One of the most common pieces of writing advice is to not write and edit at the same time; and both scientific studies on the parallel use of different areas of the brain and anecdotal evidence of increased speed, word-counts, and other measures seem to justify its ubiquity. I have certainly produced more since I moved editing to after my first drafts were finished. However, it is trickier than it seems; in what was an entirely unintended demonstration, I changed several words in this paragraph before I had finished writing it. One of the common suggestions to overcome this desire to not leave work without a flaw for even a moment, is to write without being able to see what you are writing. But this can be counter productive.
I was sent a link to ilys beta earlier today. It is a browser-based program that allows you to set a word count, then prevents you from editing until you have reached your target. Which sounded great. However, the user interface is a text box which only displays the character most recently typed. So, when I was distracted by something outside my control (the doorbell), I could not re-read the last few words to pick up where I was.
For me this made it less useful than simply turning my monitor off, which replicates the same inability to see whether there are any mistakes, with other advantages:
I can choose to refresh my memory if I have to leave the screen.
I can choose to look if I have to end a session before I reach my word count.
I need only my computer to do it, rather than needing an internet connection that remains fast enough to keep up with my typing.
But turning my monitor off does not really work for me either. If I cannot see the words, I cannot see the errors. But I also cannot see how much I have written. When writing I judge my progress not by a word count in the bottom corner, but by how full the page looks: scrolling over the end of the first page feels like progress; noticing the scroll bar marker is compressed feels like progress.
Without any visual my inner critic is free to riff on purposelessness; to take full advantage of the visual of writing without any visible result.
There is also a hidden cost. Over several years I have taught myself to touch type. One of the key techniques for improving your speed is not looking at the keyboard. If I do not have the text appearing on the screen to watch, the movement of my fingers below my eye line starts to draw my attention. I begin to type by looking for each key again, which slows me down more than going back to correct typos would.
So, for me, not being able to see whether I have made any mistakes is actually less productive than occasionally being overcome with the desire to fix a typo or infelicitous phrase instead of writing new words.
Have you tried writing without being able to see the results?