you first create a document, all you have is a blinking cursor that lets you type in an extremely easy to read, monospaced font.

This means you’re invited to do one thing: write. (That, after all, is exactly what your application should be doing, right?)

It autosaves everything as you go, so there’s no worry of losing your work. And the most useful feature of word processors, your word count, is displayed in the lower right-hand corner.

Extremely basic formatting – like bold, italics and hyperlinks – is possible. Beyond that, there’s nothing to distract you.

In this way, it’s like a return to typewriters: you have a writing tool at your disposal, rather than a multi-purpose publishing tool.

Modern features

All your documents are password-protected in Draft. And, as it’s cloud-based, you can do so on anything with an internet connection. (Although we have to say that the mobile version of the site isn’t great.) Just make sure you don’t save your password or leave the document window open if you’re on a public computer, obviously.

It’s also easy to share your document with others, so they can comment on or edit your work. It’s as easy as sending a link; there’s no need for them to have a Draft account too.

In this sense, it’s like Google Docs. But Google Docs is a more complicated tool, that has lots of formatting options to distract you. So Draft remains a better tool for focusing your attention on writing. Plus you don’t need to link it to a Google account to use it.

Getting back to Word

When you copy and paste your document back to Word, you quickly start to realise that Word works best as a publishing platform, rather than a writing tool.

With a fully written document, your formatting choices become meaningful, rather than a distraction.

Likewise, Word’s powerful spelling and grammar check becomes more useful at this stage.

If you’re constantly corrected as you’re writing, it can be a little like someone standing over your shoulder, pointing out mistakes. You may find it easier to get your ideas down if you leave doing this to the end.

Give it a try

If you’re happy with Word (or any other writing tool) and find yourself getting straight down to business when you open it, then you should definitely stay with that.

But if you’re struggling to get started, or find yourself getting distracted when you’re writing, give Draft a try: http://www.draftin.com

Full disclosure: Neither the author nor Emphasis Training have any kind of link or contact with Draft.

We get no compensation for this of any kind. We just think it’s a great tool.

Image credit: Šarūnas Burdulis

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