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2006-07-04 13:39
by Will Carroll

This seems like such a good idea. Writeroom is a hot new program expanding around the Mac universe with a quick Windows copy called DarkRoom.

It was such a good idea that I immediately downloaded it (heck, it's free) and realized that I had no use for it. There's nothing wrong with it - it does what it does well, exactly as advertised. It just doesn't work with my process.

There's not a time where I write in an "undistracted" state. I'll usually have Firefox up and running with, Rotowire, and a couple other sites going. I'll have or XM for my baseball game watching/listening. The Sidekick II can't seem to stop ringing or taking texts. Adium is open. If I'm not listening to a game, I'll have iTunes going. Yojimbo is always there for my notes.

And yet I continue writing. UTK is a stop-start, note taking, multi-sourced process that is as much prep as actual writing. On the other hand, when I do longer-form stuff like one of my regular columns or even a book, my process is much the same.

I realized that distraction is my process. I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but it does for me. I've often said that UTK writes itself; injuries happen, I research it and then write. I don't have to sit down often and say "What the heck am I going to write about?"

For all the talk amongst writers about freeing themselves from distraction and avoiding the dreaded writer's block, I just don't get it. Steven Goldman once said "I had writer's block once. It was a terrible hour one Tuesday afternoon in spring." I'll side with Goldman and Gore Vidal: "You're not cut out for this. Plenty more where you came from."

Writing, like blogging, has to be inspired, even when it is a defined product like UTK. I'm interested in what inspires you, the readers, and what your process is, since it seems like everyone is a writer these days.

2006-07-04 14:17:36
1.   ScoobyGoo
Hmm..where could I get the Windoze version of this?
2006-07-04 14:28:08
2.   Will Carroll
Check the text above -- I updated it with a link to Darkroom.
2006-07-04 23:07:03
3.   Austin
Journalism is all about writing with distractions. It's just no fun otherwise.
2006-07-05 07:56:34
4.   nickb
I blog a bit myself ( and find that I have to be inspired to write. Sometimes I'll post a lot of stuff in a week and other times it will take a month or more for something to strike my fancy. It would be tough to be on a daily deadline and have to come up with something when inspiration doesn't present itself. And I'd rather be free of distraction to write, though having multiple websites open as resources is a necessity.
2006-07-05 08:18:53
5.   dianagramr


(all puns intended)

2006-07-05 20:37:38
6.   deadguy pretty much nails my process, in any sense of the word you care to consider. I juggle two writing careers, and bouncing back and forth between the two often makes for interesting times.
2006-07-06 12:04:19
7.   Tangotiger
Writer's block is not about "not being able to write". It's about "not being able to write well".

Writing is just like talking or painting or anything that requires a brain. Anybody can do it. Just because you do, doesn't mean you succeeded. I'm sure Bill O'Reilly has never had a "talker's block".

The judge of whether you have writer's block lies with the reader, not the writer.

2006-07-07 21:11:16
8.   Will Carroll
I'm not so sure, Tom - most people describe block to me as the writer's equivalent of stage fright. Confronted with an empty sheet of paper ... err, screen ... they sit and stare, locked up. I've seen people -- good, smart people -- do it on radio and I've REALLY seen it on TV.

Funny story -- I was on Cold Pizza (no, that's not the punch line) and they had someone scheduled ahead of me. I'm sitting in the green room with Steve Goldman and they tell me I have like twenty minutes. About a minute later, I have five. I walked down and there was this skateboarder who evidently stone locked up just before going on. They rushed on a taped segment and came for me, hoping I wouldn't do the same thing.

I think a lot of what we call block is the inability to work on deadline or to do it day in, day out. One of the reasons you'll seldom see me pinging columnists is that they're under every stress imaginable and have to do it every single day. Most suck at it, but at least they do it.

Not write well? Eh, lots of people don't write well. I'm no Rob Neyer and certainly no James Ellroy, but I get my information out there. Luckily, I don't rely on my style to make a living.

2006-07-10 07:19:19
9.   Tangotiger
There's a "what" to say and a "how" to say/write it.

Poor writing style (generate a crap factory), or not wanting to produce a poor writing style (so you write nothing), or being frozen as millions look at you, is the "how".

There's also the "I don't know what to say or write or think at all". That's the "what".

I believe you that you've never had what-writer's-block, or what-talker's-block.

If someone as prolific and maniacal as Stephen King has professed to writer's block, then I would say that everyone has had a how-writer's-block.

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