As a writer I’ve long practiced free writes, also known as stream of consciousness writing. As a composition teacher, I use free writes to help students find their voice and to dig into their sub-conscious. The only rule to class free writes is that there are no rules. No concerns with grammar. No concerns with spelling. Ignore margins. No scratch-outs. Students love it when we open class with a ten-minute free write.
The same rules apply when I practice free writes as a writing tool. They usually start out as a brain dump. I get those things bothering me off my mind and onto the page. Then sometimes my mind takes a funny twist and something unexpected and wonderful comes out. New ideas are born. Inspiration peaks and my motivation takes flight. Psychologists say that 80% of our thoughts and memories reside in our sub-conscious, and we’re largely unaware of what lurks there. Free writing can lead us to a goldmine of creativity.
I’m using free writes to flex my writing muscles as I begin 2016. I lost the writing habit last year, and daily free writes are helping me get back in writing shape. Think of it as training to run. You don’t start out running a mile; you start with small steps to build endurance and strengthen the muscles. Same thing with writing. I’ve got to build the habit and discover what I have to say.
I used to do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, which she writes about in The Artist’s Way. This year I’m using the ingenious website, 750words.com. Check out the stats 750words gave me this morning after I finished writing:
Writing started at 9:05am and proceeded thusly:
|Time to 750:
|Words per minute:
23 wpm when typing
Mindset while writing…
750words is the brainchild of Buster Benson, and its tagline is: private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily. The site encourages writers to write 750 words (about three pages) every day. Interestingly, he took the basic idea from Cameron’s Morning Pages and created a digital format.
Here’s why I like 750words:
- Simplicity. As simple as pen and paper is, grabbing my ultra thin ultra light laptop, closing my eyes and letting it rip is simpler. I’m old-school and like the connection between paper, pencil, and brain, but with some nurturing I’m developing a strong connection with my Mac.
- Privacy. My handwritten notebooks aren’t really private and that’s inhibiting. Because I could die tomorrow and my family would have access to my inner thoughts, along with anything I’ve written about them I’d always scribble very messily in my notebooks. That way, anyone glancing through them would have difficulty deciphering and maybe give up. But the problem is, I often have trouble deciphering them myself. At password protected 750words.com, no one sees my ramblings but me and I can usually read what I’ve typed.
- Incentives. Buster has developed a monthly point system and I like points. Badges are awarded based on the number of consecutive days that I write. Writing in itself usually provide me enough intrinsic motivation to write daily, but I need the incentives until the writing habit is firmly established again. The flamingo badge is mine!
- Reminder email. The site emails me daily that I need to write 750 words. The email also tells me how many consecutive days I’ve written and the number of points I’ve earned for the month, two motivating helps. I’m a person driven to check items off a list, or in this case, to move emails to the trash as quickly as possible.
I’m using free writes to help meet a goal to write more and as a place to incubate some creativity, but they aren’t only for writers. Many people practice free writes for their therapeutic value. Or they do them to create a pause in their day, to take a moment to slow down. When over-committed folks, such as those in high powered jobs or working mothers practice Morning Pages, they report more productivity because their minds are clearer and focused. List-making can be a form of free writing.
How do you use free writing?