Learning hath gained most by those books by which printers have lost.— Thomas Fuller
There are three classes of authors—those who write without thinking, those who think while writing, and those who think before writing.— Arthur Schopenhauer
The last thing that we discover in writing a book is to know what to put at the beginning.— Blaise Pascal
Good sense is both the first principle and parent-source of good writing. Hor.— Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace)
In writing readily, it does not follow that you write well; but in writing well, you must be able to write readily.— Quinclilian
If you are a writer you are sometimes tasked with writing as part of work assignments, then you have probably encountered the difficulty of getting the ideas in your head written down in a way that is actually usable. Sometimes the ideas don’t want to come, and the words don’t want to flow. Learning how to free write can help make your writing sessions more productive and less prone to blockages. Here’s how you can use freewriting to turn yourself into a better writer.
– What is freewriting?
Freewriting is a technique used to free up mental blocks that inhibit writers from writing. It is also used to tease out ideas that the writer may be having trouble expressing. Freewriting basically involves writing down a free and continuous flow of whatever comes into your mind over a set period of time. Generally, freewriting sessions take from five to twenty minutes depending on the time decided on, with sessions longer than twenty minutes generally being advised against as they become unproductive beyond that length. Grammar and spelling are not important during a freewriting session, as the flow of ideas is the desired outcome. The writer generally won’t re-read what they have written until the session has ended. Think of freewriting as like trying to clear a partial blockage in a pipe by letting water flow freely through it at maximum pressure.
– How to free write.
You begin a freewriting session by taking the time to clear your mind and relax your body. Remind yourself that no-one ever has to see or judge what you have written. You may get some useful ideas from the session, but the point of it is to loosen up your mind ready for a proper writing session. You are not trying to write actual content here – just to warm-up your mental writing muscles.
Your session should have a finite time limit set, so decide what that limit will be before you start. Consider setting a timer for the session, so you don’t have to keep checking a clock to see when the session ends. As you start the freewriting technique, set a five-minute limit, and expand the limit in future sessions as you gain more freewriting experience. If you are an experienced free-writer, then set a maximum twenty-minute session length. You can set longer sessions if you wish, but more than twenty minutes will usually result in you wandering too far from any coherent focus in your writing.
If you want to focus on a particular idea, then think about that idea before you start your session. Don’t be afraid to stray from that idea, though, as the direction you take may give you some insights.
Once the session starts, just start writing and don’t stop until the session ends. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or coherent writing as that is not what this exercise is about. If the idea you wanted to focus on for the session isn’t giving you anything to write down then just write whatever comes into your head. If you get bored, then write about how you feel bored. If you can’t think of an idea to write about, then just repeat any phrase you wish until something comes to you. The point is to encourage the free flow of words and ideas. You don’t need to worry about how much sense any of it makes, as it’s just an exercise.
Write continuously until the time limit is reached and then stop writing. Maybe take a short break to put yourself in a different frame of mind ready for the review of what you have written. Then go over what you wrote down and look for anything that may actually be usable for a real writing session. Look at the ideas you expressed and create a bullet list of items that may be worth building something substantial from.
Freewriting is not a technique that works for everybody, but if it works for you, then it can be an excellent approach to improve your writing and to help you get over writing blockages. It may also help you tease out ideas that are difficult to nail down when using a more direct approach. Remember that no-one needs to see what you have written. Even if you are freewriting as part of an assignment, you can always repeat the session if the first session didn’t produce anything that you want to share. So let the words flow and see where your freewriting session takes you.
Perhaps you feel like writing. You know deep within you that you have something you would like to share. Perhaps it is your own personal story. Maybe it is a book that will help you get your message out. But you ignore this feeling. There is no doubt that writing is tough. It is a skill developed on self-discovery and deep thought, both of which are time-consuming and emotionally draining. Just like proofreading, plotting, editing, and character development, and writing is a skill. Learning freewriting takes some patience and the ability to accept correction. Even a badly written piece can be educational. It can teach you the act of thinking deeply and clearly. Freewriting is, therefore, to the mind what yoga is to the body.
Freewriting is one of the most important forms of writing. The idea is to write some things down for a time period, or to fill up some pages, and not stop until you’re done writing. The topic you write on doesn’t matter much – only that you write, till the timer’s second stops. But there is more to freewriting than just to get a story for your novel. It is used in therapy and counseling as a means of handling trauma. It can help bloggers and writers deal with issues they are too scared to deal with in real life, and it gives an avenue to channel that nervous energy.
Benefits of Freewriting
Some reasons try freewriting are:
- It can help you develop your writing abilities
- Train your self to write without self-censorship
- It can drive inspiration
- It builds honesty in your writing
- Helps you find topics to write about. If you are not quite sure the subject to write about, whether a blog post, a personal experience, or as a journalist, freewriting can help you figure the right topic. Think of a place, person, feeling, or event that you value so much and write about it.
- It helps get rid of emotional barriers on a deeper level. For instance, if you find yourself always upset or annoyed by something, and you intend to figure out what the cause of that annoyance is, free write about it. Set a time limit and just begin writing.
- Accept yourself just the way you are. If you can learn to accept the topics you write about without judging yourself, you can accept the person behind the story without judgment.
Psychologically, freewriting is beneficial because:
- It can be relaxing
It is a form of meditation. While at it, you get to a trance where only your writing matters, and nothing else. Freewriting is all about getting the story out of your body. When psychologists and counselors recommend it, it is done to get rid of emotions that have built-up, such as anger.
- It is a good practice
You don’t edit or fix grammatical errors when freewriting. This way, your initial idea is not interrupted, which is the reason behind your writing. Editing is done after the writing is completed.
- It strengthens muscle memory and good habits
You are inherently creative as a writer. When you free-write for a period of time, you are tapping into your creativity, and flexing your creative muscles. They become stronger, the more you flex them. It is impossible to get good at writing without practice. Same way people lift weights to increase strength; you also write more to become a better writer.
- It develops self-confidence and trust.
As you write, you’re ultimately training yourself to have confidence. It is incredible when you learn to trust yourself in that way. And as earlier mentioned, this skill comes with much practice. Writing the first page is the most difficult aspect of writing, but when you decide to write, you’re telling yourself that you have an idea worthy of being written down. This sense of self-confidence will eventually find its way to other parts of your life.
Freewriting is similar to getting into a car and driving, without any destination or goal to attain – It is all about the process. If you have never given freewriting a shot, maybe because you feel intimidated writing for ten minutes or more without stopping, or you think it is a total waste of time, Give freewriting a try and do so without using technology. Get a notepad and a pen, which will change your focus and the way you think and work.