What is freewriting? For me, I just put the pen or pencil to the paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and write. I usually don’t even know what I’m going to write until after I write it. Sound weird? Why don’t you try it?
In Writing Without Teachers, Peter Elbow offers some great insight to writers who may get writer’s block. Elbow encourages “non-stop or free uncensored writing,” in the initial steps of the writing process, followed much later by the editing process.
The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly. At least three times a week … The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write, “I can’t think of it.” Just put down something. The easiest thing is just to put down whatever is in your mind. If you get stuck it’s fine to write “I can’t think what to say, I can’t think what to say” as many times as you want; or repeat the last word you wrote over and over again … The only requirement is that you never stop. (3).
I first discovered Elbow’s book at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. His freewriting methods not only helped me through my academic studies, it still helps me overcome writer’s block at times. But sometimes, I still forget to let go of my planning, organizing, self-editing, or trying to make it sound good. In fact, I needed this reminder to do some more freewriting on the project that I’m working on right now.
Since this theme of my personal blog is BLESSED, I want to mention some of the blessings of freewriting. Freewriting serves as an emotional outlet for me–my writing and healing therapy. Often I just rip out the page that I’ve just written and shred it (or delete it). Why? Some of my freewriting doesn’t need to be read by another human being.
When my emotions are out of control, or when I’m stuck in my writing projects– freewriting is my means of escape. It helps me press pass the cobwebs in my mind and see things from a different perspective. With just a few minutes of freewriting, I’m able to view my thoughts more objectively.
I also encourage other writing to practice regular freewriting. It builds my confidence as a writer and provides a source of creative inspiration. And I know implementing this technique in the writing process helps a lot of writers.
Even Peter Elbow struggled with the writing process. But that’s how he discovered freewriting for himself. In the introduction to his book, Writing Without Teachers, Elbow says:
It was a kind of declaration of independence in writing: independence from care, control, planning, order, steering, trying to get it right, trying to get it good … I felt obliged to plan my writing, make it good, keep control, figure out my point ahead of time with outlines, and so on … realizing that my survival depended on forcing myself to have early drafts no matter how bad they were—I finally learned that I could write decent stuff if I let go of planning, control, and vigilance. I had to write down without stopping whatever came to me in my thinking about my general topic, and above all I had to stop worrying about whether what I was writing at the moment was any good. I had to invite chaos and bad writing. Then, after I had written a lot and figured out a lot of thinking, I could go back and find order and reassert control and try to make it good. If I wanted to get quality—indeed if I wanted to fining the job at all—I had to invite garbage and nonsense.
Maybe you’ve never considered freewriting, or you’ve stuck in your current writing project. Consider free writing, and let me know what you think.
Some people cringe at the thought of freewriting. Do you?
YouTube/svsugvcarter (Peter Elbow – On Writing)
- Selected works of Peter Elbow http://works.bepress.com/peter_elbow
- Freewriting exercises http://castle.eiu.edu (Mary Lieske)
Karen Jordan encourages others to “tell the stories that matter most.” Find links to her writing workshops, speaking topics, and other online connections on her personal blog/website (www.karenbarnesjordan.com).