by Irish Pang
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow.” This quote from Anne Lamott’s excellent book “Bird by Bird” embodies every writer’s process, including that of yours truly. Oftentimes, something as simple as composing an email, a Christmas card to the cousin you’ve not spoken to in 15 years, or a long-lost friend from high school can take hours, even if it’s just a few words. But, how do you get the words to start flowing? How do you fluently put your thoughts down on the page or computer screen? Try free writing.
What Is Free writing?
Free writing is as simple as it sounds. It describes the act of putting your thoughts down on paper or a computer screen without regard to grammar, punctuation, topic, or audience. Usually, this exercise is done for a set period of time, and honestly, much of the raw material isn’t very usable.
Why Free Write?
Many people say that pictures are worth a thousand words, but it only captures a moment in time, a sliver of our personal journey in life. When you free write, you can read over your thoughts and experiences of a situation as you lived and recalled them.
Though talking to friends and family is cathartic and often helps us sort out our thoughts, writing keeps us honest. When you put your thoughts down on paper or a screen, there is no judgment. No one is going to tell you your dream of flying a plane or of opening a restaurant is silly. At the same time, the act of free writing allows you to freely express any anger, bitterness, gratitude, or sadness you’re feeling. Oftentimes, it’s easy to withhold your opinion for fear of what others may say or think of you.
Become the Author of Your Own Life
After you’ve written out everything that’s on your mind, you may come to the conclusion that action needs to be taken. This can come in the form of making that important phone call, confronting someone in your life, or filling out the necessary paperwork to make your candle-making business a reality. Through free writing, you can detail each step you need to take, evaluate pros and cons, and figure out what you really want. Instead of taking a passive role in your life’s journey, take up your pen or keyboard and become the author.
How Do I Start?
When you start free writing, make sure you have a place where you can write without being disturbed. Then, find a setup which works for you. This can be as elaborate as a leather-bound journal, a fountain pen, and a formal writing desk or as informal as a Chromebook in front of your TV.
Next, decide how much time you’d like to devote to free writing. It can be as short as five minutes or as long as a few hours. Either way, write anything and everything that’s on your mind. Don’t worry about grammar. Throw flow out the window, and just write. Here, the goal is self-discovery and mental stimulation, not to write the next Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction.
Lastly, when time’s up, close your book or laptop and walk away. Don’t re-read what you’ve written or mull over your thoughts. Let it sit on the page or screen for a while and revisit it at a later date. This ensures that you don’t change what you’ve written or, Heaven forbid, throw it away. It is this last act which tells your subconscious that your thoughts are not valuable enough to be verbalized. So, don’t fall into that trap.
A blank screen or empty page is nothing to be feared. Free writing is the best way to record precious memories and honestly reflect upon your past and present circumstance. So, let those words flow, don’t judge your own thoughts, and happy writing.