Freewriting

In my previous post, I mentioned freewriting, which is the first step in Rebecca Schuman’s system for increasing writing productivity. I want to describe that process in more depth for those who may not be familiar with it.

Freewriting is simply the process of writing continuously for a set period of time on a given topic. Continuous writing is the key to freewriting: you put your pen or pencil to paper, or your fingers to the keyboard, and do not stop writing until your set time is up. Let the thoughts flow freely. Do not reread, correct spelling or grammar, revise, or pause to think about the best way to articulate your point. Do not worry about sentence structure or paragraph structure. Just keep writing. By doing so, you silence the critical voices in your head, separate creating from editing, and open yourself to new insights and questions on your topic. Some writers use freewriting as a warm-up to a longer writing session; some use it to fight writer’s block.

The steps are simple and straightforward:

  1. Select a topic or a prompt. Write it at the top of your page.
  2. Set a timer for your writing period. I recommend a period from 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. Write whatever comes to mind. Just keep writing continuously for the entire period.
  4. Stop when the timer goes off.

Once you have completed your freewriting, read over what you have written. Look for new ideas and insights, questions, and patterns. Highlight ideas you can build on. Make margin notes to record your reflections. Some writers then use those ideas and reflections as the starting point for the next freewriting session.

To read more about freewriting, see:

Belanoff, P., Elbow, P., & Fontaine, S. I. (Eds.) (1991). Nothing begins with N: New investigations of freewriting. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Castle, J. (2017). Benefits of freewriting for academic staff engaged in a writing retreat. South African Journal of Higher Education, 31(2), 124-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/31-2-1341

Elbow, P. (1989). Toward a phenomenology of freewriting. Journal of Basic Writing, 8(2), 42-71.

Goldberg, N. (2016). Writing down the bones: Freeing the writer within. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications.

Li, L. Y. (2007). Exploring the use of focused freewriting in developing academic writing. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 4(1), 40-53. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp

Wagner, V. (2017, August 1). The magic of freewriting. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-creative-life/201708/the-magic-freewriting