Writing is weird. It’s not like other art forms. And every writer at some point has found it difficult or uninspiring to write.
Over the years, I have tried all sorts of writing strategies, exercises and techniques. Sometimes out of frustration, and sometimes out of a desire to embrace all the weird ways that we have of stretching and unblocking ourselves.
My favorite is freewriting. I take a freewriting approach pretty much whenever I write. Freewriting is profoundly versatile. It is useful for beginning writers, crusty old advanced writers, and nonwriters alike.
Sometimes people hear about freewriting and they think “Oh, yeah, that thing I learned in school. Freewriting is about powering through writer’s block.” Or whatever.
Freewriting is definitely not a single-purpose tool. Freewriting is great not because writing is hard and boring but because FREEWRITING IS INHERENTLY AWESOME. It has many different positive applications besides just plowing through writing an essay.
Freewriting connects us with the flow behind words. When we write freely, we get things to move at a deep level. Ideas. Emotions. It can be very subtle, and precisely because of this, the shifts that can manifest can be very profound.
Freewriting gets things moving
Getting things moving can have profound implications.
Writers, like anyone, can tend to get stuck in negative loops or unproductive beliefs.
Writing is a pursuit that can feel especially isolating. Writing a novel can take so much effort for so long, it can bring a writer to question whether all this toil actually matters. You won’t know for sure whether anyone will like the novel until it’s finished, and that might mean a year’s work.
A year. There are only so many of those going around.
So, faced with this insurmountable burden, the writer sits at her keyboard and sighs.
On the one hand, she could persist with her novel, and maybe it will be awesome. On the other hand, maybe it won’t. And every minute that ticks by that doesn’t see her putting words on the page keeps the realization of that goal far in the future.
Why do writers bother?
Something inside you knows that what you want to do matters. Sometimes you aren’t able to connect with that side of yourself. You get stuck in beliefs that aren’t true.
Freewriting wins against the stuckness of negative beliefs. It gets things moving.
Freewriting helps because it gets you into the flow of experience where beliefs are less important than how things feel right now.
Yes, freewriting is a way of just blurting things out. But more important than what comes out (blurted material, in this case) is the eagerness and nonjudgment you feel while doing it.
Freewriting has helped me form a better relationship with nonjudgment. That has helped me be a better and more prolific writer.
When you freewrite regularly, nonjudgment can flow over into other areas of your life. The readiness to set aside judgment is a muscle that will just make your whole life that much more worth living.
“Life sucks” is a judgment, isn’t it?
“I don’t matter” is an assessment, a belief. It’s not an experience.
The experience might be something like: I feel alone. Which, if you spend time with it, give permission to feel that way, might just emerge into: Actually, I really relish this feeling. Being away from my screaming kids and all the other items on my to do list. Writing is my solace. Of course it matters.
Judging things and reaching definitions can be irresistible. Something about us craves to do that. The key skill here is being willing to get underneath the beliefs that don’t really serve us. And if they don’t serve us, they don’t really serve anyone.
Get into the experience
You can choose to write about the experience a lot or a little. The main thing is to just shift your perceptual channel, the stuff you’re paying attention to inside.
Shift it away from judgment and assessment and boring loops of negative definitions and beliefs.
You know the ones, like “I don’t matter” and “nothing I do will be good enough.”
Writing seems especially disposed to these feelings because it’s solitary, so there are fewer outside things to bounce you around and into a different space. More collaborative activities can nip these beliefs in the bud. Think of playing a team sport with someone. You know your role, you can easily see that you are part of something and your actions are having an effect on others.
Of course, writing can have an especially deep and profound effect on others. I didn’t say that the belief was true — not at all — just that writers can be especially prone to circling the drain with these feelings.
What to do?
Write without stopping for twenty minutes. Let things flow. Freewrite, and let the beliefs flow along with the words.
Letting them flow means letting them change.
If you get stuck in a loop, then just keep writing from within that loop, repeating yourself. Eventually something different will happen.
Sure, you could sit there and write the same sentence over and over and over and over again for twenty minutes, but it’s very likely you’ll move on to writing something else. Why? Because it’s boring. Something gives, and so you move on to something else. The very fact of repetition being irritating helps you move onto something better than being stuck in a loop.
The more you freewrite, the more you can gain strategies for moving beyond unproductive cycles and loops.
Try it as a daily exercise each morning for a month and see what happens.