I Love the Most Dangerous Writing App!
Could you write a whole nonfiction article without stopping?
In the cult classic film Speed, Keanu Reeves had to continuously drive a bus at 50 miles per hour, or it would explode.
In a great Medium article I read this morning, I learned that someone has taken that concept, and applied it to writing.
The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that starts you with a blank page, much like Medium. You can start typing. But the catch is, if you pause for 5 seconds or more, everything you’ve written disappears.
Lots of Medium articles talk about the importance of just sitting down and writing, entering a flow state, not worrying about typos, etc. But here’s a chance to try it out for real, in an insane game of chicken which might easily destroy something you’ve spent at least several minutes of your life putting together.
You can just start typing into the Most Dangerous Writing App, but they’ll also give you a a prompt. Most are fiction-specific. I write non-fiction articles, so the first few prompts didn’t work for me. But after three refreshes, I got a sufficiently non-fiction-ish prompt (“Reluctantly, he handed over the key") that I felt I could start.
Without further ado, here is my first Most Dangerous Writing App article. Remember, I wrote this without pausing for more than 5 seconds, start to finish. I’ve left the typos in, since, well, that’s the point.
Reluctantly, he handed over the key. Keys have enjoyed a long history, and have been around for thousands of years. Early keys were made of cast metal, with only a few pieces designed to fit into rudimentary locks. But still, people have been making them since they’ve had doors and stuff to lock others out of.
As technologies for produciding keys advanced, they became far more complex. By the time of the industrial revolution, keys had multiple different elements, fitting into a standard locking design with tumblers and other elements which fit the specific pattern on a cast or cut metal key. The basic tech really hasn’t advanced much since then — lock and keys today still use essentially the same system, which a cut pattern on the metal key engages with a series of pins and tumblers in the lock, allowing the lock to open when the correct key is used.
Of course, there have been some advancements — mostly in preventing people from picking locks easily. Lock picking involves using some tool other than the proper key to reach into a lock and manually manipulate the tumblers and pins, until they randomly fall into place with the same pattern as the correct key, and the lock opens. Modern locks try to defeat this with a variety of methods, like tumblers that pop back into place the second a pick is removed from the lock.
At the same time, though, locks are still more symbolic than an actual method of keeping people out of places. A good lockpicker — whether that’s a locksmith or a criminal — can still pick a lock surprisingly easily. I remember returning from a trip at about 11:30PM and realizing that I didn’t have my key with me. I called a locksmith, and he arrived at 11:55. His rate increased after midnight, and I assumed I would have to pay him his higher rate. He started at 11:59, and there was no way he could pick my lock in 1 minute, right?
Of course, he did. It took him all of 30 seconds. And he spent those 30 seconds talking to me while idly picking the lock with one hand. It was a sobering reminder that security is often more about a symbolic level of protection and actual protection, and that security systems can always be breached with enough time and skill.
Locks also have changed over time, too. They’re not longer just about an actual physical device. Keys now can refer to a physical piece of metal, but they can also refer to security keys like those used in the encryption software that protects your communications on the web, often without you even knowing they’re there.
Look at the address bar in your browser. What do you see before the URL. A tiny lock! Why is is there? It symbolizes that the website you’re viewing and the browser you’re viewing it on both use a system of electronic keys to secure your communications, preventing (in theory, anyway) some third party from snooping on your very important Medium reading.
Modern encyption is incredibly complex, but it uses the same basic metaphor and process as a key in a physical lock. Not bad for a technology that started out as a hunk of cast iron and some pins!
Is this something I’d be ready to publish as-is? No.
But I think the embryonic shell of an article is there. It has a clear beginning (the history of locks), middle (locks today), and end (locks in cutting edge encryption tech). I’ve included a personal angle in the story, and the beginning and end tie together in the last sentence.
I think the concept of a a lock and key metaphor applied to modern tech is interesting--like how the image of an old fashioned padlock is still the graphic used to show security and web encryption.
What’s missing, mostly, is specific examples and background research. To expand this, I’d clearly nix the first line, and then work in some more specifics on the historical side, as well as some actual examples of contemporary lock tech.
Overall, though, I’d say it’s not bad for something I wrote in a few minutes with zero pauses.
What was the experience of using the Most Dangerous Writing App like? I found it liberating to be forced to just keep typing, placing as much text on the page as possible.
It was also nerve racking, though. At one point, I tried to backtrack to fix a typo, and the words I had written began to fade away. I had to frantically start typing again to avoid losing everything.
I really love the Speed-inspired concept of the Most Dangerous Writing App. I think it could be a great tool to bang out a draft very quickly, or do a mind-dump of a topic onto the page. I’d also be curious to see videos of different writers using it, to see what their processes are like.
If you want an insane and kind of scary challenge--or you just want an exercise to start a new writing session, check the Most Dangerous Writing App out.