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?

Advertisements

Writing Through the Pain

I “win” at writing — I write to inspire and nurture… My writing aims to empower and uplift. Some people may classify some of my works as “self help.” Most of my writing is drawn from personal experience, and thus puts it in the classification of memoir.

Writing memoir is hard. Hard because it means you will be dredging up memories. Memories that are sometimes difficult to re-live. I am currently working on a two-book memoir which deals with infidelity. The writing is bringing up some heart wrenching, traumatic, and painful memories for me. How do you continue writing through this pain?

It is difficult. My subject is a very sensitive one. Writing reminds me of my experiences with this subject and the pain and destruction it causes. As a writer, it is already quite difficult to get the words on to the page. Fighting with your inner critic, fighting the urge to edit as you write rather than “get it down, then get it right” as Don Fry would instruct, distractions of home/work/life, writer’s block — the list of road blocks is monumental. Add to that writing from the heart on a topic that brings back painful memories and you have one great recipe for not making it to the printing press…

How then does one avoid the pitfalls and continue writing — to completion — a memoir with harsh memories?

The answers are many. As many as there are writers of memoir. Each writer handles things differently with one common thread — writing. They continue to write through the pain. They push forward and get the pain out of their minds and hearts and onto the page. But for me, this doesn’t always work…especially with my chosen topic. Sometimes the pain is too great to write through and one must take a break. So how do you prevent the necessary emotional breaks from stalling the writing process?

Write about something different…

Rather than take a mindless break that would have most writers lost for hours surfing the Internet or doing laundry (procrastination techniques 101), take a writing break:

  • Write and schedule your blog post for the next several days or weeks.
  • Edit your NaNoWriMo from 2011.
  • Try your hand at romance novel writing.
  • Start your first mystery trilogy.
  • Just don’t stop writing…

Change what you are writing about. I took on the ScriptFrenzy challenge for the first time this year. Failed miserably! But having another thing to write gave me something I could escape to while continuing to write… I was able to take a break from the pain of recalling the memories yet I kept writing. For me, this makes it an easier transition back to the hard task at hand. If I took a break by not writing anything, it would be much harder for me to pick the pen up again and get going. It is hard enough putting “butt in chair” and starting in the first place. To stop writing, especially when writing something emotionally difficult, would hurt far more than it would help.

My advice — keep writing. Write through the pain in the manuscript if you can. If the pain of writing is jetting you toward putting down your pen and doing laundry, switch gears and brush up on your screenwriting. Or start your first paranormal romance. Take a stab at fiction writing if you consider yourself a nonfiction writer. Whatever you do —

Keep writing…

Time to share…
How do you make it through writing about difficult subjects, ones that cause you emotional distress and/or hurt? What advice can you give to other writers who run up against this same issue?

Productivity…

It was a great weekend, although far too short as always. Relaxing. Spent quality time with the family. Got some yard work done, including some mulching. Even did some housework — the bane of my existence…

What I did not do was produce. At least not in the writing sense… I wrote my minimum 750 words daily on the http://www.750words.com site. This is a site that allows you to create a private “diary” type writing space. Gives you a blank page with word count to start, and keep, writing for as long as you desire but encourages you to write at least 750 words a day. I even took them up on their May’s writing challenge to write every day during the month of May. So far, so good…

Much past those 750 words (well, 784 to be exact…), I did no writing. Why? Because I purchased a new “for Dummies” book on Friday and couldn’t put it down. It’s the Canon EOS 60D for Dummies book and it’s a godsend. I have had my Canon EOS 60D for over a year now and have never taken it off of full automatic mode. Yep…I bought that high quality and expensive camera and basically have been using it as a point-and-shoot for a year. Tisk, tisk, tisk! Now that the weather’s warm, I am bound and determined to take my camera off of auto and get the full benefit of the 60D by going manual.

So… I spent my whole weekend reading. Reading the Canon EOS 60D for Dummies book and playing with my camera. I have read 68% of the book as of this morning… I will report, however, that I am on full manual mode as of this writing and loving the creative freedom! I managed to take some excellent shots of the boys playing darts in the backyard and running around with Ebonie, my puppy. I even pulled off the Continuous Shot setting and got a burst of consecutive shots of them running with the dog. Awesome! My next feat is a timed shot…

This week, we’re supposed to be discussing self publishing. I just want to play with my camera LOL! Look for an article later today on our week’s topic. I promise to stop playing with my camera long enough to finish the research and get the post written. Until later today…

Fighting the Urge

Writers are unique creatures in my opinion. They have a passion for words and ideas and they are able to get those words and ideas down and on paper while constantly being mind-whipped with the influx of new ideas. As one author puts it — “we’re always chasing mental rabbits.” My question, then, is how do you fight the urge to chase the rabbit that just ran past your pen as you are working on one manuscript? What stops you from switching gears mid-write and chasing down that path after the new rabbit?

These are questions I’m grappling with myself. I currently have 3 or 4 WIPs (works in progress) and the more I write and work on any of those manuscripts, the more bunnies keep running past my typing fingertips trying to distract me and take me down a different path. This is what causes me writer’s block — too many ideas jamming up my writing flow… It is very rare that I have the opposite problem — needing to write and having no words come to mind.

What I have done thus far is first and foremost try to ignore those bunnies. I know that it’s just the EIW (Evil Inner Witch) trying to steal my precious writing minutes from me. If that doesn’t work and the bunnies just keep hounding me, then I take a moment to pause and jot down the idea. I have a file in Storyist (I’m an iPad + Storyist writer…) that is for General Ideas. I’ll open that file and jot down some brief bullet points — a quick brain dump of the ideas that are in the way of my focusing fully on the manuscript at hand. It’s really helped me a lot. It allows the idea to be “born” because it won’t stop pushing until I get it out, and it allows me to get right back to the manuscript I was working on without much delay.

Time to share…
What do you do to stop yourself from chasing all of the rabbits?