Get distracted and face disastrous consequences.
Editor’s note: This post was written in three back-to-back five-minute sessions on The Most Dangerous Writing app.
I can’t stop typing.
Quite literally. The app I’m currently using on my Mac laptop is a program called The Most Dangerous Writing App. If I stop to think, or to get up to use the restroom, or to reach for my phone to see what that beep was about, this is all gone. The app will erase everything I’ve written, and I will have to start over. (I get five seconds, apparently, so sneezes and maybe a sip of the coffee I made sure was sitting by my laptop when I started was allowed.)
You’re reading whatever I type heremn bbnjvj
Oh, good Lord. I paused to think for a second, to let my hands go slack and my brain drift off for just a moment, and the words started to fade to gray. My words are being held hostage. My words are being held hostage by a program written by a guy whose name I have to look up after, when the five minute timer is done. [Ed. note: His name is Manuel Ebert.] Oh, and back spaces don’t count as keystrokes. You gotta keep typing. Gotta keep moving forward. This is a metaphor for something, but I don’t have time to stop typing to figure it out.
You’re reading this as I typed it, in a single first draft that won’t be edited save for any accidental expletives I type. That’s terrifying. Typing things that other people will eventually read on the internet is what I do for a living, and normally I’m quite precious about it. A lot of writers are. I do sketchy first drafts with things like [INSERT GOOD TRANSITION HERE LATER] peppered throughout. I check things I need to know on the Internet, and then I check stupid things on the Internet. If a colleague messages me to ask how things are going, I say something like “I am buried in this feature,” and I mean it, even while the search results for “Meghan Markle messy bun” are up on my screen.
Why do we bother getting so anxious about our work? Why the hang-ups and dawdling, when I could be doing somethinnbv bbbbbv
Okay I don’t know where I was going with that last sentence. Started to delete and it started to fade. Let’s abandon that thought. It wasn’t meant to be. Let’s press on.
This is not a practical device, for people who have to write at work. Phones can ring, emails you’ve been waiting for can come in, there may be a sudden explosive sound in the distance that evolution has you wired to turn your attention to, however briefly. It isn’t practical to have the last several minutes of work simply disappear because you had a conversation.
But it’s freeing. Given the assignment to write about this app, without actually typing on this app, I would spend unnecessary amounts of time reading everything else that’s been written about it, pausing to worry over the particulars of a sentence, allowing myself to be distracted far too easily by inane internet junk. It is kind of liberating just to have to write, without pause or excuse or self-criticism, which I now realize are taking up an inordinate amount of my time. It’s been roughly 12 minutes so far—how long would I have spent typing this otherwise?
And yes, there are many pointless sentences in here that I would cut mid-draft in other circumstances, thoughts that could have been expressed more elegantly or concisely. But is it really that important to get everything right the first time? Wouldn’t it be better to just type, to get over yourself and get something down, and then go back later and edit?
I have figured out a small hack. When I don’t know what to say next, I type a letter on the keyboard to keep the forward momentum going while I think, and then delete quickly once the next thought comes.
My hands are starting to hurt.
I don’t even know how much longer I’ve got here. There’s no visible timer. Just a pale screen, and these
. . . words. [Ed. note: The timer ended, but that’s no excuse for an incomplete sentence.]