Flowstate and Brainsparker: Two Great Apps for Writers
Do you frequently experience writer’s block? Do you struggle with concept generation or the ability to explore ideas to the point where great writing is possible? Do you find reaching a flow state a challenge? I admit to all of the above, and if you do too, I can help you. In today’s article, I share two iOS applications, Brainsparker and Flowstate, that support me with the aforementioned challenges. I find these apps invaluable in my writing process, and when used in tandem, launch me into a state of idea generation and focus that is optimal for productive writing.
Idea generation and sustained focus lie at the heart of every writer’s dream. Many seek, but few obtain, that precious flow state where time stops and concepts reveal themselves as though waves on the shore, never ceasing, daring you to ride a thought to completion before the next big set marches in. Words seem to magically appear upon the page.
We revere those who reach this state frequently and with ease. Gods of the pen (or keyboard) we say, gifted writers who never cease to amaze us with the quality and the quantity of their output. They dazzle in the moment and leave footprints in history; the immortals we remember for all-time. Flow it seems, comes naturally to them, or at the very least they hide from the masses the pains they endure to pen their great works. If following Robert Greene’s advice in the 48 Laws of Power, perhaps that is part of their plan.
And what of the rest of us? What of the mere mortals who may never reach the level of Dante or Voltaire, Rowling or Brown? What of those who write as a hobby or a side hustle, or just as a release to satisfy the inner desire to create? Brainsparker and Flowstate can help.
This nifty application mimics decks of cards and offers writing prompts on the back of every card. The cards organize into packs, and you have your pick of the following packs of cards:
There is something for every writer, and often I find myself exploring a variety of packs to see what sparks my interest. Quite a few articles on this site come from the blogger’s pack, though the innovator and coach’s pack spark their share of ideas as well.
As an example of a card in the blogger's pack:
While simple, Brainsparker does precisely what it is meant to do - spark ideas that you can use to develop philosophical concepts and various thought processes. You can keep it simple, or go as deep as your heart desires. You could ruminate on a card for years, or you could watch an idea flash in your mind for a brief moment, perhaps reinforcing a concept you already hold dear.
While designed with writers in mind, one must not be a writer to gain value from the various cards. The innovator's pack is fantastic for entrepreneurs, and I find value in the coach’s pack as well - fitting as you can imagine and would expect. I am biased of course and believe Brainsparker best used with a fountain pen and journal, but a keyboard, whiteboard, paintbrush, or even a nap are all valuable tools with which to explore the app.
If you’re stuck on a concept or just looking for a creative boost, Brainsparker will help.
If you don’t like pressure or anxiety, this might not be the application for you. Bold. Daring. Unforgiving. I happen to love the concept and wish Flowstate went further...more on that later. Flowstate is a bare-bones writing application - just you and the screen, and best used with a keyboard. To “type” with the thumbs is to miss the full experience, and this is an experience in which total immersion is beneficial.
The concept is simple, yet remarkable. You set a timer with your choice of one, five, 10, or 15-minute blocks. Then you start writing. So far so good, write? Now the brilliance - stop writing for five seconds and Flowstate erases your work. It disappears. Your writing is gone forever with no way to reclaim the words. There is no undo, no autosave, nothing. If you stop writing for five seconds, the app deletes your work, and you must start over or quit. Brilliant, indeed.
In grade school our teachers called this stream of consciousness writing...now we’ll call it Flowstate. Whatever it is, it certainly works. You must generate ideas quickly and keep them coming to satisfy the time goal and save your work.
Having said as much, the app is flexible. Perhaps you don’t want to save your work; you want to write and do it quickly for 15 minutes. Maybe you want to brainstorm, ideastorm, or vent. Yes, perhaps you want to vent for five minutes using a few choice words and would rather NOT save the work...what a fantastic meditation that would be! Vent, write, release, delete, breathe, love. Again brilliant, yes.
My only criticism of Flowstate is that I do not believe the app goes far enough. The company should make it harder still. For example, one could simply hit the space bar (or any other key) during a writing sprint to buy time and “fool” the app. That is cheating of course, but it is indeed possible. You can also use the delete key to edit your work while you write, which counts as a keystroke in the app and makes it much easier to satisfy the five-second rule.
Ideally, the delete key hit once deletes the entire work, and any key used three times in a row does the same. One could still work around that of course, but it would be a great way to train the brain to write, not edit. I recently mastered this through sheer will and deliberate practice, and I can now write for 15 minutes straight without hitting the delete key once. It may seem simple and not a worthy accomplishment...Before you judge me, open your favorite writing app, (or download Flowstate), set a timer for 15 minutes, promise not to stop writing for more than five seconds, then see how often you hit the delete key. It is a humbling experience, even for the most seasoned writers!
Next Level Flow
For maximum results, I use the apps in tandem. A favorite routine of mine is to pick a Brainsparker card, then move immediately to Flowstate and begin writing on the 15-minute setting. I don’t give myself time to think. I react, and the quick switch from idea spark to forced writing produces a flow state, without fail.
I should note - this style of writing does not produce my polished articles for publication, no, it is more so about idea generation and quickly putting thoughts “on the page” so to speak. This article, for example, started as a 15-minute Flowstate write; I rewrote the final version you now read with careful attention to structure, detail, and more conscious thought.
I encourage you to experiment with Brainsparker and Flowstate, and better yet, use them in tandem to force productive flow. I guarantee you will generate more and better ideas, and you will do it quickly. Happy writing!