A slight change to your writing medium could make a difference

by phil on Thursday Mar 19, 2009 1:40 AM
dlog, medium is message stuff

In The Right to Write, the overall theme is about giving yourself permission to write. Julia Cameron says that in order to write, we must first silence the internal censor. Stephen King, in On Writing, echos this theme, and mentions this principle: "Write the first draft with the 'door' closed, and the second draft with it open." In other words, let yourself go when creating your first draft, then let all the criticism and edits flow in later.

Does your writing tool give you that kind of permission? I'm writing on one right now. It's DLog (aka Drunk Log), which records your keystrokes as you type your post. Click here to see this post as I was conjuring it. The way the app is constructed, everything I type is recorded. Everything I write is committed somewhere. Even if I delete a fragment, it will exist in the replay. Psychogically, I feel that I'm writing for an audience, live. This makes the act feel more like a conversation, and less like engineering.

So much of writer's block is just fear, and I feel like DLog is forcing me, at every keystroke, to dip into the cold water.

Think of the alternative: a Word Document. At any moment, you could hit backspace, and your words will completely vanish. In fact, that's how I came to write this post. I was trying to craft some other idea in notepad, but then I noticed an unusual amount of backspacing over my own text. My internal editor/censor was killing my internal writer.

I think a parallel could be writing a first draft in pen on paper. That could really get you to commit as you go along. One reason I don't do that, though, is that I don't like transcribing my notes, and so there's a risk I just let the paper sit somewhere, unread by somebody.

In digital form, my text is done, ready to be published now, and so I feel like I'm typing these letters into my readers' brains instantly. It's the same spontaneous feel you get when having a great conversation.

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