Freewriting has been around for some time. Brenda Ueland wrote about it back in 1938 in her book If You Want to Write. Peter Elbow showed how freewriting makes writing accessible to everyone in Writing Without Teachers and other books.
Generally speaking, freewriting is simple: You write without stopping. At heart, it is a simple technique. Anyone can do it.
Despite its simplicity, freewriting is a rich and profound way to write.
First create, then critique
Writing without stopping, your focus is on the present moment. You simply can’t go back and edit what you wrote. You have to continue, to flow forward.
One of the main distinctions brought by freewriting is that there is a creative impulse and a critical impulse. During the initial phase of freewriting, you hold yourself to the creative impulse. You don’t edit, you don’t read what you just wrote. You simply keep flowing forward. You also don’t judge what you’re writing. Whether it’s good or bad, if it’s on-topic or not, you keep writing.
Letting go of judgement leaves you in a more original state of mind. Your focus is on the present moment. Anything is possible. Freewriting is about abiding in this creative state. This moment is the one that sees the creative force manifest. It is the most interesting place to be.
Criticism is not bad. It’s just counterproductive to do two things at once. You save the critical impulse for later if you want to revisit or revise what you have written freely. First create, then critique.
How it frees you from limiting beliefs
Freewriting embraces the creative, and therefore automatically goes against the grain of how we were taught to write “correctly.”
It can be startling just how deep these limiting beliefs about “good writing” can go. We were rewarded for using proper grammar, special vocabulary words, for imitating the dryness of English textbooks. Errors were circled in red ink and punished.
Our conditioning around writing is deadening. It does not encourage us to communicate naturally, as we are, with a sense of vitality, spontaneity, and directness. Only when we are in the creative mode do we have any chance of writing with a sense of vitality. Who cares if your writing is imperfect if it is truly yours?
Errors can be corrected, but nothing can save lifeless writing.
Depth freewriting freewriting where you fully embrace the flow of ideas. The mystery. The chaos. Even the self-sabotage, because unless things like self-sabotage get brought into a conscious light, they remain lurking in the background and they limit us from accessing the wells of creativity that are there for us. These obstacles prevent us from spreading fully, uniquely, as we really are, and claiming our birthright in the imagination.
Getting started with depth freewriting
Depth freewriting encourages the writer to take a standpoint that is outside of the everyday thinking mind. This might sound mysterious, but the implementation can be simple. It is about making the writing process as streamlined as possible, and flowing with what is there.
Many of the best and most blissful experiences in life happen when there is an absence of thinking. The chattering mind goes silent when riding a rollercoaster or making love or hang-gliding or learning to ride a horse or paint a landscape.
Depth freewriting is a form of focused freewriting.
It builds on freewriting’s foundation of being open to whatever happens to be there, with the added intent of driving towards something. A topic, a purpose, a feeling. Addressing a question. Exploring a given subject or character or scene.
With depth freewriting everything is welcome, yet something specific is invited.
It is not an aimless style of freewriting. The vastness of flow is directed towards a creative aim. As the writer, you are at the wheel, driving the car in a boundless landscape. You are free to go anywhere, though you do hold yourself to an intended destination. The right way to go is the way you affirm in the present moment.
In essence, it involves these facets:
- Writing without stopping
- Focusing where you want to go
- Abiding in the creative
Each of these facets is rich and can be explored through many tricks and techniques. For example, abiding in the creative involves many things that you do not do: do not indulge being critical on yourself. Don’t go back and read what you have written. Don’t stop to think. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say.
Ideas do not come faster to the person who insists that they arrive in a prescribed way. Ideas land more easily when you are already engaging the flow of language. This seems like a paradox to the person who insists on stopping to think — they fear how having complete faith in the occasionally senseless flows of imagination will lead to messy writing full of half-thoughts and false starts and diversions from the central subject.
The idea is to be bigger than that fear. Even if your writing does end up messy, it is only a matter of coming back in later and reordering what has been written. It seems counter-intuitive, but this method will take less time than if you insist on stopping and thinking rather than simply continuing to write. The more you engage the process, the better it can work for you.
It is called depth freewriting because the process gets you to go deep within yourself. To become a writer who is writing in the present moment.
Truly authentic writing is that which comes most directly from the writer.