Writer vs Writing App (Spoiler, The App Wins)

It’s called Flowstate and it’s the cruelest and most ingenious writing app I’ve ever used.

Basically, it’s a writing app for those who want to infuse their writing session with a mild shot of adrenaline. After you type your first key, the timer subtly ticks away and your job as the writer is to keep typing. If you stop typing for around eight seconds, all the words you’ve written so far begin to fade away. If you don’t save it by typing in time, everything you wrote thus far is deleted. As in gone, and unrecoverable. Blip.

So I went out and purchased the app that deletes my writing.

Hey, I like a challenge and it is useful to jumpstart myself into, well, flow state. Writing on a timer with devastating stakes for the first ten minutes of my writing time sets a pretty strong tone for productivity. Also, the possibility of losing my work reminds me to release attachment to it, which is another valuable practice.

All dramatics aside, it usually goes pretty well and I catch the fade in time. Almost always, I don’t even realize I’ve stopped typing until I see the page start to fade. As a practice for keeping in flow, I find it a very helpful habit-forming tool overall.

The first time that I lost my work by virtue of keystroke neglect, it was a bit anticlimactic. I guess I expected some sort of hard buzzer, a timer reset, or perhaps a flashing skull and crossbones. Nope. The timer simply kept counting down as the cursor continued to blink patiently on a fresh, white screen, silent and indifferent to my loss.

The next thing I wrote in that same session became the following dialogue with the app and an interesting inquiry about expectations and unspoken rules for living.

As it turns out, this app is pretty sassy.

ME: “Damn. My writing went away! Yet it just goes blank yet the timer continues and I still have to type in the wake of that. That’s crazy.”

APP: “Not really. Nothing crazy about it. You keep typing, it stays. You stop, it goes away. It says so when you download the app. I don’t see the problem.”

ME: “Well, it’s just that it isn’t fair in some way.”

APP: “How so?”

ME: “To actually delete it?”

APP: “You didn’t know when you started?”

ME: “I knew.”

APP: “Then how is doing what you already knew it would do unfair?”

ME: “It was supposed to just say that and not really do it.”

APP: “I see.”

ME: “So it’s not fair because it was fair?”

APP: “No.”

ME: “Then how is it not fair?”

ME: “Because it was supposed to give me more chances.”

APP: “I see.”

ME: “Yes, it was supposed to say ‘Are you sure? Or, you are running over. You failed but I’m not REALLY going to delete your words because you are a nice person and I want you to come back’.”

APP: “I see.”

ME: “No I don’t think you do.”

APP: “How do i not see?”

ME: “You say you see but you don’t agree.”

APP: “I can see and not agree.”

ME: “Yeah. You can. But…”

APP: “Your rules are confusing. They aren’t really rules and they aren’t really defined. Yet I’m supposed to abide by them. Let me ask you this, how can you ever be pleased if you don’t even know your own rules that you expect to be followed. And then you place fault outside of you when you’re disappointed.”

ME: “No.”

APP: “So it is not my fault if I delete your words?”

ME: “It is your fault.”

APP: “I don’t see.”

ME: “It’s your fault if you actually delete them.”

APP: “So is it ever your fault if I delete them, even if you said that you knew it would happen and you agreed to play the game in the first place?”

ME: “Yes.”

APP: “Hm.”

ME: “But, not this time.”

APP: “Is that one of your rules? That you choose when to be responsible and now isn’t one of those times?”

ME: “Yeah.”

APP: “I have an idea.”

ME: “What?”

APP: “It’s sort of radical.”

ME: “Try me.”

APP: “Well, you’re tricky to try, you and your slippery rules.”

ME: “I don’t think they are slippery. My rules are solid.”

APP: “You think?”

ME: “Yes. They are what they are… that day.”

APP: “Okay. I’m going to tell you my idea.”

ME: “Please. I’m running out of time.”

APP: “I thought you had plenty of time.”

ME: “I did. Until I got uncomfortable. Now I don’t have as much time.”

APP: “Never mind.”

ME: “Why? This is fun.”

APP: “Fun for you.”

ME: “You don’t have to quit just because you’re not winning.”

APP: “Really?”

ME: “Yes. It’s not always going to go your way.”

APP: “I see.”

ME: “Do you?”

APP: “I see what I see. You see what you see. And what we see isn’t always going to agree.”

ME: “I agree.”

APP: ”So let’s agree not to see what each of us can see, at least for now. Okay?”

ME: ”Okay.”

APP: “Can we move on?”

ME: “Yes.”

APP: “Great.”

ME: “So… the timer is done. Want to try again for another five minutes of flow state writing?”

APP: “No.”

Also published on Medium.