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Whenever I open up a word processor on the computer to write, my fingers freeze and I get nervous. I try to type the opening. I make myself write any sentence that comes into my mind, and then I read it and nothing feels right about it.

The peculiar thing is that it never seems to happen when I write with a pen/pencil and paper. The words and my thoughts flow naturally and I feel more comfortable and confident in myself than when I use Microsoft Word or Google Chrome.

What I want to know is why do I feel this way, and how can I feel more secure the next time I write on the computer. No matter how I feel, I have to revise what I wrote sooner or later.

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    Nobody can tell for sure why, such aversions relate to previous bad associations; like being forced to write on the computer when you did not want to, after a personal emotional trauma, etc. You formed an invalid negative emotional association to the act. A Pavlovian response. You break it by understanding when it began and why, and forming positive associations. Write by hand, and type THAT into the computer, then whatever negative responses you have to THAT cannot be real and are due ONLY to the computer. Learn to reject that crap, it belongs to some other incident in life, not here and now. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Dec 9 '17 at 20:59
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    My experience writing on a computer and writing long hand are very distinct, and a great way to get over a 'block' for me is to write long hand for a while. It is a different medium - there are sheets that you turn, after all, and it's easier, for example, to sketch in a reminder (I draw lots of arcs in my notebooks to remind myself of where I need to get) and so on. You can scribble and cross out. You can draw a map of your world or whatnot. There's lots of appeal to longhand. Q: Why not do it longhand, then copy over to the computer? This is what I do sometimes. – DPT Dec 10 '17 at 19:43
  • How do you feel when dictating to a computer with speech to text conversion? (You should try it if you haven't.) – J.G. Dec 12 '17 at 19:01
  • "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "So stop doing that." – Ken Mohnkern Dec 14 '17 at 14:57
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From personal experience, I'd say that it's because you're used to using the computer to consume interactive content (e.g. the Web itself). Your mind is literally put in a different mode when you sit down with a pad of paper, likely with very different lighting than the harsh blue glow of the computer.

There's also the issue of input speed. If you're anything like me, you can type a lot faster than when you write longhand. The slow, deliberate nature of writing something down longhand allows the brain to slowly pick through possibilities during the creative process, instead of feeling a sort of deadline pressure for every sentence. Over time I've learned to simply pause and look away from the computer screen as soon as I get a slight hint that the information stream is starting to falter -- in a few seconds it tends to pick up again. Think of it as buffer underflow if that helps at all; sort of a side effect of using the "wrong" medium to write something from scratch.

  • Yes, my wife always wonders why I spin in my chair when I write – Andrey Dec 11 '17 at 22:17
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It's a guess (and as Amadeus says, we can't tell for sure), but if you habitually use a computer for social media or anything else interactive, it might be that you're regarding the computer as a form of publication - as something someone else will be able to see. That would give an explanation for the difference in comfort and confidence compared to a pen and paper.

You could try some intermediate steps. Does the feeling also happen with other word processing software? How about on a computer that isn't connected to the internet? If you store your writing on an external drive, and always disconnect from the web before opening the file, does that feel better? How about a typewriter?

It's possible there's a negative association from somewhere else, but if anything I've said sounds right there could be a logical explanation for what you're feeling, and a way to work around or through it.

  • +1 for the typewriter suggestion. OCR makes it almost as efficient as a draft on a PC – paulzag Dec 11 '17 at 6:37
  • Additionally, if you search, you might still find a dedicated word processor that looks and feels like a typewriter. If you find a typewriter works for you, one of these will give most of the advantages of WP software on a computer, but still activate the "typewriter" paths in your brain. – Zeiss Ikon Dec 14 '17 at 14:06
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Every tool you use affects your experience in some way. There's an intimacy to pen and paper that the computer can't match. On the other hand, you can't even begin to approach the speed of typing on a computer with pen and paper (although learning a shorthand might help).

Even in this day and age, there are plenty of people who write the first draft long hand, and switch to a computer for editing and revision. Even people like me, who find typing to be second nature, often write small sections longhand. It might seem impossible to write a full-length manuscript longhand, but after all, that's how writers did it for centuries.

If you're bound and determined to use the computer, even for your first draft, try your best to turn off your internal editor, and just write for an extended period of time without rereading or revising. And even thought it might sound silly, try switching to a less formal font. When it's staring back at you in black and white 12pt serif, it's easy to think it needs to be more perfect than it actually does.

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Is this something about yourself that you need to resolve or do you just need a technique that fixes it so you can work? The other answers tell you how to "fix" it.

If it feels more personal, then I would make it even more personal. Sit down to write on the computer. Write about how that makes you feel. What or who does it make you remember? What exactly seems wrong?

If it works for you, you can even personify the computer (not with all the other things it's good for, but just "who" it is in this situation). Then, you can talk, argue, yell, or plead with it - whatever feels right at the moment.You can even have it answer you, goad you, or comfort you - whatever spontaneously happens. Don't let yourself analyse it until later. Stay in the moment.

If you get into it enough, you may experience emotional release from giving these feelings voice and if the flow is good, your subconscious may even reveal things to you about why you have this issue.

Sometimes just knowing that is enough to dissipate it. Other times, it may lead you to actions which lead toward a resolution. Or, maybe, you will come to feel that it's OK and that you just have to work in a different manner for now.

It doesn't really matter as long as the "answers" come from within you and feel right to you.

Don't expect all of this to happen immediately. Issues such as this are often layered. You might have to (as one possibility) first express anger or frustration to get to sadness to get to some clarity.

You might even end up with some material you can use later in other things you write.

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