The Flow State when Writing

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Last Sunday I hit a flow state. I hadn’t reached one in a while, and had forgotten just how amazing of a feeling it is. It started when Urgent Genius inspired me to quickly finish an article. They were running a 48 hour contest that I saw 3 hours before the deadline. The contest revolved around newsjacking something popular. To enter you needed a team of 3 to 8 people willing to work the weekend to create something brilliant. In other words, I wasn’t planning to enter the contest, but it felt like a good arbitrary deadline to work towards. It was due at 6pm, so at 3pm I headed to a coffee shop and spent the next few hours writing an article responding to Stop Stealing Dreams (a book released the week previous). I was hoping to reach a point where it was worth linking to, but wasn’t happy with how it turned out when I pressed submit at 5:57.

It felt more like trolling then a reasoned argument on the subject, so I wrote a far more researched follow up: Learning Math through Programming.

Still not happy, I headed home and ate.

Trying to think up a decent article, I listed out the classes he thought should be taught in schools. I didn’t see how those classes could be taught without losing far too much of our current curriculum. However, writing an article  combining the 28 standard high school classes in relation to his classes seemed like a lot of mental juggling. That’s probably why he never did it in the book. I decided I could sort it out with a reasonable infographic. Doing that by computer would mean spending more time staring at a screen, so instead I took out some construction paper, a sharpie, and a poster board and ended up with this: I got lost in creating the video, and when I put the finishing touches on the third article of the night, Adjusting the High School Curriculum, it was 2:30 and I wasn’t tired. I had energy from creating at a level of output I wasn’t used to. It ended up as 1800 words in 3 articles, a 3 minute video, and a collection of charts to boot.

The irony is I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. It felt like he watched:

which inspired him to read about a dozen books (listed in his bibliography) and then write a series of blog posts strung together in a ‘manifesto.’ Writing three posts on the subject made it seem like I had a disproportionate amount of passion for his book. It’s just that I am a huge geek when it comes to school policy reform, and this gave me an excuse to write about it.

I loved watching one article idea inspire 12 hours of work. It’s nice to hit that flow state from time to time. It reminds me of why I do this.

The trick is making it happen more often.