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.
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.]
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So, do you have to copy and paste your work before the timer runs out?
February 4, 2016 at 9:20AM
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 10:15AM
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 9:33AM, Edited February 4, 9:33AM
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 9:53AM, Edited February 4, 9:53AM
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 10:16AM
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 11:02AM
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 10:05AM
I've been using Flowstate nonstop for a couple of days, and it's been a revelation for me.
February 4, 2016 at 10:56AM
Just bought it and it's actually amazing. Scary... but amazing!
February 4, 2016 at 11:43AM
'This script will self-destruct in 5 seconds'
February 4, 2016 at 12:00PM
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 12:29PM
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 1:52PM, Edited February 4, 1:53PM
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 3:11PM
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 4:48PM
Of course its only for Apple OS. I guess I'll stick to self-made discipline.
February 4, 2016 at 5:20PM
Sounds cool! What's that?
February 5, 2016 at 3:27AM
It's a myth created by our parents.
February 5, 2016 at 9:33AM
Thank God there's no Windows version!
February 4, 2016 at 5:24PM
This happens randomly on Windows 7. It's better because you have no idea when.
February 5, 2016 at 9:35AM
February 7, 2016 at 8:23AM
Ah, somebody put the terror of a final exam into an app.
February 4, 2016 at 9:26PM
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 1:14AM
What a brilliant idea!
February 5, 2016 at 4:04AM
Because what we really need is even More writing online
February 5, 2016 at 5:32AM
Just tried it on my phone. So fucking cool. No time for self doubt.
February 5, 2016 at 10:42AM
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 3:38PM
*gasp* Does that mean Linux? (yay!)
(probably just wishful thinking)
February 7, 2016 at 12:04PM
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:
February 8, 2016 at 9:53AM, Edited February 8, 9:58AM
Hey! I've tried the running the html but have been unsuccessful. Any tips?
April 4, 2016 at 8:30AM, Edited April 4, 8:30AM
February 8, 2016 at 9:35AM, Edited February 8, 9:52AM
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 5:06PM
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 7:27AM
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 11:08AM