Have you suffered writers block? Well Free-writing is one technique that can help unblock your mind when there is no inspiration available to you. Are you worried about whether your writing is worthy of publication? Free-writing is all about getting something down on the page whether it is worthy of publication or not, it is about getting creative juices flowing and it matters nor whether you use pen and paper or a computer keyboard, the point is to get moving again.
What you write may simply be a bullet point list of important items or it may be some prose, complete or incomplete that comes to mind, perhaps recalling a conversation between two people discussing a subject that is important to you. The point is that by putting something down on the page you are, as a writer, moving your work forwards, creating ideas, somewhere to go, the point of the exercise is not, at this moment. to worry about misspellings, grammar, syntax or any other errors you may include along the way, but to put the idea down in some way, it is far from the final publication. This is all about, getting the core of an idea down on paper, the second stage allows you to build from there. Once the idea is written there is one key aspect to consider, you no longer have a blank page to fight with.
In some respects The National Novel Writing Month is all about getting 50,000 words written in a fixed period – the 30 days of the month of November.
Daily Exercise for the Mind
Some believe writers should start in the morning with a free writing exercise before moving on to the more serious tasks of the day. It is like an athlete warming up before their physical activity, they wish to stretch the muscles, so the writer wishes to stretch the muscles of the mind. Dorothea Brand was reportedly an early proponent when she suggested in her book “Becoming a Writer” (1934), prospective writers sit and write for 30 minutes every morning, as fast as they can, what they wrote about did not matter, it was anything that came to mind and getting as much down as possible was all that mattered, Peter Elbow and Julia Cameron, in “The Artists Way” (1992) have also advanced the concept of free-writing. “The Artists Way is regarded as a self-help book for writers with many exercises designed to assist people in gaining self-confidence in writing and harnessing their creative talents and skills, one method of personal development for the writer.
You should also be aware that it should not only be used as a daily exercise but as a way to move forwards when stuck. The technique involves continuous writing for a fixed period of time, say 15 or 30 minutes, without any thought to correct spelling or grammar, it is like a word-sprint, the exercise being to get as many words as you can down on the page. The writer may stray off topic in any numbers of directions. The point about going off topic is that it can allow the writer to get through whatever is blocking their forward motion, the thoughts lead where they may and often that is back to the starting point, this time armed with a new perspective.
The National Novel Writing Month contest also recommend 30 minute ‘sprints’ as a method of getting your work moving, they also recommend that you get involved with other authors on social media and share how your sprints progress through the month.
Not Simply an Exercise!
Personally I have used free-writing on many occasions to write something fresh on a subject I frequently write on. You do so by just sitting down with an idea in mind, perhaps the driver for doing this is reading something someone else has written, knowing what views you wish to outline, or perhaps those which you wish to refute. The basics of this approach are that you write (not so much with a time in mind, but with an aim to create, for example, a thousand word blog post), the outcome is rough, and mostly unresearched (although you may include the nub of is idea you have read about or worked on), with the knowledge that you will subsequently research it fully before final publication.
This creates a rough draft, that needs polishing and it often needs a lot of polishing to be fit for the world to see, but the point about free writing here is that you use it as a starting point for the work, some ideas may need to be added while others need to be removed to make the idea work. The point being with the right amount of polishing it can be just what your reader needed.
Not Ready for Publication
Those items we create as a part of a timed free writing exercise are normally not intended to be published, yet some free written works may, once polished be a candidate for publication and some people suggest we should all free write all of the time. The results of the National Novel Writing Month Sprints are meant to be included in the final work and therefore need editing along with the whole novel before being sent for publication.
We should recognise that there is a difference between getting the words or ideas down on the page and having them ready for publication. Sadly the Internet is littered with people who are willing to throw a few ideas together and press the “Publish” button at the earliest opportunity, Quality suffers when that happens and is one of the reasons why people say that 99.99 percent of everything published on the web is irrelevant. To be ready for publication, facts must be checked, the research must be completed, spelling and grammatical errors have to be corrected and the post must offer value to the reader.