February 4, 2016

You Have Exactly Five Seconds Before Writing App Flowstate Deletes Everything You Just Wrote

You Have Exactly Five Seconds Before Writing App Flowstate Deletes Everything You Just Wrote
Every screenwriter loves a ticking clock.

The ticking clock is an age-old cinematic device to force the film’s protagonist forward toward his or her goal, running into obstacle after obstacle, and looking for any means necessary to overcome those obstacles to reach the finish before time runs out.

Flowstate is a new writing app that takes the ticking clock to the extreme for writers. You set a timer on Flowstate, anywhere from 5 minutes to 180 minutes. Once you start typing, you can’t stop until your timer runs out. If you stop, your text starts to fade away. If you don’t start typing again after five seconds, all of your work disappears for good.

I’m writing this post using Flowstate right now, so forgive me if I ramble on.

One of the biggest obstacles I face as a screenwriter is the habit of keeping myself from actually putting words on the page. I will wage a war inside my mind, coming up with a million different reasons why the idea I’m turning over and over is no good. The result? No words on the page.

Kind of like if I stop typing this post.

My mother-in-law is trying to call me right now. But I have a good excuse not to answer. At least until the timer runs out in the next 43 seconds. (I’m a chicken, so I only set the 5-minute timer for this test run.)

The idea behind Flowstate is exactly as the app’s name suggests: to get you into the state of flow where you don’t correct yourself or stop any of your ideas from coming out.

Flowstate on Macbook

Flowstate was created by filmmaker and screenwriter Caleb Slain along with app developer Blaine Cronn. Slain was first introduced to the concept of non-stop writing at a Sundance Institute screenwriting class taught by screenwriter Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause). [Had to go back to find the screenwriter’s name because my brain just couldn’t recall my research from 5 minutes ago because I have outsourced my memory to the interwebs, but I typed this note in the real-time flow. Meta.]

In that exercise, writers in the same room keep writing to outwrite the peers next to them. As long as their fellow writer is writing, they keep writing. Slain wanted to bring this idea to our current digital writing world where we typically write alone. Or alone in a coffee shop surrounded by a bunch of people that I’m ignoring (and upon whom I’m secretly eavesdropping — yes, I just rearranged my sentence in real time to not end a sentence with a preposition).

Asdf is your friend in Flowstate.

Once you start typing and you realize you can’t stop, Slain discovered, you have a chance of achieving true flow to let ideas spring forth and hit the page, your inner critic be damned.

You can purchase Flowstate for the Mac for $15 or your iOS device for $10 via the App Store.

After two 5-minute sessions, I now have a complete NFS post. Not too shabby. If there are factual errors in this article, blame Flowstate.

[Edit: Flowstate app creator Caleb Slain pointed me to their launch video after reading the original post. Check it out below.]

Your Comment

34 Comments

So, do you have to copy and paste your work before the timer runs out?

February 4, 2016 at 12:20PM

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Rachel RC Scott
Writer/Director/Producer/Editor
99

If you successfully keep typing until the timer runs out, Flowstate will save your work. From Flowstate's startup menu, you can click on your saved files and Share them (via Mail, Notes, Messages or however your OSX Share Menu is configured) or you can copy and paste your work into another app.

February 4, 2016 at 1:15PM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

This is awesome. Tried it and loved it. Fifteen minutes of needing to write will do me good on a daily basis.

February 4, 2016 at 12:33PM, Edited February 4, 12:33PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1191

Can the timer be adjusted, let's say, instead of 5 seconds, you up it to 10 seconds? Or is it dead set on the 5 second mark?

February 4, 2016 at 12:53PM, Edited February 4, 12:53PM

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Breht
Filmmaker
176

As far as I can tell, it is set at 5 seconds with no way of adjusting it. So you better keep typing.

February 4, 2016 at 1:16PM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

I tried the app the other day & 5 seconds is not quite as short as you would think. It's just enough time to pause for a brief moment & continue typing. I think you just have to take this app for what it is, an opportunity to get your thoughts out & not have the time to second guess yourself or procrastinate. And the way I look at it, you have to dig for gold & there really is no way to shortcut that process.

February 23, 2016 at 2:02PM

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Derek Armitage
Vlogger
451

I NEED this! My biggest setback to writing is that I won't push past the BS excuses I make for myself. This would give me the opportunity to sit down & write consistently, even if it's 15 mins at a time & even if I'm typing up garbage.

February 4, 2016 at 1:05PM

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Derek Armitage
Vlogger
451

I've been using Flowstate nonstop for a couple of days, and it's been a revelation for me.

February 4, 2016 at 1:56PM

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Robert Hardy
Cinematographer / Editor
3779

Just bought it and it's actually amazing. Scary... but amazing!

