How I Remove Friction from Writing

Aaron Mahnke has a great post on Frictionless Writing:

Any place I can find friction, and remove it, is an area of my life or business that I can push closer to my goals. So naturally, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to smooth my processes and methods for doing things. And my writing time is no different. Over the years I have gathered a number of helpful tips for making the writing process as smooth and frictionless as possible

I think about this concept often. As I wrote in a recent post, the easier it is to start writing, the better the chance of writing actually taking place. Writing could be as simple as opening a new document on your computer, but sometimes even that seems like a lot of work. So the goal is to make that process as simple as possible. For example, I use Alfred to launch Byword (a very frictionless text editor) in just a couple of keystrokes. It's easier than going down to my dock or into the Finder to double click on an application. Those few seconds often make a big difference.


Aaron divides his frictionless writing process into three areas, the first of which is Capture. After reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, I realized how important it is to be able to capture any idea — no matter how small — in the moment. It frees you from trying to remember things, which keeps your brain clear, calm, and relaxed.

My iPhone is always within arm's reach, so I often capture ideas in Omnifocus or Notesy. I also just started playing with Noted!, an app I found via Patrick Rhone. It lets you instantly type and email a note to yourself, which works well for me. I keep my inbox empty as much as possible, so if there's something in there, it means something needs my attention. I'll often email a tweet to myself if it contains a link I don't have time to check out at the time. I'm always going to check my email, so putting things there is a good way to ensure I don't miss anything.

I bought my first pack of Field Notes late last year. They're great, but I haven't yet developed the habit of carrying one with me all the time. I'm torn between keeping my pockets empty and being able to jot something down freehand. Carrying a notebook also means carrying a pen, so I have to give it some more thought. I'm leaning towards carrying one though.

Speaking of writing freehand, I also keep a scratchpad next to my computer, which is great for capturing random thoughts, making lists, and outlining posts while I'm at my desk.

I usually get ideas when I'm reading my RSS feeds in Reeder. I always get my feeds down to zero every couple of days, so when I come across something that I want to link to/write about, I just keep it unread until I have time to do so.


Management, Aaron's second aspect of frictionless writing, is probably my least systemized. All of my writing for this website is stored in a single folder in Dropbox. Link posts are named in a "Link - Author Title" format, while my original pieces are named with their title.

Now that I think about it, practically everything on my computer is stored in Dropbox. I've yet to setup a proper backup solution, but if my computer did spontaneously combust, all of my documents would be retrievable via Dropbox. My passwords and software information is stored in 1Password, and most of my apps are from the Mac App Store and easy to redownload. All of my music is kept on an external hard drive and is synced with iCloud/iTunes Match. I'm not a huge picture or video guy, but I suppose I do need a backup plan for those. At some point, I'll buy a second external hard drive and make copies with SuperDuper. According to DaisyDisk, I'm only using 47 GB of my MacBook Pro's 250 GB hard drive, and I could probably stand to clear some stuff out. Good to know when buying my next Mac.


Aaron concludes with the importance of Prioritization:

So after finding the best method for capturing your ideas, and building the right system for managing all of it, the final key is to install a sense of urgency and priority around our ideas. To grow as a writer, it is important to write. And it is easier to sit down to write with a nicely collected tome of ideas and sketches than it is when you can’t remember the great ideas you know you’ve lost.

This is something I've been trying to focus on in the new year, especially as I try to write more original pieces for the site. Writing something of my own Monday through Friday is a challenge, but the thrill of hitting Publish and sharing it with others is incredibly rewarding and worth it. But, my publishing goal also means I can't afford to skimp on my capture or management systems. If my system makes it easy to lose ideas, writing becomes much harder. Any stray thought could develop into a great idea, which could turn into a strong post. As such, I need to minimize the risk of losing my ideas by being able to capture and manage my thoughts quickly and easily.

The systems I have in place seem to be working pretty well so far, but I'll undoubtedly continue to tinker and refine them as time goes on. Writing is hard work, so like Aaron, my biggest focus is to make it as frictionless as possible. The easier it is to get ideas out of my head and onto my computer screen, the more likely others will get to read them.