Not writing? There’s an app for that: Write or Die

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For writers, procrastination is an eternal enemy. It has classically waited in the pauses between words, in that argument outside the window, in being thirsty and needing a glass of water, in having to run to the bathroom. Now, with the Internet, it’s also lurking there on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and Path, and wait, did the London Review of Books just post a new issue online?

In other words, procrastination is everywhere.

Avoiding the procrastination temptation can be too much to ask. But hey, there’s an app for that.


Write or Die is made specifically to keep writers on task. It comes with the tag line, ‘Putting the ‘prod’ in productivity.’

How the app works: Writers begin typing in the app’s window. When the typing slows to a stop, there are consequences. The writer can set how severe those consequences will be. In ‘gentle’ mode, a notice pops up with a kind reminder that it’s time to start writing. In ‘normal’ mode, the app begins to emit an unpleasant sound, which only stops once the typing begins again. In ‘kamikaze’ mode, the app is set to destroy: when the writing has stopped for too long, the words begin to erase themselves. There is also a ‘nyan cat’ mode, turning an Internet meme into a destructive force.

The message is clear: Keep writing, or else.

Write or Die started out in a desktop version, created by a ‘Dr. Wicked,’ and became available as an app for the iPad last fall. Why pay attention now? Turns out, its system of possibly disastrous punishments actually works.

That’s according to Helen Oyeyemi, a British writer whose novel ‘Mr. Fox’ just came out in paperback in the U.K. When asked for writing advice this week by The Guardian, Oyeyemi recommended Write or Die, saying, ‘Because, sometimes, fear is the only motivator.’

The app version of Write or Die includes some rewards to go with its punishments, such as stats that tally progress toward writing goals. But the tone can still be intimidating: There is also a deadline countdown, keeping the hammer of doom looming.

The Write or Die app is $9.99. Such is the price of writing progress.



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