This is a little like a soap opera. If you missed the first two episodes, here are the play-again buttons:
I should tell you about rule #2: No self-editing in jam writing. No correcting typos, no changing to a better word, no reworking the awkward sentence or the one that makes no sense. Jam writing is diarrhea of the mind oozing out through your fingertips, and don’t you dare grab for the toilet paper to clean up the mess! Ewww. Actually that’s a perfect analogy for what JFM said we were to aim for: an SFD. The FD stands for first draft, but I’m too polite to tell you what the S stands for. Just remember the toilet paper.
So there I was with a plethora of first-hand information, nine months of it to be exact, waiting to be gathered up in a mere seven days, at a leisurely rate of one hour a day. On the fifth day I ran out of stuff to say, but trusting that JFM wouldn’t lead me astray, I kept writing.
Back to the self-editing ban. It’s my nature to fix mistakes as they occur, but since this was a big no-no, I spent a lot of time creating ways to avoid knowing about them. First, I turned the font white, the theory being that if you can’t see what you’ve typed, you won’t know what’s wrong. The reality is that my brain knew when my fingers went astray and demanded that they stop RIGHT THEN and fix everything. Even worse, white font doesn’t disguise the red squiggles that alert you to misspelled words. As squiggle after squiggle crept across my monitor, whole bloody rivers of them, I realized I had become both accidental accomplice and unwilling witness to the verbal carnage my murderous fingers committed.
Eventually I turned the font back to its proper black and taped several sheets of paper over the monitor. The problem with that? I saw right through the paper, and though I couldn’t read the words—black mountains and valleys connected by the ever-present red rivers—I knew they were there. Next I turned the font gray. Reading the demon grammar book had taught me that gray can be seen but not easily read. Eureka! I left the paper on the monitor just in case.
At the end of the week, my diligence was rewarded when I got to read what I’d written. FYI: if you decide to try the paper-shield method of self-editing avoidance, be sure your fingers are on the right keys before you hide the monitor from yourself, especially if you’re typing on a black keyboard in a dark room. Otherwise you’ll end up with something like “O sjpi;d a;sp te;; ipi tp jave upir fomgers pm the rogjt leus,” and you’ll lie awake nights trying to remember when you bought the Rosetta Stone and what language you tried to learn.
In spite of all the hoopla, at the end of the week I had nine single-spaced pages and 6141 words–more than I’d written in any one week in my life, unless you count the googolplex of alphabet letters I copied in my Big Chief tablet in first grade. Mrs. Boucher was quite a teacher, as I recall, but stingy with bathroom breaks, a lucky stroke for me. All these years later, it turns out I don’t need that toilet paper anyway!