Why all writers should practice free writing, and how
Free writing is writing quickly without regard for audience, spelling, grammar, or even clarity. The intent is to generate content fast, and then proceed with what’s working best or is most exciting to you.
The process is simple, but the benefits can be tremendous because free writing allows you to enter a head space where anything goes. Imagine the potential for creativity if you aren’t worried about who will be reading or where that comma goes!
Here are three solid benefits of free writing, plus a how-to:
Free writing = freedom.
The only rule of free writing is that there are no hard-and-fast rules. You can choose to frame your free-writing session with a specific prompt or question, or not. Your free write can be timed, or you can stop whenever it feels right to stop. You can experiment with literary devices or styles different from those you might normally employ, without disrupting an existing narrative. You can write about literally anything, and for a small time commitment, all while building 1) a pool of ideas and fragments to develop later, and 2) a habit of spending productive time in your own unique mode of creation and creativity. You won’t use everything you produce during free-writing sessions, but all time spent writing is valuable if you want to be a writer. Finally, free writing encourages you to write without self-judgment. The more you do so, and the more you produce in this manner, the more confident a writer you can become.
Free writing can help you navigate or bust blocks.
All writers get stuck sometimes. We all experience moments of not knowing where to start or how to continue a particular piece of writing. Taking a step back, dilating a troublesome scene, and free writing on it can either temporarily take your mind away from the story you can’t end, or can uncover a different path back into the story, one you hadn’t thought of before. Can’t decide what a particular character would do in a given situation? Take the character out of the setting and put her somewhere else. Free write about her in an entirely different time and place, interacting with entirely different characters, while an entirely different tension builds or resolves around her. You might learn something about your character that helps you advance your work-in-progress.
Free writing helps you establish and maintain a regular writing practice.
Because it’s fast and easy enough to do every day, and because it produces tangible results when you’re feeling stuck, free writing is going to keep you coming back to the page or screen. Whether you’re brand new to writing or just need some help coming up with new ideas or next steps, you are more likely to regularly utilize a method that actually works for getting words down, for releasing a flow of ideas and images. Say you’ve been wanting to write a piece of nonfiction about your childhood dog. You could agonize for weeks over how to start it, or you could free write today about everything you remember about the dog using sensory details, then choose the detail that most interests you and start your “real” story there. Agonizing gets you nowhere in terms of your writing practice, but free writing and using some of those details to start a new piece? That’s two writing sessions. Good for you.
So, how do you free write?
First, determine if you need help with a topic. If you have something in mind already (i.e., childhood dog), go with it. If you don’t, consider searching for a writing prompt, or create one yourself by looking around the room and choosing an object for which to write an imagined history, or picking a color, a food, an emotion, to explore in depth.
Once you have your topic, set a goal. Will you write for 10 minutes? Two pages? Or are you content to write until you’ve exhausted the idea? Speak your intention and resolve to stick to it as best you can.
The free-write begins when you have a first sentence or image recorded. Once you’ve started, don’t lift your pen from the paper or your hands from the keys. Write. Keep writing. Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t think about spelling, grammar, punctuation, plot, accuracy, logic, who might or might not be interested, what a reader might think, or even what you think. Just write. Your writing can be in fragments or complete sentences. It can be all about your chosen topic, or you can meander in and out, free-associating at will. The idea is to unlock a flow of ideas and go with that flow, wherever it leads. Write until you meet your goal.
Have you or will you practice free writing? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: 5 techniques for accessing your creative flow
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