Most people learn about freewriting in school. It’s taught as one of several methods of prewriting, stuff you do to generate ideas for a paper. Freewriting has found a home in many lesson plans amidst things like mind maps, outlines, and brainstorming.
Take a trip back down memory lane to your early days of school. You’re sitting in a classroom and your teacher tells you to take out your pen and write without stopping for five or ten minutes.
Ten minutes pass in a hypnotic swirl as you engage the world’s most psychedelic way to write.
You’re in the flow.
1. The trip continues until it finishes.
If you drop acid, you’ve taken your trip. When you freewrite, you commit to writing without stopping until you reach the opposite shore. Whether you have decided to write for ten minutes or ten hours, your pen doesn’t stop. Whether you have something to say or not, you follow the momentum of your writing utensil. You take the trip and it’s over when it’s over, not when you decide it is.
2. You come up with ideas without really trying.
You’re on autopilot. Inspiration is a superb air traffic controller. When you freewrite, inspiration lands the ideas for you.
You write, and you write. Everything happens with a sense of jittery excitement.
Where do the ideas come from? Maybe they’re your ideas, and maybe they really did come from someplace in the other end of the Pleiades.
3. It’s illegal in some communities.
You aren’t supposed to write without stopping. To many people, freewriting feels illegal because they have been conditioned to only write when they have something to say. With freewriting, you don’t have to wait — anyway, you can’t wait. You have to maintain constant forward momentum.
Writing is not always like speaking. It can be a lot harder to craft meaning in writing than speaking. There is a different sense of rhythm and mechanics. With writing, you are engaging a less immediately visceral mode of symbolic representation. Writing relies on letters and words and correct sentence structure so that thought and feelings ride that structure and can be communicated to your reader.
Whereas with speech — well, you can do a lot through body language and innuendo, and it can all be very very grammatically incoherent.
In freewriting, you engage the flow, and you do so before you have something to say, and you continue it when you run out of things to say. You follow the flow and the rest of the universe lines up to meet that flow. Eventually you have something to say, and that gets put there on the page along with all the mess before it and all the who-knows-what after it. Because you create a written record as you flow, you can return to that later and extract that, leaving the rest.
Why should such a process be so controversial for us? It’s not that freewriting is really a controversial technique, but it does attack a pretty heavy preconception about writing and creating, that you need to first know what you’re saying and only then are you allowed to perform.
Writing is, however, a private performance. No one else is there watching over your shoulder when you draft. Only the creative impulse is there. Later on, your critical impulse can visit what you write and make it all so very beautiful and coherent.
4. The Bubble Effect
Another way that freewriting is like an acid trip is that it brings a bubble effect, acting like a kind of magnifying glass for your perception of the moment.
It gives you vibrancy and greater intensity as you work. Because freewriting is often done against the clock, you work against a sense of immediacy if not urgency. You can’t stop, and you have to move forward.
And for your own sake, you want there to be something golden in what you are having to write. Most people don’t want to write and write nonsense. You can totally choose to indulge your whims and goof off for awhile, though at some point you’ll get tired of that and eventually you’ll want to really produce something, get somewhere.
And because of freewriting’s constant forward momentum, it always happens now. Each and every pivot of mind can feel monumental and enlivening.
5. It Brings Awakening
Freewriting is stimulating. It opens the doors of perception. It blows out the cobwebs of your mind and chakras. You open yourself to allow creativity to flow through. Making yourself transparent to the process, you turn yourself upward to inspiration and say “Here, these ten minutes are entirely yours. I will set aside the tyranny of writer’s block and habitual thinking and really make space for you to make something happen through language. I will put myself at risk. I will risk incoherence, I will risk saying something silly, something that I may or may not believe, I will risk frustrating my critical side because I am not following my usual stop-and-write, write-and-stop method. I am upsetting my habitual nature.”
6. You Can Do It As A Group
Freewriting is something you can take with you into collaborations with other people. It’s just a more interesting way of working.
I have led many collaborative interactive freewriting sessions and writing marathons at Writing Immersion retreats and I have to say that writing nonstop for any length of time in a group setting really brings a space. It is inspiring, intimidating, habit-forming, and sometimes hilarious. We can all help each other share ideas and beat the block. We’re all in it together. We get the vibe. We have common enemies: obscurity, isolation, and a slumbering creative drive.
Far better than this is to be in a group where other people are also in the flow, making magic happen, putting words on the page and coming up with new ideas by the handful. When we don’t know what to make of things, we can turn to someone else and trade pages, and take their writing as our own, be invited to collaborate. We can find what was hidden to them and bring it forth. The whole room of writers can mix and flourish. It’s a beautiful thing.
7. Once You’ve Done It, You Won’t Forget It
Even if a single session doesn’t make you instantly amazing and solve all your creative blocks once and for all, freewriting (not so for acid) gives you have a bonafide strategy that can be adapted and used whenever you want from that point forward. It is a simple technique that is immensely powerful. There are numerous ways of tweaking it and improving the basic foundation (write without stopping, just do one thing at at time, flow with things) to suit your specific disposition and needs.
You can use it to write essays, articles, books of all kinds, project proposals, your goals, and you can use it to understand yourself better as part of soul searching and spiritual inquiry so that the habitual conditioned mind is out of the way.
It is versatile.