Today, as my first ever guest blogger, I have the privilege of introducing self-publishing guru, Joel Friedlander (right), who teaches us about the valuable skill of free writing. And here's Joel...
How to Boost Your Creativity with Freewriting
by Joel Friedlander
Several years ago while looking for activities we could do together, my wife and I joined a writing workshop.
This wasn't your ordinary writing workshop however, where people bring pieces they've written to get critiques or suggestions on how to make their work better or more attractive to publishers.
The entire practice of the workshop was learning and practicing something the teacher called freewriting.
I had never heard of free writing, have you? Since I had paid a fee for the course, I knew it wasn't going to be "writing for free" but I had no idea what was involved.
Freewriting, as I came to learn, is a specific writing practice used by many writers. It's actually both simple to describe, easy to get started at, yet remarkable in its effects and profound in its implications.
How to Freewrite
Freewriting is simple. You'll need whatever you like to write with and a timer. Here's how to get started:
Set your timer—start with 5 minutes or 10 minutes, you can't go wrong here, so pick one.
Pick a prompt—this can be almost anything, but common writing prompts are like ones you’ll find in the wonderful writing books by Natalie. For instance, one I use often is the prompt "I remember..." Another that works well is, "It began ..." You can also use non-verbal prompts, but start with these or similar ones to get going.
Okay, you've got your timer set and your prompt written at the top of the page. When you're ready, take a deep breath to center yourself for your task, let the timer start and begin writing.
Once you start writing, the idea is to write as fast as you can, and to not lift your pen from the page until the timer goes off.
You don’t judge what you are writing, and you don’t try to control it. Your aim is to watch and see what comes out.
If you can write a bit faster than you can think, that's perfect. If you draw a blank and no words come, start writing the prompt again and just keep writing until more words come, because they will.
What Happens in Freewriting
If you try this, I guarantee you'll be surprised at what happens. At the workshop, stories from my past spontaneously rose to the surface, flowing out onto the page. Sometimes the words were fragments or just glimpses of a scene, sometimes they were nonsense, some kind of cross-wiring as my brain tried to keep up the flow of words.
Sometimes they were beautiful images, startling word choices, things that I had no intention of writing but which simply seemed like they were expressing themselves through me.
Over the next two years I kept freewriting every day. I got better at finding prompts, and started a group to freewrite together. Because most of the pieces we were writing were short, we would take turns reading after the timer went off.
What Makes it Work
Here's the secret that makes freewriting work: this is not finished writing like you’re used to. It's more of a direct access to your subconscious. You may find yourself writing surprising things, or violent images, or things that don't make sense to your logical mind, and that's okay.
The secret is that in freewriting we give ourselves permission to write perfectly awful first drafts. We don't judge or criticize or critique the writing in any way. Instead we treat it as raw material, like mining for gold. You're bound to come up with a lot of junk, but there will be gems also.
The effect of giving myself permission to let anything that wanted to come out do so was unbelievably liberating. The idea of a writer's "block" became nonsensical. There is no block in the unconscious mind, it just keeps churning.
This practice has lead me down many other roads. I have a novel that's taking shape from dozens of freewriting sessions. I started a blog where I post an article every day of about 1,000 words. I just published A Self-Publisher's Companion, a book that I hope will be of help to people thinking about getting involved with self-publishing.
I couldn't have done any of this if I hadn't learned and practiced freewriting.
If you're looking for a way to generate new material, to find subjects that may have eluded you, to give yourself a creative jolt, give freewriting a try.
If you'd like more guidance, there's a PDF instruction sheet you can download here: How to Freewrite. Or pick up "Writing Down the Bones" or one of Natalie Goldberg's other books, where she provides many prompts and tells about her own writing practice, which seems like a variation on the freewriting I've described here. You'll be glad you gave it a try.
Even if you only use freewriting to get you "warmed up" for a writing session, it's going to enhance your creativity. And that's a good thing.
Joel Friedlander is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he's helped launch many self-published authors. He blogs about book design, writing and self-publishing at http://www.thebookdesigner.com/. Joel is also the author of the newly-published A Self-Publisher's Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish.
I've read Joel's book "A Self-Publisher's Companion" and can highly recommend it, as it's full of practical tips and motivational wisdom. Read my 5* review CLICK HERE.
Joel, thanks so much for sharing your time and wisdom with us!