Wednesday, November 4

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, November 04, 2009 2 comments
Revision is my thing. I work as an editor, after all. Give me a stack of pages and a pen and I'm happy as a clam. But put me in front of a blank screen? Ai-yi-yi.

As a result of my blank screen dread, I do most of my rough drafting in those el-cheapo spiral notebooks you can get 10 for $1 at a grocery store back-to-school sale. The el-cheapo factor seems to cry for messy lists, half-baked plot ideas, random musings that may or may not end up working their way into usable prose. The downside of this dubious system is that I sometimes spend as much time trying to find a nugget as I spent writing it in the first place. Time stealer=bad news for this working mom trying to squeeze in some writing.

I know I need to get over this blank screen phobia, and pronto. One of my critique group friends recommends a software solution, this program called "Write or Die" that monitors how many words you churn out in a given timeframe. Pause too long, produce too little and it metes out punishments (the user can select the level of severity). This sounds kind of big-guns to me. Punative systems, like praise-averse bosses, tend to make me less productive.

Instead, I figured I'd set up a simple experiment and reward myself with library book time/Netflix with spouse if it worked. I had to write raw for 40 minutes. Raw AND autobiographical, the two things that really make me squirm.

It was a pretty successful experiment. I not only filled two pages, but tapped into a powerful memory from my teen years that will make a decent short story if I keep going with it. Take that, stupid phobia!


  1. Ah, now that's going about it the opposite way, isn't it? Rewards, instead of punishment. I'm not sure what it says about me that I work better under the threat of dire consequences, but I'll leave the psychoanalyses to others.

    But congratulations on a successful experiment! I'm keen to see the short story that may result. And like I said, I think you write more autobiographically than you let on. (There's a good post on exactly that issue over at The Literary Lab blog today).


  2. Well, Simon, our writing styles alone should be enough to show that we're wired very differently. I know I can be the superhero employee for a boss who tells me I'm great, because his/her belief makes me believe. Conversely, I tend to stumble and fail in the face of an authority who only ever points out my shortcomings. You might say I write for my cheerleaders, to confirm all their hopes for me, and I push myself very hard to not let them down.