When you are writing, how often do you use the backspace key? How often do you hit delete? Do you use spell-check frequently as you go along (maybe you’re word processing program does it for you, which can be less than helpful at times)? Do you find that these activities break your writing rhythm or are you possibly using them to fill the time when you can’t think of what should come next? Do the words seem to pour out or come out in dribbles?
In the last week of November, someone gave me a seriously helpful tip. I was skeptical until I actually tried it. She suggested that I try typing in white.
She said that if you type the words in white, you can’t see them against the background of white, and therefore can’t stop and correct every little typo or misplaced word.
This trick almost doubled my productivity. You’ve probably heard about these things called sprints or wordsprints, but before November I hadn’t; the idea is to write as much as you can in a certain amount of time. The time varies but I found that I could stay focused better when the sprint was shorter, about 15 or 20 minutes. It starts feeling more like a long distance jog when you increase the time to, say, 45 minutes.
When I typed in white, I found that I didn’t worry about getting all the spellings right or fixing it if I mixed up the name of the diner. I just told the story. When I couldn’t see the words, I thought more about the story I already had in my head, and then that story came out in complete sentences rather than word by word.
You know you’re going to go back over your work, you know some of the characters names will always show up with red spelling squiggles under them, you know there will be things to flesh out. Until you get to that point, and while you’re working to get the full first draft complete, your inner editor will be much more tame if she’s blindfolded. See what kind of results you get when you try typing a section in white. Give it 15 minutes, and I bet you’ll be surprised.