Monday Review: Write or Die
That’s a writing prompt if ever there was one. Also a great title for a motivational speech or Misery-esque horror film.
Write or Die is, in fact, a writing “app.”
App in quotes because one actually needs a computer to use this little piece of tech but its limited focus keeps it from being a staid, boring word processor and, thus, a writing “program.” Write or Die doesn’t do anything fancy, lacks any sort of editing tools, and throws spiders at you when you don’t hit your goal which indicates it isn’t intended as a final, or even beta draft framework.
The first thing one does is set one’s word count and then decide on an interval length (to borrow a workout term). You can give yourself a grace period in interval and at the end of your run; if you don’t, the moment you drop below the word count per minute that would hypothetically allow you to hit your goal, there’s a consequence. If you don’t make your word goal? Consequence.
The consequences are silly and hilarious. The screen turns a crazy color of your choice, throws the afore mentioned spiders or images of an horrific row of cubicles, and scares the crap out of you with screaming babies or red alert klaxons (keep in mind, the sound is the most motivating bit and one doesn’t have access to that if one has one’s computer muted).
If you do make your goal, you get a lovely little fanfare.
Why does Write or Die work? Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it does.
I heard about Write or Die via an online writing group in which people were touting great results. I have a couple of friends who use it and they love it as well. After the fifth or sixth mention, I clicked on over to the website and took a peek.
I wasn’t immediately impressed. I figured if it wasn’t actually throwing spiders at me, it wouldn’t be that powerful of a motivator. But $20 isn’t much for a writing aid these days and I figured, if nothing else, it would keep track of my sprints which is nice because I’ve started keeping track of my monthly word counts. More for the sake of feeling like I’m making progress than because I have any specific word count goals.
FYI: the download is a little slow, so make sure you have a good connection and a little bit of time.
The interface is a dashboard format and nicely intuitive (aka: easy for impatient people such as yours truly), a few buttons and toggles. Options for consequences and rewards are limited, which is good – I didn’t waste time fucking around with them, just clicked and started in.
The program does auto-save to a location of your choosing as .TXT; I cut and paste my work into a master document at the end of each session, then save the master document in three places and email it to myself so I usually delete the individual session files, but having the automatic backup is nice lest disaster strike. Which has happened to me in various forms on more occasions than I would like to admit.
I believe you can link a playlist which I haven’t messed around with yet. I usually run music off my computer anyway, so I probably won’t bother, but the option is there.
And once you get going? This little gem is an incredible generative tool.
I’m sure there’s a fair bit of psychology behind self-imposed goals and consequences. Dopamine, adrenaline, etc etc. I haven’t had time to look in to the specifics because I’ve been writing.
Once I hit go, I am completely focused. I don’t talk to anyone, I don’t look around, I don’t fuck around on the internet, forget I have chat windows open. All that matters are the words and that I don’t see that massive spider or risk loud startle by shrieking alarm. If I do drift, which doesn’t happen often, and my screen starts to go red, I snap back and lock in.
I have consistently been writing 800+ words for every 20 minute session.
Are those words refined? No. Are there spelling and grammar errors? Hells, yes. No line spacing, no italics, no indentations. You know, all those things that distract you from making actual words when you’re a perfectionist with documented OCD.
Words are all I can do with this thing and it has been magic. And truth, anything other than the words is icing in the formative stages of the story. And you gotta have the cake before you frost it. Unless you buy a pint of molasses stout frosting from this local bakery that uses local beer and… *whistles and looks at the ceiling*
It is my new best friend and more than worth the minimal price tag.
Five out of five fingers on the hand of glory for Write or Die.