Last year I wrote a thread on X about the writing rhythms of three of the greats: Tarantino, Hemingway, and Bukowski. These three writers were interesting to me. They didn’t have rigid timetables. But they did have backdoor ways of generating productive work sessions. Instead of following a strict schedule, they dipped in and out of a state that people call “flow.”
They’d write, then recharge.
They’d reap, then they’d sow.
As mercurial as this sounds, as obsessive and committed and focused as great writers appear from afar, the good news is anyone can do this.
Give or take.
I think the one caveat is that to be a great writer you have to love reading and writing and you have to do both every day.
The 21st Century does not naturally support flow states. So the tragedy is that you can spend your entire career operating on the cusp of creativity. We are tied, like Pavlovian dogs, to devices. Dopaminergic dingles are strong.
If you’re a copywriter, does the following sound familiar?
Your most productive states come only when the stakes are highest, when the deadline is closing in, and when necessity has replaced ingenuity.
But you should know your brain is resourceful and coachable and an absolute BEAST just waiting to be unleashed under the right conditions.
If you prefer not to be smothered by the slavering maw of AI in the next ten years? The thing that’s going to save you is getting good at learning, creativity, and productivity. I’m going to describe the best way to do that for most people. It’s simple and elegant and insanely powerful.
I think you’ll be glad you opened this newsletter.
How to Get Into Flow
You know that saying, “Nothing tastes as good as being in shape feels?”
I agree with this (with the occasional exception like a nice bowl of custard.)
But the exciting thing if you’ve never had a “flow habit” is that once you start cranking out copy at an accelerated rate, you will never want to go back to the struggle.
Writing copy at speed, on-demand, every day of the week feels better than a diet of distraction and lukewarm writing sessions.
I’m going to describe what to do now.
You are going to be disappointed and unimpressed.
Then I am going to add the nuance everyone else forgets that makes it actually work.
You can decide for yourself if it’s something you are going to experiment with.
Here’s what to do:
Wake up and get to work.
How to Prepare for Flow
Yes, I’ve just dropped a class-A productivity cliché.
But before you dismiss it outright ask yourself two questions:
- Can you currently access flow every day of the week?
- Have you actually tried this the way I lay out below?
So as Jennifer Anniston used to say with a flick of her hair in 90s television ads for L’Oreal . . .
“Here comes the science bit!”
Plan the night before. It’s important you give your brain the opportunity to work on the task while you’re asleep. This means that any research you need to do should already be done when you sit down to write. So, outline your task, do the research, prep the page and have a clear goal. For example, “write 16 headlines and the lead.”
Get straight to it. The shorter the period between you waking up and starting to type, the better. No snoozing, no brewing coffee, no meditating, none of that. The aim of the game is to carry your brain from the pillow to your computer with minimal inputs and start typing as soon as possible.
At first, your brain will resist. You have to overcome the initial pushback and get used to the situation without succumbing to distraction. You have to fight for control over your psychic energy. In The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield calls this “The Resistance.” It is real and a true goblin. I write in Apple Notes or Ulysses instead of a Google Doc to avoid the temptation to quickly look something up. If you do that, you lose.
A final warning before you start experimenting:
This is not simply a cognitive “hack.” It is not enough to know conceptually that this works. There is a cost attached and that cost is commitment of emotion and will.
You must practice and apply consistency to the discipline.
But when you do, it comes with economies of scale. You are writing copy according to molecular doctrine and the laws of the universe.
I got up at 05:30 on Monday morning.
I splashed my face with water.
Then I walked over to my laptop on the kitchen table, opened it with the Apple Notes app already on the screen, blinked twice and started typing.
It took 22 minutes.
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