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 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.
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.]