I wanted to expand more on freewriting, as I only touched on it briefly in a recent blog on Freewriting and Writing Prompts for Writer’s Block, and I believe it is an extremely useful tool, that is most likely being under-utilised, by many busy writers. I want to cover in more depth; what Freewriting really entails and what the benefits are of doing it daily.
What’s the point of wasting my time with an exercise like this, when I have so little time, you may ask…
The point is, that almost like a mindfulness technique, or active meditation, freewriting allows you to tap into your subconscious, and lets your mind reach of point of relaxation that can allow for deeper creative work, for when you actually get to the “real work” or “real writing”.
Just like performing aerobic exercise before writing or doing something academic. It allows you to be more creative, more open, more focused and more productive.
And then, if you don’t get to your ‘real work’ at least you’ve written something and exercised your creativity.
What is Freewriting?
It was originally developed Peter Elbow in 1973 as a writing strategy similar to brainstorming. It’s been touched on earlier though; Dorothea Brande recommended writing for 30 min every day non-stop, as detailed in her book “Becoming a Writer”. It has since been popularized by such authors as Julia Cameron in the “The Artist’s Way”) and Natalie Goldberg in the “Writing Down the Bones”.
‘To Freewrite’ means ‘to write freely’ (possibly to a prompt – this is called Directed or Focused Freewriting), and let the thoughts flow out of you, onto the page, without any interference. While freewriting is thought to be a ‘prewriting’ exercise; a more crafted and polished version is also seen in literature; that being the ‘Stream of Consciousness’ narrative technique. This literary device can be seen in such novels as Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway” and William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”.
The Process of Freewriting includes:
- Setting a time limit for yourself, and writing to that limit.
- Writing non-stop, without worrying about grammar or punctuation or looking back over your work. And especially not editing in any way.
The Purpose of Freewriting
The purpose of freewriting is to free up the brain, silence the censor, the left-hand side of the brain, and to just let yourself create. To get ideas, words, images out of your brain and onto the page.
Removing the critical editor of the brain from your work, allows the free, creative side of you to create what it wants, allowing freedom in choices and ideas, allowing for connections to be made, leaps between ideas, and allows for new growth and allows for actual original thought to come through. It also clears away clutter from your mind.
You can use Freewriting when…
- You can use freewriting as a warm up for your mind before you start your writing session. As freewriting is an exercise, it strengthens the creative right side of the brain.
- Freewriting is extremely beneficial when you think you might be blocked: to get you writing. To help entice you to the chair and start writing again.
Getting to the chair, sitting, and actually starting to write is the hardest part. Starting something that’s really important to you, is the hardest part of any experience. But once you get seated, and start to write, the hardest, scariest part is over. Once you actually start writing, even for 5 minutes – you are winning. You have won. And it’s much easier to keep going then. Just like working out…
Writing is like Exercising…
If you get up, get your gear on, and exercise for only 10 minutes, for starters, you get 10 minutes of exercise done, AND you’re very likely to keep going. And if you don’t keep going, no matter, you got a little bit of training done, and you’re helping to cement in your subconscious that you exercise, or write every day. That it is part of you, which you will not compromise. It is part of your daily routine. Never to be forgotten, or missed out on. It’s just as important as brushing your teeth each day.
When and where in your writing can you use freewriting techniques:
As mentioned above, it can be useful when you are feeling blocked, as a prewriting exercise, to entice (trick) you to the chair in an innocent way, and it can be used to:
- Generate ideas
- Create scene ideas
- Create descriptions
- Fill out plot holes
- Write a scene
- Write your whole novel, of course with a lot of revision. You can actually use it to write your first draft – it’s best if you have a plan to begin with and use the freewriting technique as a starting point from keywords and/or scene ideas. You could use it without a plan too, but this would lead to extensive revision and redrafting (i.e. the pantser method).
- You could use it as a narrative mode for a scene/paragraph/chapter (the stream of consciousness narrative mode).
Why is Freewriting Important, especially for Busy Writers?
You probably only have a small amount of time each day to keep up your daily writing habit or practice, so even if you only have time to freewrite each day, perhaps 5-10 minutes – this keeps up your practice and honours your promise and commitment to yourself to write daily.
Again, it’s so important to honour your promises to yourself and to your goals, reaffirming to your subconscious that writing actually is important to you and that you are committed, and you do it every day, no matter what. It helps to honour yourself and keeps the writing practice going.
It’s much harder if you lose momentum. You want to keep up your momentum because as soon as you stop writing, it’s super hard to get started again. Then you start procrastinating; possibly reading books on “How to Write” instead of just sitting your butt down and just writing some actual words.
To help you keep your momentum, it’s good to keep yourself accountable and log when you write. Mark off the days on a calendar with a big cross and keep it where you can see it, or mark it off in your planner or spreadsheet, for example. Once you’ve written for 30 days straight, and you can visually see that – it’s much harder to ‘break the chain’.
That’s the main reason to freewrite every day. Other reasons -some touched on above – include…
- It allows daily expression of your deeper self and ideas.
- You get rid of the rubbish floating around in your head.
- Reveals insights into your core values and themes you should be pursuing in your writing
- Gives you an ongoing source of ideas to rummage through when you’re running low.
- Every now and then I like to read over my freewriting and highlight key ideas, moving them to my ‘idea library’. Sometimes I’m able to take out full paragraphs or sentences or poems I’m proud of right away, and put them away somewhere safe for another time. Actually, after each freewrite session, I usually find I have found a new story to tell. I love starting new stories….. (my writing flaw comes from not being able to finish anything…)
I hope this clarify’s any questions you may have around the topic freewriting, and why it should be a priority in your daily writing practice.
Do you freewrite? Every day or now and then? How do you work it into your day? I’d love you hear your feedback. Please leave any comments or questions below.
Happy Writing 🙂