Writing Through Life: Write or Die

15 Dec

In order to get started on a new writing project, I have to begin with Anne Lammot’s advice on writing a shitty first draft. I’ve got to throw the story onto the page in one fell swoop, letting the words slosh around on the screen like a science experiment gone wrong. I have to let it be gross and ugly and stupid. That’s the only way to begin.

This is easier said than done. I don’t want my writing to be gross, and I’m tempted to edit while I write — to see if I can make it sound cool right away, before anybody sees my early imperfections. Still, editing kills the creative momentum. It’s the kiss of death.

Is there a superhero to help with this dilemma? I think so: Dr. Wicked, the creator of the fabulous program, Write or Die. On the surface, Write or Die is your standard word processor, with timing and word count features for the obsessive compulsive in us all. When you look at the settings, though, you realize that the title is not a misnomer. The program punishes you if you don’t write. Here’s how it works. You choose your desired word count and time for the writing session. Then you pick your poison. If you’re confident, you pick the gentle setting. A little box will pop up if you stop writing, reminding you that you should continue. In normal mode, the box is replaced by a screechy sound, which will only stop if you resume typing. In kamikaze mode, the writing will begin to disappear, line by line, unwriting itself until you get your fingers back on the keyboard and get new words onto the page.

Sometimes, a word processor with a kamikaze mode is just what a writer needs to get that first draft on the page. Write or die. It’s a good motto, no?


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