In the Flow

Janne Kemppainen |

I’ve been investigating different methods of personal note management, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to keep my notes as plaintext Markdown files for the best future compatibility. One of the tools that I’ve been trying out is Obsidian. At some point I will probably write a comparison of the different software I’ve been trying out, but this post is actually about getting into the flow state of writing.

This story began a bit unexpectedly. For some time Obsidian has supported community plugins, so people can extend the editor in new directions. As I was scrolling down the list of available plugins I stumbled across one called Dangerzone Writing. This plugin draws inspiration from the FlowState app that introduced a new risky style of typing when it was launched in 2016.

The idea is simply this: if you stop to think for too long, everything you’ve written will be deleted.. So of course I needed to test it out!

I installed the plugin, tried some one-minute sessions to get a feeling for how the extension actually worked, and then battle tested it with my daily journal. I set the text deletion threshold to eight seconds, the total session length to ten minutes, and started typing.

Normally, I’m super slow when it comes to writing blog posts. Not because I’m bad at typing, but because I tend to stop to think too much, or get distracted. The posts that I write usually need quite a lot of investigation, and I also need to test any code that I intend to embed. If you combine this with procrastination and a tendency to do a million things at once you’ll understand that it’s a doomed recipe.

After those then minutes had passed, I had 325 words on the figurative paper.

The first time I did this it was a weird feeling. I just let my thought process move from one point to the next without worrying about the final resullt. Still, the text that I produced was surprisingly coherent. I felt inspired to write more.

Now I’m thinking of approaching the blogging problem from a different angle. Instead of going step by step to produce the final text on one pass I can start writing an initial draft with the content that I think should be included in the post. I’m sure this is The Way that is taught to professional writers but as I’m not a pro I just need to keep learning the ways.

Anyway, I can see that this has many benefits:

  • I stop overanalyzing
  • I actually start writing
  • I can get a quick draft that can be refined later as needed
  • I will have an overall structure for the post

And if it would only take 10 minutes of forced concentration I’d call that a win!

The plugin itself is not actually as dangerous as it sounds. While yes, the text gets deleted when you stop typing for the configured time, you can easily undo the change with the Ctrl/Cmd+Z command. And if you’re at all serious about your notes you should already have them under version control in Git.

I might also be wrong, and maybe the method won’t work for the technical articles that I write. I definitely need to do some more experimenting. But at least I can start using it for my daily notes. Sitting down for ten minutes to write down today’s thoughts doesn’t sound that bad, eh?

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