I am talking to that person inside everyone who has ever written or tried to write: that someone who has wrestled with words, who seeks power in words, who has often gotten discouraged, but who also sense the possibility of achieving real writing power.
Writing With Power, p. 6Peter Elbow
Sometimes, writing is more a chore than a choice. There, I said it. Writing can be the most torturous, laborious, boring, and discouraging thing ever. Not including having to suffer through a so-called “great” American novel. Or having to tolerate someone’s explanation why William Shakespeare couldn’t have written his own works, followed by some poor misguided person lauding “No Fear” Shakespeare.
But, I am a writer. I must write and produce, or the art stagnates. And I don’t have a hope of getting paid either. Talk about insult to injury.
What happens when you lack the will, energy, or emotional fortitude to produce anything?
Well, it’s time to explore the power of freewriting.
How to Freewrite in Three Easy Steps Wherever You Are
You can freewrite wherever you are. At the airport? Take out a notebook and freewrite. Are you getting a coffee at your favorite local spot? Take a few minutes and free write. All you need are writing materials, at least 10 minutes, and set intentions.
Step 1: Have a pencil (or pen) and paper ready to go.
You can, of course, freewrite on your computer or smartphone. But I have found handwriting better if your goal is to jumpstart your creativity. Typing out the words gives you a slight disconnect between your thoughts, your emotions, and expressing them.
It’s not the same as pulling out a special notebook, sharpening your pencil (or uncapping your pen) and going about things the old-fashioned way. If pen and paper were good enough for Shakespeare, they should be good enough for the rest of us, right?
Step 2: Set your timer and your intentions.
Peter Elbow recommends you just write, with or without intentions. I disagree. I think you should always set intentions before you do any form of exercise. Even a creative exercise. If you are trying to get to the truth of a subject, then you should set intentions if only to direct your efforts, subconciously.
Once you have your intentions clear, set your timer for at least 10 minutes. It can be longer, if you wish and if the 10 minutes are up and you’re still writing, keep going! Don’t let something like a timer stop you.
That being said, 10 minutes of writing non-stop is quite an effort and you may find yourself pressed to finish even that much.
Step 3: Start your timer and write.
You have your notebook, your writing implement, your timer, and your intentions set and ready to go. Now write!
Let the word pour out. Don’t worry about grammar, syntax, or even what it is you are writing. You are allowing yourself to express whatever comes to you in these few minutes. Let it free you from everything.
And I do mean everything. Right, wrong, social convention, morality, everything. Just write. Don’t stop.
On a spiritual level, you are purging yourself. Purgation means you may produce some dark, rotten, and yes, even abhorrent stuff.
But if you’re writing a villain for your next novel, you should allow your dark side to reign for a just a bit. Even if it’s only to throw everything away afterwards.
10 Minutes to Regain Clarity (and Sanity)
Freewriting is the easiest way to get words on paper and the best all-around practice in writing I knowPeter Elbow
I discovered the 10-minute free write in college. One of our textbook was Writing with Power by Peter Elbow and we actively practiced his advice on freewriting.
Each class period, someone would write a quote up on the board and we’d spend the first 10 minutes of class writing about it. In whatever way came to us in those 10 minutes.
It’s a practice I still use today when I sit down to write the next blog post. And I use it more and more often the more I refine and hone my craft.
Because it also helps you regain clarity when you’re suffering from information overload. And, let’s face it, we have more information at our fingertips than ever and information overload is almost a daily occurrence now. Claim back a bit of your sanity and allow yourself the time to synthesize your thoughts with your research.
In that way, it’s a little like journaling. Freewriting allows you to work through your own thoughts and feelings on a topic to bring clarity and objectivity to a particular subject. It allows you to assimilate the extra information you’ve discovered.
If you aren’t sure where you stand on a particular topic, you can’t necessarily write anything compelling about it. If worse comes to worse, you end up chasing your tail.
Setting aside a mere 10 minutes to write non-stop about the topic in question can be a lifesaver.
Your Writing will Flow more Naturally
Freewriting sets you free from the rules of grammar, convention, and even self-limitation. Writing non-stop for such a short time may not seem like it would do much in the broad scheme of things, but sometimes those 10 minutes of freedom are all you need to get past whatever self-limiting belief you have.
You are simply putting thoughts, and emotions into words and letting them flow onto the paper. It’s the purest form of creativity there is. You’re sitting there with nothing except yourself. You are creating something. It may be nothing worth putting into a blog post, but if it brings clarity, then those 10 minutes have were well spent.
Grammar doesn’t matter in the free write. Neither does style. In fact, you will find your own voice while you are freewriting.
How Freewriting Changed My Life
There’s no pressure in freewriting. I am an anxious person with a large side of depression. For all of you out there with similar mental health struggles, you know how debilitating that can be.
Before freewriting came into my life. I struggled. I couldn’t find my voice, my style, and creativity was patchy at best and nonexistent at worst. I dreaded writing essays or anything else for that matter. I did it, but it didn’t come naturally to me.
Freewriting changed all of that. And is still changing it.
Practicing the freewrite may take a little more effort, but it can sometimes lead to bigger, and better, writing projects. Like novels, blogs, and yes, even jobs. My freewrites over the years have amassed into enough material for me to start my first novel.
And they helped me finish my bachelor’s degree. I produced some of my best work after I started freewriting. And I continued to write long after graduation when my depression symptoms threatened to get the best of me. They allowed me to reconnect with who I was and what made me who I am.
A couple of years ago, they allowed me to piece together the basis of what will become my first novel.
All my characters? Born out of ten-minute free writes at some point. I got an idea of the character’s type and allowed myself to let go.
Even now, while I’m still sketching out plot arcs, I use the freewrite to get me past rough spots.
Ready to try it? Let me know how it goes!
Let me know in the comments or connect with me on social media how your own 10-minute exercises have gone. Also, share this post with someone you know who’s stuck in their creativity.
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