The Distraction Zone

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Distraction Zone

Between reality and fiction, between your fingers and the page, where your eyes gaze and wonder what word is best, lies a place we call, The Distraction Zone.

Your favorite writing app probably has a mode to clear the clutter. Microsoft Word calls it Focus mode, in Scrivener it’s Composition mode, or if you’re really hardcore, you have an app without any formatting widgets whatsoever, such as iA Writer (my personal fav).

But how do you achieve the same Nirvana on a typewriter?

What, you say, isn’t a typewriter the ultimate distraction free writing machine?

Well, pilgrim, it’s time to take distraction free to the next level!

While your writing app is capable of transforming your screen into a blank page, your typewriter has no such capability. What you see, is what you get, and depending on your typewriter, there might be all kinds of clutter between you and the page.

Take for example the Olympia SM 5. A fine machine. Mechanical perfection. However, look at all that clutter between your eyes and the page. The paper holder cuts obscenely across the page along with some roller doo-dads and a scale of annoying numbers. Add to the confusion, a plastic alignment guide with something called a perspex shield. All great features if you’re an office typist, or writing a report on copper production in the southern Andes, but not if you’re the creative type. The Writer. The kind who likes to free wheel it. No boundaries. Riff and improv. After all, that’s why you’re using the typewriter. You’re not after final draft perfection.

Olympia SM 5
Olympia SM 5

Contrast that with the Americano. The Smith-Corona Sterling. First, it’s black. Not only does it contrast nicely with the white page, but it fades into the background. A shadow. But still handsome and striking. What you’ll notice next is what’s not there. To hold the paper against the platen: two paper “fingers” off to the side, discretely out of view. That’s it! Nothing more between you and your words. Moreover, the top cover offers an expansive view of the page, rather than a constricted one like the Olympia. Lastly, the Smith-Corona has the famous Floating Shift, where only the type basket goes up and down when shifting characters. Unlike the Olympia where the entire carriage bobs up and down, along with your eyes. (This was finally fixed on the SM 9, but all the other annoying distractions remain.)

Smith-Corona Sterling
Smith-Corona Sterling

Perhaps this is taking distraction free to a ridiculous level of refinement. And perhaps it’s easy to look beyond these typewriter doo-dads. But perhaps, these are the just the things that are getting in your way. Take a look at your own typewriter. Or if you have many, the one you use often. Is your field of view cluttered, or is it like the Smith-Corona Sterling, simple and unadorned?

Whatever your answer, as I’m often reminded, the best typewriter is the one you’re using!



  1. I think my Adler tippa is (1970’s ) is not to bad, but I see what you mean about the usefull but distracting objects covering the page. What do you think about the Adler tippa I’ve got? Seems to be quite consistent when hit right.

    1. I’ve never used a Tippa! sad face. So I’m no judge of usability. But, hey, the important thing is you’re using it!

      I also find these distractions seem to fade once you get some momentum going. Looking at all that stuff might just be an excuse for not writing. smile.

  2. Interesting thoughts. I think the proper elevation from a good chair and typing table will help. My urge to write is so powerful I don’t often focus on my machine’s visible space, just the feel of the keys and quality of print.

  3. I find it funny that my old Corona 4 has those “fingers” on either side to hold the paper, but also a distracting paper bale across the page! They must have wised up by the time they made the Sterling.

    1. they didn’t wise up – the paper bail was an added option. I have a 1956 Silent with both the paper fingers and a bail too. Kind of annoying actually – the fingers basically just get in the way.

  4. I have an SM3 (or SM2, I’m not 100% sure to be honest) and even though I absolutely love it, the carriage bobbing up and down is definitely annoying, as is the weight (it’s not terrible, I know, but not ideal for travel), as is the way it
    moves position after a while of typing (I need a pad, I know!). But when I sit down and get typing, none of that really seems to matter. The writing comes out beautiful and I have to force myself to stop taking breaks where I just stare at the machine.

  5. I wish I could swap my huge Olympia SG 3 for a SM 9…
    But only if there’s a !, a 1 and a Ñ of it, and if it’s the square typeface. I live in Mexico. xD
    I don’t understand why is that “distracting”… Sometimes I’m like “letters must be perfectly aligned”, specially when I want to center the titles or doing some creative typesetting (I’m also a writer). xD

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