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Writing Hacks: Dangerous Software

Language is a technology. It’s a particularly strange one that’s made of squiggles and sounds and maps of meaning, but like any other technology, it’s hackable. So’s writing.

Last week we talked about using Freewriting to train yourself to separate writing from re-writing, or composition from editing.

Here’s some dangerous software to help you along.

Most writers would run screaming from  Flowstate. Flowstate erases your work if you stop writing or try to edit something. It is an evil and terrifying piece of software. It’s also a fantastic trainer for freewriting.

Most people have experienced “flow” at some point, artists and athletes especially, but know it as being “in the zone,” a time when deep concentration enabled them to block out distractions while performing a task at a high level. Flowstate helps you reach that state with a combination of minimalist design and rules that govern each writing session.

To begin a flow, you simply select a font and duration for the session and write for the entire time without pausing for more than five seconds. Stick to your goal and write until the timer expires and the app will save your work. Fail to write for the entire session, or pause for too long, and your text will fade away unsaved. Flowstate is suitable for writing anything from song lyrics to a novel, and by rising to the challenge it imposes, you trigger a sort of relaxed mindfulness that enhances focus and creativity.

“Flow” might be a real thing and it might just be a useful idea. Either way, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is the sourcebook for studies about heightened work states.

When you break up Flow into quotable bits it can sound like a compendium of platitudes — but it really does outline research and practicalities of flow, which is essential to the composition phase of writing — from Flow:

“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”

“Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason.”

Brave the danger of Flowstate and get flowing!


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1 Comment

  1. That’s awful and wonderful and I love it.

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