“The main thing about free writing is that it is non-editing. . . . Practiced regularly, it undoes the ingrained habit of editing at the same time you are trying to produce.” – Peter Elbow
As writers, letting go is difficult (at least for me). Oftentimes I find myself self-editing as I’m writing, crossing out lines I hate or using the backspace button more than producing actual words. I struggle to let go of my characters as I’ve envisioned them, to let them freely unfold before me. I struggle to let go of story lines as I see them laid out, to choose a more natural progression. My fear of letting go holds me back from allowing my stories to burst forth as I believe they want to.
That’s why free writing is so important. Look at that quote at the top of this post. If we practice free writing – sometimes called “stream-of-consciousness” or “train-of-thought” writing, even in short bursts, even only once a week, we’re reworking our muscle memory. We’re beginning to ingrain the practice of non-editing.
So we’re starting something new here at TWC – Free Write Fridays! Every Friday we’ll supply a new free writing prompt for you to respond to. Then you can upload your finished product on Watt Pad or let us know in the comments how the exercise went, either here or in our Facebook group.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Choose your method – Think about your preferred writing outlet. Do you tend to edit yourself more when you’re typing on your laptop or writing longhand in your journal? Where do you feel the absolute most comfortable when you’re writing?
Set a timer – Whether it’s ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes that you’re setting aside to free write, go ahead and set a timer to keep you corralled. If you’re like me (a self-editing maniac) free writing might be difficult for you the first few times. Start with a shorter amount of time. BUT, if you’re still furiously moving your pen across the page after the timer goes off, don’t stop! Let your mind take you where it will.
Remove distractions – Put your phone in your bag or across the room. Don’t sit on the couch with the TV in front of you (unless you’re way more disciplined than I am, then by all means sit on the couch… I just can’t stay away from Netflix)! If you’re inspired by nature, sit on your porch or take a walk and find a bench. Take a few deep breaths; focus on centering yourself in the moment.
Just write – The practice of free writing is in the name… it’s all about freedom. Take the prompt and let your mind carry you in a thousand different directions. Don’t be afraid if it’s an incoherent mess of disconnected thoughts, because that’s the point! Editing, while obviously extremely useful, can sometimes be a manifestation of fear that can keep us from producing our best work. Be free, writers!
Now it’s time for your prompt. Even if it’s only five minutes, try to intentionally set aside at least five or ten minutes today. When you’re done share your product with us or let us know how this exercise went for you. Now go write, writers!