Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writer Poll: "Write or Die" App Is Better Off Dead

Last week we learned about a provocative new app for writers called Write or Diewhich claims to "put the 'prod' in productivity" by not only alerting, but punishing when it senses your output waning. According to the LA Times "Jacket Copy" blog, the app's "accountability mechanisms" range from low-key popup reminders to "kamikaze" mode, a full-on assault that will actually begin deleting your words if you stop typing for too long.

We were amazed by this downright draconian means of behavior modification, so we decided to poll our writers to see whether they thought negative reinforcement was really the best way to combat writer's block. Responses ranged from amusement to "WTF?!" to bemoaning the rise of "Nazi technology." Many pointed out that frustration and taking time-outs are part of the creative process. Most suggested their own alternatives for coping when the juices cease to flow. The most common suggestions to jump-start creativity: take a break, go for a walk, wander around your apartment, and concentrate on something other than the fact that you can't concentrate.

Here are some other ideas from our freelances to help re-motivate when you're feeling like you've hit that proverbial wall:
  • Time really is money. "I don't need an app to be reminded to write. I keep my household bills in a stand-up file right next to my monitor. One glance over there and I get right back to work" —Tim Gower
  • Catch those z's.  "I don't think writers are blocked; I think they're tired. I would suggest ambien. After a good night's sleep, it's much easier to write." —Kate Rounds
  • Deadlines drive. "I find it helps if someone gives me a deadline, even an artificial one. Book writing is a lengthy process, and 'deliver a manuscript a year from now' doesn't help me produce at a daily clip. So for my second book, I contracted a friend to demand chapters by set dates. I felt sufficiently pressured by her to deliver on time!" —Judith Matloff 
  • Let  you mind wander. "I try to have fun, usually by thinking up fanciful names for singing groups, racehorses, characters for novels (à la Dickens) or movies, and, most enjoyably, British pubs that don't or should exist." —Steven Flax
App developers seem to have recognized that tapping into that fear-as-motivator instinct can be lucrative. Other examples include Aherk, a "self-blackmail" service, which has you submit embarrassing photos of yourself that will be posted to your Facebook page if you don't meet your deadlines, and stikK, developed by a Yale econ professor, which will donate your money to a group you hate if you don't accomplish your goals.

But who needs a sadistic app when you have Gotham Ghostwriter polls to inspire? This one spurred some productivity of its own: check out this blog post by journalist and author Claudia Gryvatz Copquin.

No comments: