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? That worry can get in the way of writing. Free-writing is all about getting an idea down on the page whether, or not, it is worthy of publication. Indeed, remove any thought of publication from your mind.
The aim, to get those creative juices flowing. It matters nor whether you use pen and paper or a computer keyboard, the point is to get something written. It is better to write gobbledygook than leave the page blank. From gobbledygook better things will grow.
What you write may simply be a bullet point list of important items. Or a little prose. Complete or incomplete, it matter not, all you need to whatever comes to mind. Perhaps. recalling a conversation between two people discussing a peculiar subject. Going to the macabre or the ridiculous may work, even if you never go there. This is a brain-dump of the senseless.
It matters not that you wrote “Mao Zedong was the first to reach the south pole on the long May till September.” It is nonsense and we know it is not true. It is a product of free-writing, you will discard these when the real day starts.
The point is that by putting something down on the page you are, as a writer, moving your work forwards. Creating ideas, creating somewhere to go. The point of this exercise is not to worry about misspellings, grammar, syntax or any other errors you may include along the way. Put the idea down in some way, you are not seeking to please a publisher. Far from it. This is all about, getting the core of an idea down on paper. If an idea is worthy you can build it from there. Once written, there is one key aspect to consider, you no longer have a blank page to fight with.
50 Thousand Words
In some respects The National Novel Writing Month supports free-writing. It is all about getting 50,000 words written in a fixed period — the 30 days of the month of November.
The organisation that runs the event simply encourages people to dedicate the month the pure writing. You are not supposed to edit your work during that time. When I took part I actually edited yesterday’s work before continuing the story. It allowed me to discover new paths in the story. Add some character descriptive, or perhaps introduce a twist not seen the day before. I didn’t count this as editing, more a method to continue the story. A mental exercise, to get the juices flowing.
Yet for NaNoWriMo the writing is only the start of the process. They coach writers about the next steps. proof reading and editing your book. How to smooth over the rough edges.
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. Write 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. She is clearly demonstrating a way to exercise the mind, warming it up for the real event.
Peter Elbow and Julia Cameron, in “The Artists Way” (1992) have also advanced the concept of free-writing. Regarded as a seminal self-help book for writers. It has many exercises designed to assist in gaining self-confidence and harnessing creative talents. An all needed 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, say 15 or 30 minutes, without any thought to correct spelling or grammar.
It is like a word-sprint. The function, to get as many words as you can down on the page. The writer may stray off topic in any numbers of directions. This doesn’t matter. The point about going off topic is that it can allow the writer to get through whatever is blocking their forward motion. Thoughts lead where they may and often that is back to the starting point, this time armed with a new perspective, via a tangential arc.
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. Use it as a brain-storming technique, to start ideas flowing.
Do so by just sitting down with an idea in mind. Write it in the centro of the page. The driver for doing this is reading a piece someone else has written. Are they right? Are they wrong? Knowing what views you wish to outline, or perhaps those which you wish to refute could help the ideas to fruition.
The basics are that you write, not so much with a time in mind, but with an aim in mind. For example, a thousand word blog post. The outcome is rough, mostly unresearched. You may include the nub of is idea you have read about at the centre. How does that make you feel? That knowledge can help you subsequently research it. This leads to further development and refinement before final publication.
This creates a rough draft, that needs polishing. 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 viable. 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 for publication. Yet, some free written works may, once rounded and polished be a candidate for publication. Some people suggest we should all free-write all the time. The results of the National Novel Writing Month Sprints are 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. It is one of the reasons why people say that 99.99999 percent of everything published on the web is irrelevant. To be ready for publication, facts need checking, the research need completing. Spelling and grammatical errors have to be corrected and the post must offer value to the reader.
Other work by Peter Giblett
- Writing Technically, Cutting Courage & Others
- Power Blogging: Writing from your Reader’s Perspective?
- Over 1000 Web Articles, #amwriting and Still #Learning
- How to Analyze/Recognise the Top 5 Trends for Writing?
- Writing: Largely About having the Confidence to Do It!
Any thoughts? Leave a comment. Perhaps leave some free-writing of your own.
Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as thanks for discussing the concept of free-writing. What are you learning? The images included here are from royalty free public domain image collections, photographs from Pixabay.