Those are the directions for The Most Dangerous Writing App, a brutal new web tool designed to help you get over your writer’s block. The app is the work of Manuel Ebert, who describes himself on Twitter as a “Ex-neuroscientist, data wrangler, designer, and engineer.” He’s also a founding partner of Summer.ai, a small data consultancy agency. Ebert made The Most Dangerous Writing App on his own time, and released it for free.
There are lots of tricks for overcoming writer’s block. One of the most commonly prescribed bits of advice is perhaps the most obvious: just write. That could mean banging out a rough draft in one fell swoop, or it could mean pretending like you’re writing in a diary, letting out a stream of consciousness. Or, as editors love to say, “just pretend you’re at a bar, having a beer, talking to your friend.”
The goal of all these strategies is to force you to get over your ego. Stop waiting for a romantic surge of inspiration and just write. The Most Dangerous Writing App doesn’t care what technique you use, provided you keep typing. If you stop, even for a second, the edges of the screen become tinged with red. The longer you go without typing, the redder the edges become, until, after five seconds of inactivity, your progress is unceremoniously erased. Forever.
While writing this I somewhat predictably experienced a small bout of writer’s block, so I gave the app a try. The interface is a clean, no-nonsense text editor. You’ll find nothing in the way of formatting tools; if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, the app is purpose-built for writing and writing only. It allows for plenty of backspacing and typo-correcting, both of which can be useful for procrastinating in micro-doses, but I mostly felt compelled to write. Somewhere towards the tail end of my five minutes (you can choose to write nonstop for five, 10, 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes, if you’re a masochist) the pressure starts to set in, and I’m really rambling. The UX is cleverly conceived, if a bit stressful at first (my heart rate went up while I was using it).
But then, that imposed sense of urgency is the whole point. If you’re someone who thrives under pressure, or feels most productive when you’re working at the eleventh hour, the Most Dangerous Writing App could be a good way for you to apply that pressure, artificially.
And for the record, it did get me over my writer’s block. You’re reading this article now, aren’t you?