Everybody Does Freewriting Wrong

Freewriting is the direct path towards writing as good and as much as possible in as short of time as possible. It’s a writing practice that hones and refines a writer’s natural voice.

So why aren’t more people doing it?

Most people have been told that when freewriting gets hard, they’re supposed to force themselves forward. They have been taught a method that isn’t fun.

Unless a technique brings satisfaction, it should be discarded for something better. The grueling method of freewriting should be replaced with a technique that gets you into the flow, not one that forces you to put words on the page.

Freewriting demands constant forward movement. Yet, not all forward movements are equal.

I don’t know about you, but if I write without stopping and I hate doing it, I’m not going to want to continue freewriting like that. I don’t want people to sit down and make themselves do something they don’t feel motivated to do. Writing is not supposed to be hard.

If you have the impulse to write, then you deserve to make that happen.

Freewriting …. with focus. That’s what it’s all about. Focused, purposeful, motivated freewriting.

Some people use writing prompts to focus their writing. Well, you can make your own writing prompt.

If you need to write something, your writing prompt is built-in. You simply need to focus on that end result and the feelings and information you want to convey to your reader.

Write and organize things as they occur to you. As if you’re having a conversation with someone who

  • wants to hear what you’re saying
  • has all the patience in the world

A blank sheet of paper has all the patience in the world. It will not try to rush you. It will not passive aggressively clear its throat trying to get you to move on or get to the point.

Freewrite so that you can find the point. If you hit a snag or lose interest, just reach for the secret sauce.

Here’s the secret sauce. Feel your way back into that crazy love you have of diving into the mystery, and you’re feeling good and it’s ok if everything comes out chaotic, then yeah, sit down wiht absolutely no idea what yuo’re going to write about and see what emerges.

Like that.

When you freewrite like this, you let the enjoyment pull and coax you forward.

  1. Start with what you have, and put that down.
  2. Continue with what comes to you along the way. Keep going until you feel that you have said all that you need or all that you are able. Twenty minutes might be long enough. A twenty minute freewrite gives you the chance to make a mind dump of:
    • everything you know about your topic
    • the questions you have about it

Writing can be dull and boring. I get that. I’m saying that based on my experience as an author and a professor. I obviously love words and stories. But compared to the visceral experience of surfing or climbing a rock face or having passionate sex, writing can fall a little short sometimes. It doesn’t always speak to the animal inside us.

So why write? Why press onward during a freewrite? Because we “have to?”

Obligation is never the approach that will pull the best material from someone. Obligation carries built-in resentment. When you’re obligated to do something, you just want the damn thing to be done and over with already.

Ask me after I have read 27 copies of uninspired essays on the same topic and I can tell you plainly…

Obligation is no good. It sucks when the students write from a place of obligation, and it sucks when I grade from a place of obligation.

You don’t always have the opportunity to write for pure pleasure. Often you write because something is required of you.

That doesn’t mean you have to choose obligation as your motivating factor.

If someone put a gun to my head and they’re forcing me to write the complete works of Shakespeare, I don’t feel obligated to write. I feel … let’s say … an intense need to write. The inner animal, the part of me that wants to survive, is awake and on line.

My need is urgent. It’s immediate. I have to write. Not because I’m obligated. I am choosing to devote myself more fully to this than anything else because I want to. I need to.

Those feelings are my allies. That devotion and need unlocks a part of me that can receive help. That part of me has will and fire and drive. And it’s just more interesting. Inspiration likes to give to people in that state.

Freewriting is not a lukewarm writing technique. It’s not something you should do if you just want to doodle around and get by. It’s not for the herd. It’s a writing practice that speaks to the fire within you.

The reason to press on is because anything else would interrupt the flow, and the flow is where the magic happens. It takes time to get into the flow. All the stop-and-go of normal blocked-up writing barely scratches the surface. When you stop, you miss out on the potential for abundance.

When you are truly engrossed in something, when it has all your focus, when your attention is suction-cupped onto it, the space deepens. When you are intoxicated with something, that thing gets bigger in the mind’s eye. When you are intoxicated with satisfaction, you can see things at a higher resolution. New details are revealed to you for the first time. Intricacies and relationships emerge without you having to try to think about them.

You achieve greater stability. There is no more irritable switching back and forth. Think of language as a pond where the good ideas are the fish swimming there. The more you flutter around, the more turbulent the water. It’s more difficult to see anything, and the fish all run away from you. But with time and engagement, the water clarifies, and like curious fish, the ideas are right there all around you.

The pond analogy is a useful one. When you freewrite, you are no longer standing on dry land. You’re immersed in a fluid pool of words. Yes, it’s chaotic, yes it’s all over the place. That’s exactly what is magic about it. No more insistence on dry perfect prose. No more need to be blocked up. If you don’t know what you want to say, you can gain more understanding about that very fact by freewriting about it. Ask questions. What more would I like to see here? What am I curious about? If I were a fish, where would I like to spend my time?

The deeper you go, the more the ideas come to you. When you’re in the flow, the hard work is done for you. There’s no need to struggle and frown and try hard. Freewriting gives you a way to relate with the imagination so that things happen easier and easier.

The longer you do it, the more you do it, the easier it gets. It gets more rewarding, and your writing gets better.

The world does not need more people who are obligated. We need people who are inspired, people who are in touch with their depth and fire and intensity.

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