Turn your desktop to a tranquil space with a click

I feel a little shallow admitting it, but the aesthetics of writing matter a lot to me.  I can, and often do, open up a blank word processing document and set to work. But that’s not always the best way to reward myself  for writing daily, pulling a moment of clarity and detail from the blur.

That very simple practice keeps me in my writer’s mind, and to do it, or to switch mental gears and dive into a poem or story, sometimes I need a cookie. Something pretty. A gorgeously tranquil space where I can take a breath and unspool the part of my being that writes.

One of my favorite environments (that's not a sidewalk cafe) was created by some ad guys in Spain, who dreamed up Omm Writer to help them get more work done. It’s been around a while, but you haven’t seen it, or used it lately, take a look—it might be just the taste of serenity you need.

It’s a full-screen “distractionless” space that covers those tempting browser buttons and work documents on your desktop and opens up a clear field. A minimalist might choose a plain white screen, but I find I breathe more deeply at the sight of a pale gray screen with bare winter trees, a field of snow waiting for my words. When that’s too chilly—as happens to be the case right now—I write on a glowing “sky” that shades into deep turquoise and cobalt at the bottom. Sky, sea, vastness—that’s what my mind sees, when it notices.


If you’re diving in for a longer session, you can also engage a “soundtrack” of ambient sounds. Choices include birds, bells, water, even the faint bustle of people walking through a nearby room. Turned up, they’re a good foil for background noise, and they’ve gotten me through protest marches on the street, marching bands, the antics of “highly vocal sex girl” who likes to perform at odd hours during my work day, and a neighbor who just took up the bagpipes.  To me, it all sounds just like ocean waves.

Just activating my writing space with the Omm folks’ help helps me tune out distractions and turn off the “to-do list mind.” One version is free and the other is “pay what you will.”

The Omm project also has a playful community component you can find at www.ommwriters.com. Its “seeds” component has a short list of prompts to brighten a writing session or two, and you’ll stumble on other toys in the Playroom.

It’s not the only “Zen” writing app around, but it’s the one I know and use, and it’s available for Macs, iPads and PCs. I read good things about similar Windows app called Zenwriter.  That one is $9.95, and you can try it out for free.

Maybe aesthetics just are a cheap trick, or a crutch. But what’s wrong with that? Did the “no pain, no gain” approach ever really work long-term for you?

Didn’t think so.

How about a cookie?