Here is a scenario every writer is familiar with.
You want to keep working on an established project, or maybe you want to try out a new idea. You’re in your preferred writing spot, and there are no distractions. All you’ve got to do is start writing.
But you just can’t get the words down on the page.
Many people call this condition writer’s block. Others talk about feeling too burned out to come up with anything new. For some writers, the problem comes from anxiety or from becoming overwhelmed.
Whatever the source of the problem, there is an approach that can help. Let’s talk about free writing, and why many non-fiction authors use it regularly.
What Exactly Is Free Writing?
This prewriting method has been popular since the 1970s. It’s well-loved because there is no wrong way to do it.
The idea is to keep writing for a set amount of time, with no regard for quality.
The most important part of free writing is that you’re not allowed to stop. Just write down whatever comes into your head, even if it’s not connected to the rest of your text.
Of course, the resulting material can’t always be used. Many writers will end up with incoherent text that they can’t edit into shape. Your goal with this exercise isn’t to add to your project, but simply to write.
So How Is This Different from Brainstorming?
When you brainstorm, you can write down ideas in the form of bullet points. You may choose to write down a series of words that will inspire you later.
Free writing is more complex than that. Your goal is to write in full sentences and paragraphs.
These don’t have to be grammatically correct. But free writing is supposed to mimic the process of linear writing. Abandoning sentences will make it less effective.
Why Is This Useful?
Here is a handful of ways that free writing can improve the quality of your work.
When you free write, there is no time to second-guess yourself. So if you’re suffering from a lack of confidence, this could help you work around it.
You can shift your own focus away from the quality of your writing. After all, your goal here isn’t to produce amazing prose. As long as you keep writing, you can’t mess this up.
- Gaining New Perspectives on Your Topic
Free writing is more than a confidence booster. You can find new ideas by free-associating as you write. It’s easy to see why many creative writers consider this to be an amazing source of inspiration.
But the exercise is just as important for non-fiction authors. How can it help you with your work?
As you write, you’ll discover clearer ways to explain things. You can find a new approach to your subject. It may even improve your technical skills.
- Building a Habit
Writing continuously can help you develop a habit. You’ll get accustomed to ignoring small interruptions. Free writing will induce a flow you can maintain after the exercise is over.
Most importantly, it’s a good idea to free write every day.
This exercise will encourage you to develop excellent writing habits. But you won’t have to worry about compromising the quality of your project, as you might discard the resulting text.
The instructions here are refreshingly simple.
Set your timer for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then simply write without pausing. If you run out of things to say, keep writing, and do whatever comes naturally.
Many people will wander off topic at some point. You may repeat words or sentences until you can think of something else to say. As long as you stick to writing in sentences and paragraphs, your exercise will be successful.
A Final Thought
Free writing can do more than get you through your bad writing days. You can make it an integral part of your writing process.
Even if you’re between projects at the moment, this could be a good habit to get into. Why not give it a try? At the very least, you might find the results amusing.