Hello World (sent from my new distraction-free typewriter MacBook)

Musings on writing, single-purpose devices, and a checklist for a distraction-free mac setup.

I started writing this on October 1st 2022, when I first got myself a writing MacBook. It's now a mix of those original and new musings and a full checklist for how to set up a distraction-free writing mac. It took me until January 23rd and the writing of Real Artists Ship that I finally got inspired to publish it.

It's me, Welf.

I got myself an 11-inch MacBook Air from 2011. I'm excited about it.

Something about how old it is makes it charming, playful, almost analogue.

And yet, I ended up replacing it with a 12-inch MacBook from 2017. These are slightly more expensive but have a much better screen, battery, USB-C, and faster chips. They might also be considered the most beautiful MacBook ever made...

But honestly, for writing, any of them are good. All you really need to see is the words and sentences in front of you, and 1366x768 on 11 inches is completely sufficient for that.

Really, this whole thing is about how important writing is. Intentionality and thoughtfulness are at the heart of a meaningful life. Writing more is one of the first steps towards more clarity, self-awareness, and generally a more consciously self-directed life

Questions for Future Welf:

  • Why do you want to write more?
  • What do you want to write about?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What would you like to share with the world, with your fellow human beings?
  • What would you like to be more thoughtful about?

Being in thoughtful conversation with yourself opens up the possibility of new ways of talking to yourself. Ie. these questions, this format of "Questions for future Welf" seems like a great prompt.

More ideas:

  • make a list of all my beliefs and write about them. Without that, they're barely examined, barely thought through. Document before and after. Revisit past beliefs, their origins, merit, etc.
  • Another way to surface and identify beliefs is to write about my worldview and the inspirations and epiphanies that contributed to it.
  • Write about how I improved my life. These insights and practices were hard-earned, and it seems appropriate to make them accessible to others.
  • I should write up what I learned about good writing, mostly as a reminder and reference to myself. Also, to have a place to add learnings to over time.

On to the setup...

Basics: Minimize Distraction and Visual Clutter

  • Settings > Trackpad > Enable 'Tap to Click'
  • Minimal Dock
  • Remove all apps from the dock
  • Settings > Dock
Don't show recent applications
Don't show indicators for open applications
Size 20%
Enable Magnification at 60%
  • Settings > Accessibility > Shortcut > Only select Colour Filters
  • Keyboard > Shortcuts > Accessibility > Show Accessibility controls: Set to fn + F12
  • Menu bar > cmd + drag out to remove all items but time and wifi
  • (If the shortcuts symbol shows up in your menu bar) Go to the Shortcuts app > the "Menu bar" option in the sidebar > remove all shortcuts from here, then Drag the shortcuts symbol out of your menu bar (full tutorial)
  • Remove everything from the notification center sidebar
  • Update to the latest OS
  • Settings > General > Disable Handoff
  • Settings > Notifications: Turn all off except Calendar
  • Settings > Apple ID > iCloud: Disable everything but Keychain, iCloud Drive, iCloud Mail, Calendars, Notes, Find my Mac
  • Set screenshots to save in the downloads folder to reduce desktop clutter: cmd shift 5 > options > select download folder
  • iA Writer: Match icon to appearance

Minimizing Eye Strain

One of the main purposes of this device is to be able to write early in the morning and late at night. In both cases, reducing brightness and blue light as much as possible is essential.

  • Settings > Displays > Night Shift: Sunset to Sunrise, max warmth
  • Install Flux for even more warmth
  • QuickShade or HazeOver can help darken the appearance further

Helpful Tools

Open Questions

  • Is there a way to uninstall (or hide) the many non-essential system apps?
  • How to remove the internet? Eg. Remove wifi unit and transfer files via USB? blacklist everything, then whitelist IP addresses? Freedom or similar apps? remove wifi password / block IP via the router
  • Send documents to remarkable via email → perfect write/edit tooling

What Not To Do

  • Do not sign into your mail accounts. I don't use my iCloud Mail account for anything, so being logged in with that one in the mail app has zero distractions and serves as a way to send documents to myself and collaborators.
  • Do not sign into any social media accounts.

More Options

  • Depending on how strict you want to be with not being online, you can remove the wifi option from your menu bar.
  • Markdown publishing directly from iA writer / Obsidian to eg. Ghost
  • Another interesting possibility: using a dedicated mail account to send letters to friends and family. Imagine we all had a small little dedicated device for deep reflection and thoughtful letters.
  • Try bluelight-blocking glasses
  • Get nice lighting in the places where you spend your evening, eg. a bedside lamp that dims well.
  • For older Macs that can't update beyond macOS High Sierra:  Run 'defaults write -g NSWindowDarkChocolate -bool TRUE' in your terminal and restart to enable the closest thing High Sierra has to a dark mode
  • An unrelated but sweet idea I found somewhere: put index cards into your backpack and write one for every person you meet.

The definitive guide to distraction-free computing...

would likely include many more ideas, like specific setup ideas around a reading habit, writing habit, more ideas for single-purpose devices, etc. I'll write more on this in future posts.

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