If you are a frequenter of the Writing Center Blog, you should know that one of the more prevalent techniques for writing that we stress is simply writing often. It doesn't matter how much you write, or even how good you write; writing everyday will do more than improve your writing, it will also cause you to be more confident about writing, and when you do finally get a good idea you will spend less time staring at a blank screen.
I know, we are only human, and many times even when you have a plan to write at a given time every day something will come up, or you simply won't feel inspired. That's why I am writing this blog to inform you of the many useful applications I have found that help me greatly in keeping up a schedule.
The first is a small downloadable program that was given to me as a gift last Christmas. Write or Die is a program that allows you to set a specific word and time goal, then lets you write until either you meet your goal or your time runs out. There are other settings one can choose as well, including how much of a grace period the program gives, and the difficulty level. For those new to the program, I suggest beginning on gentle. For more experienced players, the normal mode will force you to write while playing an annoying sound, and kamikaze mode will actually eat your words if you stop writing for more than a few seconds. On the desktop edition, you can also set it to keep the Write or Die window at the front of your screen and disable saving until the word goal is met. Warning: This program has the potential to give your inner editor a heart attack. When I first played Write or Die, my inner editor's comments changed from "You call that syntax?" to "You missed a - wait, no, you don't have time to go back! Write something, anything, oh my god you're almost out of time! Write!" One last perk: if you are the type of person that enjoys competition, the desktop edition allows you to compete in word wars with other players; the person with the most words after a set amount of time wins. Ultimately, Write or Die can be a very useful resource - while being slightly sadistic - to get one out of the habit of overanalyzing each individual sentence, and into the habit of simply writing.
The second application I would like to mention is a small website I recently discovered called 750words. This website is almost like a blog, except that it is completely private. It was created to encourage people to write at least 750 words every day. Not only will this site keep track of your daily writings, it will also analyze them using two text analysis programs: Regressive Imagery Dictionary (for emotions) and the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count. The site organizes the results of that analysis into easy-to-read graphs and charts, and gives comparison charts of what the average writer scores. The site offers monthly contests to see who can actually keep up their word count (750 words a day) for an entire month. I should mention that the idea behind this site is not to write brilliant prose; it encourages you to vomit thoughts onto the screen and clear your subconscious of what may be hiding inside, so that for the rest of the day you are more clear-headed and have already gotten the creative juices flowing. Finally, to add more of a fun, game-feel to the site and encourage continued use, you will be awarded a specific number of points per day depending on how much you write. These points are used to collect achievement buttons - sort of like the achievements one can unlock in Xbox360 games.
Of course, these are only programs that have helped me get into the habit of writing. If they don't work for you, that is fine, I have also found a list of 100 Free and Useful Web Apps for Writers that you may want to dig through. Unfortunately, none of these programs can force you to write, that motivation needs to come from you. They can, however, make writing every day more enjoyable. So check them out, you may find you enjoy the intensity and high-stress of Write or Die, or perhaps you prefer a simple online blog that you can keep completely private - either way, it never hurts to try.