Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stare at the Computer Screen

On Absolute Write Water Cooler, they have an incredible list of advice called “Learn Writing with Uncle Jim.” Here’s something that really helped me:
“Pick two hours a day. For that two hours, you will sit in front of your computer. You will have no distractions. You will write, or you will stare at the blank screen. There will be no other options. You will write stuff, or you will stare at the screen.”
What that means to me is you shouldn’t stop just because you can’t think of anything else to do (or you don’t have the strength to continue). Instead, stare at the screen for as long as you need to before you start working again.
My first reaction was, “That’s such a waste of time.”
I mentioned before that I’m trying to write in two-hour sessions every day, first thing in the morning (still a work in progress). Today I ran out of stuff 20 minutes before it was time to quit, but I resisted the urge and just stared at the screen for the rest of the session.
I scrolled through the text, tweaking things here and there, tapping my pen against my lips while I thought. (Why do I pick up a pen while I’m thinking, even though I work at a computer? I keep getting ink stains on my face.)
Staring at the screen really is useful. Probably 50% of writing is thinking, and it’s good to set aside thinking time. I’ve also had blank moments when I consider quitting, and five minutes later bust out with amazing work.
Have you ever tried to stare at your computer screen when you feel stuck? How did it go? If not, I challenge you to try it.


  1. That's a great idea - I think I'll try it. It's too easy to give in to the distractions, but if you make that rule for that period of time - I think I can do that. And the pen thing? I do it too, LOL.

  2. I always write first thing in the morning (when I'm not at work, that is) but I stop when the brain seems to have tapped out. But, I'm struggling with the bit of writer's block, so after this, let the staring begin.

  3. Yup, I stare at the screen all the time. Sometimes, I just need to THINK about the story a bit to figure things out. It's amazingly helpful.

  4. Poul Anderson, the great science fiction and fantasy writer, told his wife he might do a lot of things while thinking about his writing. He might even lie on the couch, but he would be thinking. His wife said, "All right, but if you start snoring . . . ."


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