February 4, 2016 at 2:43PM

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Ciprian Dumitrascu
Director / DP / Editor
158

Interesting concept!
'This script will self-destruct in 5 seconds'

Unless...

February 4, 2016 at 3:00PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
5650

I can get behind this. I used to force myself to free-write much more frequently and the result was some crazy, subconscious-driven material. This is what I need. Thanks for digging this up!

February 4, 2016 at 3:29PM

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Sean Pettis
Filmmaker
161

Worst case scenario:

Writes most brilliant thing he's ever written.
Phone rings, gets distracted for 5 seconds by what looks like an important job offer.
Loses most brilliant thing he's ever written by picking up the phone.
Turns out phone-call was a pizza getting delivered.
At least there's pizza.

February 4, 2016 at 4:52PM, Edited February 4, 4:53PM

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Tim Milgram
Director / Cinematographer
311

Does it come with a suicide pill?

February 4, 2016 at 5:47PM

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How about incorporating this into our editing software? If I take more than three breaks to eat chocolate, play Metallica riffs or clean something, instead of finishing the corporate interview, all my edits points melt away into the original file and I have to start again.
; )

February 4, 2016 at 6:11PM

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I have this app and its awesome! It really helps get me into that writing zone. The devs are great too! I contacted them about a bug I was having issues with on desktop (which they fixed with an update last week) and also sent some feature requests. Not only did they fix the bug, but they also told me which features I had suggested that could expect to see in future updates.

February 4, 2016 at 7:48PM

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Beau Wright
Filmmaker
356

Of course its only for Apple OS. I guess I'll stick to self-made discipline.

February 4, 2016 at 8:20PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
285

Sounds cool! What's that?

February 5, 2016 at 6:27AM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
264

It's a myth created by our parents.

February 5, 2016 at 12:33PM

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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
6

Thank God there's no Windows version!

February 4, 2016 at 8:24PM

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Robert Shaver
Filmmaker
32

This happens randomly on Windows 7. It's better because you have no idea when.

February 5, 2016 at 12:35PM

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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
6

hahahahahahaha

February 7, 2016 at 11:23AM

0
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Ah, somebody put the terror of a final exam into an app.

February 5, 2016 at 12:26AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
600

Definitely going to give this a go. Generally, computers are connected to the Internet, which is a disaster when you're trying to write. Then you use paper and pen with slightly better results...but your hand eventually reaches over for your super connected internet computer phone, and that's it. Moment lost to endless scrolling for no reason.

February 5, 2016 at 4:14AM

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Liam Martin
Writer, director, editor.
257

What a brilliant idea!

February 5, 2016 at 7:04AM

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Because what we really need is even More writing online

February 5, 2016 at 8:32AM

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Just tried it on my phone. So fucking cool. No time for self doubt.

February 5, 2016 at 1:42PM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
120

Contacted the dev on their FB page, and asked about a Windows version (either app or desktop). Their response: "We will do everything will can to ensure no one is excluded from the Flowstate experience. heart emoticon" See? They even love us non-Mac users ("heart emoticon" proves it).

February 5, 2016 at 6:38PM

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Matthew Swanson
Actor/Writer/Director
167

*gasp* Does that mean Linux? (yay!)

(probably just wishful thinking)

February 7, 2016 at 3:04PM

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TARDIS Maker
Beginner
30

If you want to try it you can copy the following code in an *.html file and open it with your browser. It basically does the same thing:
http://pastie.org/private/fkgxstkduhubmmerqshpa
It's a couple of hours worth of work. I am sure someone who is more experienced in javascript can improve it.

February 8, 2016 at 12:53PM, Edited February 8, 12:58PM

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Made an account just to thank you for this code! I just made a page and it works great. This will tide me over until Flowstate is available on Windows. Thanks again!

February 8, 2016 at 8:30PM

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Hey! I've tried the running the html but have been unsuccessful. Any tips?

April 4, 2016 at 11:30AM, Edited April 4, 11:30AM

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Jonathan Hinterberger
Director / Cinematographer / Editor
8

.....

February 8, 2016 at 12:35PM, Edited February 8, 12:52PM

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This app is incredible. Literally forces you to get your ideas onto paper. Great even if you only have 5 minutes to spare.

February 8, 2016 at 8:06PM

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Love the concept. But I don't want to free-write on my iPhone which is the only iOS device I have at the moment. Needs to have an option for windows/linux/android.

February 12, 2016 at 10:27AM

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Benja Lockridge
Director/Cinemtographer/Screenwriter
16

Just a thought to consider but you could get a cheap Bluetooth keyboard for your iPhone. The app is pretty great!

February 23, 2016 at 2:08PM

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Derek Armitage
Vlogger
451