Steve and Candice have each posted on the problems and possibilities of the ugly first draft. Clearly, how “ugly” one can go depends quite a bit on an individual writer’s personality. Candice was wondering if some of her productivity while writing longhand comes from not being able to “rework” a page as easily as if it were on the computer, which forces her to “move on.” This made me wonder if there were any way to get this effect on a computer, and I have a couple of possibilities to throw out.
First, something I’ve done myself for experimentation purposes is to turn the color of my font to white on a white background. This prevents even the possibility of reading and correcting while I’m writing. Certainly there will be some spelling errors (teh anyone?), but as long as you make sure to start with your fingers on the right keys you won’t get gibberish. Once you’ve finished a section you just do select all and turn the font black.
Second, Lana has a font that she downloaded from the web which changes English words into Viking runes. There are also fonts on my computer that change words into symbols. What if you wrote in either a runic or symbols font, then used select all to turn the words back into an English font? I tried writing this post in the symbol font and found that I actually knew when I’d misspelled a word, because my fingers would tell me. I’d just backspace to take out the word and go on. But trying to edit such a work to correct wording would be impossible. For some reason, typing the symbols didn’t always work because when I turned it back to English words there were sections that didn’t translate. I have no idea why. The runes worked fine, though.
The easiest thing for me was to write white on white. And this paragraph was written that way. I simply found myself looking more at the keyboard while I composed than looking at the computer screen, although staring off into space would probably have been just as effective.
I’m not sure either of these mechanical aids to writing ugly will be helpful to anyone here, but it seemed worth a post. At times they might be quite inconvenient, if you were doing a lot of plotting as you wrote. But they might work if you were really focused on simply getting a draft of some scene down. I also suspect they might be more helpful to newer writers rather than those who have already developed the writing habit and are used to how we “do things.”
By the way, Writer Ugly refers, of course, to the writer whose first draft is so ugly you’d rather pull your eyes out rather than read it. (With apologies to the phrase “Coyote Ugly.”)