Don’t Break the Flow and Take a Break

Don’t Break the Flow, Part I

Flow creates fluency. When your writing is flowing, it is likely to be read more naturally. But writing fluently is not trivial, especially when you have to think simultaneously about the content and “technical” issues like phrasing, using the correct terms, or referencing external resources.

The first and most important thing I do to keep the flow while writing is to design my content first. When I plan what I am about to say, the logical structure of the content and my arguments, and what should be omitted, I don’t have to think about these important things while writing. Decoupling the design from the actual writing enables me to keep my mind on how I write and not be bothered with what I write (simply because I’ve done that already).

Don’t Break the Flow, Part II

Another thing that helps me keep the flow of writing is the opposite in some sense: while some things are done before I write (the design), I feel free to postpone some things until after I write the first draft. Which things? The things that are about to get me stuck and break the flow.

It is not uncommon that while writing, I feel compelled to check, verify, or revisit something. Sometimes, that thing is a key point in my argument or logic. In these cases, I do stop and confirm I am on the right logical track. But in many cases, the thing that is about to break my flow is more trivial. I might not be sure about some phrasing or the usage of some terms, or I am missing an external reference to support a statement. Breaking the flow of writing to resolve such things is not effective. But I obviously don’t want to leave them unattended either. And so, I have a simple notation I add to the text as I write to remind myself to come back to this issue later — something like a ‘@‘ symbol that is easy to search once I finish writing the first draft. Any marking you can add seamlessly as you write (without looking for some menu item or an esoteric keyboard shortcut) will do.

Once the draft is finalized, I read it (more than once, actually), and this is the perfect time to revisit all these open issues and perfect the text.

Take a Break

Writing fluently is essential, but so is taking a break. I, for one, cannot write for more than 20-25 minutes without letting my hands rest. But these breaks also serve a deeper purpose. They allow things to sink in. Even without intending to, when I am on a break, I process what I wrote and (sometimes unconsciously) plan the next steps.

Having a design ready helps me do that. I know what should happen next in the text, but now, the picture is clearer once I have written a few new paragraphs. Hopefully, the following steps still make sense. But I might also feel I need to elaborate more. Alternatively, I might think I wrote too much about some point and started to repeat myself.

All this will be much clearer when I read the draft later. But these breaks I take allow some of these realizations to surface as the text is being crafted.

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