Freewriting is a technique many people have heard about but few writers are really taking advantage of. I know of no other way of writing that offers as much potential for productivity and creative growth as freewriting does.
It is also remarkably versatile. Freewriting is equally beneficial whether you want to just get a project done as quickly as possible or write openendedly for self-discovery and personal growth.
Something really profound happens when a writer is able to step out of their own way and let the flow of language happen.
Freewriting is really easy to explain if you look at it from the outside. Basically, you do this:
- Write without stopping for a given duration.
- Don’t make edits or look back at what you’ve written.
- Don’t criticize or judge what you write.
- Stay in the creative mode until you are finished.
- Come back later if you want to revise or rewrite things.
That sounds pretty straightforward, and it is. It’s not a complicated technique. But there is a ton going on behind the scenes that deserves to be unpacked and explained. By gaining more familiarity with the way it feels to freewrite, you can really make the most of the practice.
Let’s look at some of the key facets of freewriting.
Get out of the way
Freewriting asks that you let go while remaining active, putting letters and words down on the page.
When you freewrite, you decide to engage the flow of language no matter what. That decision is really empowering, but it can also be difficult.
Trying to edit and correct yourself as you write is an example of getting our own way. You can think of it as your inner critic getting in the way of your inner creative. As your creative moves to say something, the critic jumps up to finish the sentence for her.
That kind of competition isn’t really helpful. It’s defeating. It’s frustrating. It’s one major way that we have been conditioned to block ourselves.
It’s fine to have an inner critic! We just need to give the creative time to shine. Later, when you revise, the critic has the opportunity to shine.
The freewriter’s decision is to flow with what comes. No judgment.
Rest on your intent
In other words, know what your goal is.
- If you are writing for five minutes to clear your head, then that’s your intent.
- If you want to draft chapter seven of your fantasy novel, that’s your intent.
Once you know what your intent is, you don’t need it to be at the forefront of your mind.
If you’re taking two hours to devote to freewriting your life purpose, not every sentence you write needs to express your intent literally. You don’t have to repeat “This is my life purpose” over and over again. You understand what your project is and you can step out of the way.
If your writing moves to a different topic, that’s fine. Go with where the energy is. If you have a burning desire to write your life purpose, then you can rest assured that you will return to that topic. Things can wrap back around in very mysterious ways.
By allowing things that seem unrelated, you are giving yourself space to be big and make real discoveries.
Let go of control and be curious about what comes up. You are holding your intent in the background of your mind, and you aren’t judging what comes up as you write.
What’s in the flow for you in the present moment? A brilliant and articulate idea? A string of letters? Some angry phrases expressing frustration? Are you sad or feeling guilty about something? Worried about getting something wrong? If it’s there for you, let it be there for you.
You have decided to remain in the creative mode. The more you trust your creative self, the more you make room for the biggest and brightest parts of you to shine. The less you judge your creativity, the more it can invite good ideas and beautiful feelings to the page. Plus, it just feels good. The more you do it, the better it feels.
Being in the flow goes against our conditioning to write coherently and stay on topic. Give your creative self all the space that it needs. Remind yourself to trust the process.
Your Inner Creative and Inner Critic
Everyone has a creative drive and everyone also has a critical drive.
Your creative drive is what you engage when you freewrite. You open your mind and let whatever is there in the moment express itself on the page.
The critic is the part of you that trims off the nonvital information and corrects mistakes.
It’s important to note that the creative and the critical are two sides of the same impulse. It’s not because the critic is bad that we don’t allow it to enter the intial freewriting stage.
There is often a strong impulse to find the bad guy. In our often problematic hunt for the scapegoat, many people mistakenly see only bad qualities in the inner critic. It becomes a bit of a witch hunt…
I’ll leave you there for today. More explorations to come in future posts!
In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about your experience as a writer or a freewriter. What comes up when you write? How do you experience these concepts? Do you have any helpful strategies to share that have worked for you?