In Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury tells a story about how when he was a young father – chased out of the house by inquisitive children and desperate for a quiet place to write – he would head down to the UCLA Library where they kept the typewriters and charged a dime the half hour for their use. Driven, poor, on a deadline and willing to do battle with the cranky machines, Bradbury wrote his first draft in just 90 days. The draft later became Fahrenheit 451.
You’re not going to find a typewriter that charges by the half-hour anymore. But you can use Write or Die and that’s probably close to the real thing.
Write or Die is an app like no other writing app I’ve found – an adrenaline fueled, screaming baby, screeching violins, oh-God-what-is-that-noise-make-it-stop tool for getting words onto digital paper.
The idea is simple. Keep writing – at a specified words per minute – and you’ll be fine. Stop writing and the background behind your text starts turning red. Stop for too long and your computer plays an annoying sound until you start typing again.
Sounds too simple?
I dare you to try it with your volume turned all the way up at the library. *evil grin*
The original is still available free on the internet, but there’s also an iPad app and a desktop app you can pay for the pleasure of using. They include more features like more annoying sounds; Kamikaze mode which disables your backspace – for the truly hardcore; and a kinder, gentler positive reward option that shows you pictures of kittens (or sloths!) every time you type a certain number of words or the option to play soothing sounds (or your own music) as long as you keep typing.
I own both the desktop and iPad apps and use them constantly. I wish I could say they worked perfectly but they do not. The code is buggy and sometimes freezes after a session has ended. On the other hand the auto save feature of the apps means I have never once lost more than a few words when the code went sour. Which is not bad when you consider it is the work of a single coder (the amazing Dr. Wicked). The apps do get occasional updates and the creator is available by e-mail if needed (such as when I lost my hard drive and had to find my code to re-install the program).
Sometimes it’s hard to get words out of your head. Sometimes you only have ten minutes to write today and you don’t want to waste them staring at the keyboard. Sometimes you need a kick in the pants to get yourself started.
For all these times there is Write-Or-Die.
Write Or Die – A grab you by the seat of your pants timed writing app that is great for getting words down, just be sure to revise what you’ve written. Screeching Violins and screaming babies a bonus. Splurge for the paid version for even more options and incentives, plus the ability to backup your timed writings so you never lose a word.
Price: FREE online
$20 for the desktop version
$10 for the iPad app