Freewriting 101

Building on our last post and in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, today we will talk about the importance of freewriting; what it is and why it is essential to your writing practice.

The method was invented by Peter Elbow, a professor of English in University of Massachusetts and is similar to brainstorming but is written in sentence and paragraph form without stopping. Freewriting is often used in academic environments, where the need to produce large volumes of defendable work is often daunting, and freewriting was an easy way to write for a set amount of time without concern for conventions or mechanics, with the goal to streamline that output into cohesive arguments later.

The method is vastly effective in the creative writing fields, where it can also be easy to get overwhelmed and stuck in overthinking. The most valuable element of freewriting is that is circumvents the internal editor whose criticism is often the reason so many creative works languish unfinished. Letting go of rules and expectations, along with having only one unit of measurement, whether that is time or word count, is experienced by many as freeing and invigorating. Small success has a compound effect and the more we build on successful writing sessions , the more enthusiasm we have for the projects we are working on and carving out time for them.

Simply staying in our head about writing exhausts us and makes us feel like we have already spent the time working. Freewriting is efficiency and enjoyment without the criticism. This method allows you to deep dive into the subject, of which — let’s be real — you really don’t need to do much more research. Get those keys clicking or pen writing. Don’t worry about language or construction, just enjoy the feeling of writing. Elbow states that with freewriting we achieve a state of flow that allows for the writing of clear, vivid, and easy to understand prose. Often when we write we are constantly editing which loses connection in the moment with the often-unruly creative voice. When we are critical, we inhibit the creative flow that naturally connects us to the place where our knowledge on the topic is boundless. You know more about your characters and the world they inhabit than anyone. If writing memoir, you know more about your life and what you experienced. If the piece is non-fiction, you clearly decided to write about it to formulate your ideas because of the abundance of them.

Many people swear by  another variation of the method, sometimes called “Morning Pages” and popularized by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Before we are fully conscious to the world and that’s when it may be easiest to step into the creative void. Some are night owls and feel the same method can apply in the later evenings – experiment and see what works for you. If using NaNoWriMo as a goal, you need to hit 50,000 in the month to successfully qualify as completing that writing marathon.

Remember, the only thing you need is to get started. You will find it much easier to keep going after that.

Need ideas for how to shape that early draft? Contact us for a First Look service to evaluate the first 20,000 words and help you craft the path for the finished manuscript.

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