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How to use freewriting to get things written

Advice for writers and bloggers

A quick recap

This series of posts is about writing every day, whether it’s a good idea or not, and how to do it if you want to or need to. Yesterday, we talked about freewriting and you worked out your freewriting tolerance level. Are you freewriting-friendly or freewriting-phobic, or somewhere in between? Today I’m going to show you how to use freewriting to add power to your elbow (see what I did there?) and to get things written.

Here’s a practical exercise to try

Here’s a practical exercise to try, even if you’re still suspicious of freewriting. Do it a couple of times and you’ll be writing to thank me (probably). I once had a student stand up and shout out in a class on freewriting that this was EXACTLY what he had turned up to learn about. It was a real eureka moment for him! Let me know if it’s the same for you.

Quick tip if you’re worried about grammar, spelling and punctuation: Tell yourself that you will get to do the editing and proof-reading, just not yet! Make use of the digital tools out there, like Grammarly, and do a separate proof-read for these things at the end, rather than trying to edit for spelling at the same time as you edit for sense or flow.

Now do this:

  • Take something you want to write, whether it’s a report, a blog post, a story or a poem – the mode of writing doesn’t matter.
  • Prepare yourself by getting a good idea of the themes or researching the material. (Quick tangent: one way to use freewriting is for getting down all of the stuff you already know about a topic or theme. It’s usually quite a lot. Don’t believe me? Spend a minute writing down everything you know about, say, microwaves, or quantum physics, or the National Curriculum!)
  • Work out how much time to spend on this exercise:
    • If you are freewriting-friendly (you most frequently scored zero to three on yesterday’s freewriting tolerence test) then spend a whole writing block on this. Establish your own writing block by reading this earlier post, or use two pomodoros – two sessions of 25 minutes with a five minute break after each one.
    • If you are an ambivalent freewriter (you most frequently scored between four and six on the test), spend ten to fifteen minutes on this exercise.
    • If you are extremely freewriting-phobic (you most frequently scored between seven and ten), spend no more than five minutes at a time on this, but ban yourself from reading your work back to yourself. Seriously, cover it over with a piece of paper or make your text 500% in MS Word and double space so you literally can’t read it back without scrolling.
  • Spend your allotted amount of time freewriting on your chosen topic or theme. Do not re-read or edit what you have written.
  • Do it again. If you were ambivalent or freewriting-phobic in yesterday’s test, increase the amount of time spent writing this time
  • Print what you have written and put it in a drawer or hide it somewhere, so you can’t look at it. Wait 24 hours.
  • Edit your work by hand.
  • Re-read and rewrite what you’ve written.
  • Give it another couple of polishes.
  • Proof-read for grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Quick tip for nonfiction writers and bloggers

Set up some subheadings and freewrite under each one. These short bursts of freewriting can be very effective and will enable you to write quickly.

Quick tip for novelists and playwrights / screenwriters

Try some method acting. In other words, try stepping into your main character’s shoes (act as if you are them within reason!) and freewrite from their point of view, seeing the world through their eyes. This is very effective if you are stuck on a particularly tricky scene. I know one writer who goes out for walks as if she is her main character.

Quick tip for poets and short story writers

It’s possible to freewrite a whole poem or story simply by observing what’s around you. I’ve written about this in various places but you can read a summary of how to do it here.

What next?

Tomorrow I’ll give you three more ways to generate ideas for your writing.

Until then, happy writing!

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