Freewriting It’s For Novelists Too

Free Writing is the practice of writing within a prescribed structure. Which means no outline, no note cards, no notes., or editorial oversite. In freewriting, the writer follows the impulses of their own mind, allowing thoughts and inspiration to appear to them without premeditation.

Freewriting was started by Dorthea Brande in 1934 in her book “Becoming A Writer.” Peter Elbow also gave Freewriting a push in 1973 in his book “Writing Without Teachers.” Most recently Julia Cameron which I have mentioned before popularized in her book “The Artists Way.”

 I first became familiar with the concept of freewriting in my first writing class in college a lifetime and a half ago. I had a professor who in her writing class had us free write at the beginning of every class. The result was a loosening of the writing wheels and confidence to write that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Here is what she would have us do: she would have us write for the first five minutes of every class. There is sometimes an assigned topic I think I don’t remember anymore I think there was an assigned topic because I remember I wrote things that were too personal. I never would have written them without her prompt. But once the clock began,began, you couldn’t stop for any reason you had to keep writing. She would collect the papers not to grade them, but to make sure we were making progress. That we were opening our thought processes and our creativity was beginning to flow. That was 1996. I’m sure my professor was influenced by Julia Cameron I know I was.

I had no idea that Freewriting first of all was formally a movement and second was formally anything at all. I thought it was just something my mother did every morning at 4:30 AM and that I tried, but swear I don’t have time for. But to know that it goes back as far as 1934. It makes me wonder how much science is behind the art of freewriting.

The technique is simple enough and cheap by anybody’s standards. You just write and keep writing for a predetermined amount of time. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You can, if you are so disposed, edit or read it looking for glints of your psyche or your next novel, or you can just put it in a drawer and never look at it again.

Writers use this as a way of collecting their thoughts and ideas on a topic. By writing on a topic and then going back and looking over their writing, looking for the gems in what they have written and using that as fodder for the next stage of freewriting. This freewriting and going back again and freewriting process yields good ideas when the ideas stop, then the free writing stops. You may have information on many aspects of the same topic that will melt together to make an incredible piece of one writing effort.

Like any skill set, the abilities required for effective freewriting will increase with practice. The first time you attempt to freewrite, you may end up with some unusable material. But with writing practice and a little healthy self-criticism, you can use your early freewriting practice to refine your technique.

There are fifteen emotional advantages to freewriting:

  1. Reduces expectation of perfection
  2. Provides unimpeded release of thoughts and emotions
  3. Brings out emotional blocks and emotional barriers to success
  4. Helps develop good healthy habits
  5. Builds self-confidence
  6. Offers blank slate for 100% honesty
  7. Provides practice in releasing self-judgment and judgment of others
  8. Increases creativity and inspiration
  9. Uncovers thoughts and ideas you never knew you had
  10. Assists in sorting through difficult situations
  11. Acts as a forum to be truly authentically you
  12. Allows you to be more present in your day-to-day interactions
  13. Fosters a greater sense of clarity and focus
  14. Changes your perspective on challenging situations
  15. Increases awareness of patterns and themes in your life

There are also three writing advantages to freewriting:

  1. Creative expression. Many writers use freewriting as a way to find unexpected inspiration.
  2. To heal writer’s block. Writers who feel in a style rut, or even those who actively experience writer’s block may benefit from a freewriting exercise as part of their formal writing process.
  3. Speed. Freewriting is typically faster than other types of drafting or outlining because you are simply writing without a strict form and without organizing your thoughts.

How to Freewrite

  1. Just write. When it comes to freewriting first drafts are repositories for ideas, however vague
  2. Gather topics beforehand to avoid using outlines. Freewriting doesn’t mean that you don’t have an idea about your topic or story.
  3. Time yourself. If you are experiencing writer’s block commit to getting something on the page in the first sixty seconds.
  4. Combine freewriting with traditional outlines or notes. Start a project with a considerable freewriting session. Use that information as formal notes or as a topic for more freewriting.
  5. Bring ideas to your freewriting sessions the most effective writing has thematic and narrative consistencies and starting with a germ of an idea may help you bring it all together.

I did my first freewriting in about twenty-five years. I had forgotten how beneficial it is I had forgotten the advantages of learning what you know about a subject before you start your research and then threading it all together. It’s been a long time since eng101. I’ll be adding free writing to my writing practice.

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5 thoughts on “Freewriting It’s For Novelists Too

    1. Faye,
      No worries it all worked out fine. I agree and that free writing is valuable. My mother has written for years, for the emotional support it provides.
      I use free writing in my planning process for writing blog posts and novels.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sara,
      I have written without an outline for as long as I can remember because it saves time. I’m glad to see that it also is good for creativity and writer’s block. I love the emotional things that writing can do for you, and it’s so cost-effective.

      Liked by 1 person

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