Using Free Writing to Overcome Writer’s Block

Do you write freely?

What I mean by that is — do you open up your notebook, grab a pen and start writing? Without thinking about what you are writing. Without worrying about punctuation and grammar. Without thinking plot and sentence structure. Without consciously attempting to develop a character or even make any sense at all?

If you don’t, you should. That’s what they call “free writing.” Just writing whatever comes to mind, in no particular order, and with no attempt at being coherent. Just get it off you mind and onto the page.

Free writing is an excellent weapon against writer’s block. It empties your mind of all the slush and garbage that is blocking you from working on your story. It also allows the muse to have her fun so that you can get back to work! I free write each morning before attempting to work on any of my manuscripts. If I don’t, then I might get a forced paragraph onto paper in one of my manuscripts and then give up due to the struggle to get something down.

Some say that free writing is also the best way to get your manuscript down. Just write. From my understanding, that is the premise of NaNoWriMo — get 50,000 “words” down on paper, no matter whether it makes any sense or not, in 30 days. To that I agree and disagree — and I will be doing NaNo, but not with that mindset. When writing your manuscript’s first draft, you shouldn’t much care about punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and the other trappings of writing. However, you shouldn’t throw all that carelessly to the wind either. Your first draft should be written as you envision the book to be, and it should be coherent. However, you should not dawdle on writing the perfect sentence, making sure all your grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and etc. is correct. But your first draft should be written soundly — don’t just throw garbage on the page. If you just type up garbage, your editing of that first draft and getting a second draft knocked out is going to be a nightmare. You will spend more time fixing and moving and making the book flow then you will getting the second draft done.

Don’t go to the other extreme on a first draft either! Find a happy balance between being able to write freely and getting a decent first draft down. Just write. But just don’t write garbage for your first draft…

Free writing is also a great tool for your personal life. We all deal with stress in our lives. Whether it’s stress from a 9 to 5, the stress of parenting, or the stress of marriage. Everyone has it. Free writing not only frees you from writer’s block, it also frees you from stress. I mentioned in another blog post that one of my manuscripts deals with a touchy subject. Delving into the inner folds of my mind to remember the stories surrounding what happened can be hard. It is very stressful. I use free writing when the memories become too painful. I push forward with the manuscript for as long as I can stand it, then I whip out my leather journal and write. I allow all the anger and pain to flow from my mind and heart, down my arm and through my pen onto the page. And I am better afterward.

You can also use free writing to quiet the muse. When I am working on a manuscript, the muse always wants me to work on a different one than that one. Or, she comes along and pops a brilliant idea for a new manuscript into my mind and keeps nagging me about it. So, when I cannot make her shut up, I free write for 15 minutes. This allows enough time for me to get the new idea broadly laid out or give 15 minutes of attention to the manuscript she wants me to work on. After that, it’s all gravy. I can go back to my original manuscript and punch out 2,000 or so more words in one sitting.

If you want to be freed from the commotion in your mind that is causing you difficulty in your writing life, then free write. If you’re like me and don’t want to mess up one of your nice journals, buy a cheap spiral bound notebook. That way you won’t cringe like I do when I see my sloppy writing, throwing grammar and punctuation to the wind, and doing so in a nice journal. I have since moved past that and can write in journals — I actually purchase one for each “theme” that generally plagues my mind. Who knows…one day one of those free writing journals may become the next NYTimes Best Seller…

Time to share…
Do you free write? If so, what’s your method? How does free writing help you?