I write most drafts--of blog posts, articles, letters, book reviews--on an AlphaSmart 3000, a small word processor designed for school-age kids to take notes with. It's a simple machine, and that simplicity is what makes it a great friend to writers of any stripe. With a simple 4-line LCD window built into the keyboard, it's easy enough to catch a glaring error, but there's no temptation to endlessly re-read. In that way it promotes completion of drafts far more efficiently than a full screen display. Neighbor interrupt you by knocking at the door? The AlphaSmart lets you simply push one button to turn it on and off, automatically saving your work. When my father was alive and I was caring for him, this feature was hugely helpful. Work, work, stop and solve the crisis du jour, and come back to find the cursor blinking just where I last left it. I lost count of the times I was able to cram work into the briefest free moment, simply because I could type my thoughts out without having to turn on, boot up, and open a file.
With storage space for eight lengthy files, it's easy to have a few chapters of fiction brewing alongside a letter, a review draft, and a list of things to do next week. When I do finally turn on the PC, all this data uploads to a blank word processing file and boom! It's time to start again. All these are powerful reasons to like such a tiny dynamo of a machine, but the best one is this: It runs on three AA batteries, and "runs" is really understating the case. The company estimates between 300 and 500 hours of use, assuming you start with new, good quality batteries. Mine has been running on new 4-for-99-cents batteries since last December with no signs of slowing down. Because my laptop is old and a tad slow, it's a blessing to have a way to rough out work without overtaxing it. After the 3000, the company came out with the NEO, and I believe they're up to the NEO 2 now. With built-in word count, a battery life indicator, and the ability to have 6 smaller lines of type or the usual 4, I can't wait to get my hands on one (though wait I must, until a work hurdle is overcome). Check them out for yourself, and see if working simpler doesn't make your life a whole lot saner.