Wednesday, February 29, 2012


A couple years ago one of my favorite historical romance writers, Shana Galen, talked at a WestHouston RWA  meeting about the writing life and making it work. She mentioned a writing productivity application from Dr. Wicked called WRITE OR DIE that forces you to write by providing consequences for distraction and procrastination. In short, slow down or stop typing and screen turns red and your computer starts yelling and making rude noises at you. 
I love this software! Not everyone does. 
At one time I was national marketing director for commercial architecture and interior design firms.  Much of my job was generating multiple, complex proposals on very short deadlines. Simultaneously. Without adequate staff. Many a night I cranked out page after page of persuasive prose in the interest of landing highly competitive, multi-million dollar contracts projects. I learned a secret about myself—I’m at my most creative late at night and under intense pressure. During the day with plenty of time  think, re-think, strategize and consider, I could produce a darn good product. Eleven o’clock at night with one day left to Fed-Ex that sucker off—my mind came alive and the results were brilliant. Those were the times, we rarely lost. 
I’ve tried to analyze why turning to WRITE OR DIE works for me. Most of the time I’m a fairly slow writer, considering every word and sentence, every nuance of character and scene as I go. As soon as I click the Write icon on the WRITE OR DIE screen, my conscious brain checks out in protest and my subconscious kicks in. Words pour out, stampeding in typo-ridden lines across the screen to keep the dreaded shift to red at bay. Every time the flow falters, panic inspires a desperate effort to drive on and up my game. Another twist, a hook, a character rebellion that proves my subconscious does indeed have a clue about how this writing thing works. And when the time is finally up or my word goal achieved, I cut and paste the lines into the WIP and begin to edit. 
Oddly enough, most of this writing is surprising good. Editing is required, but not as much as I’d expect. And if I’m stuck, WRITE OR DIE is always the kick my butt needs to get back on track. Maybe NaNoWriMo works the same way for some people. I’ve never had the time or motivation to attempt the grueling schedule, nor could I sustain the pace over so many weeks. Instead, I love the adrenaline rush of kamikaze writing one productive hour at a time. 
When are you your most creative? Do you have any tools or secrets that take your writing to a next level?


Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Wow! I've got to try WRITE OR DIE. Thanks for the heads up on what looks to be a fab tool.

Lark Howard said...

Try the free online version, Pat, and if you like it, download the desktop version. I think it's worth $9.99!

aroseisarose said...

I just told a colleague about this and I think he is ready to buy it for me just so he'll no longer have to hear me whine about being stuck on the same sentence for half an hour. Thanks, Lark!

Lark Howard said...

Your colleague should be warned about the evil noises the app makes when you get stuck, arose. Or maybe not. :-)

Kara said...

I've never heard of this software, but it sounds fun! I think I'm most creative in the afternoon, but I usually can't write then, which is frustrating. So I'm trying to learn to be creative at other times of the day:)

Lark Howard said...

Give the online version a try, Kara. Lots of people are at their best in the afternoon. Too bad some of us have day jobs that frown on us knocking off to write fiction. :-)