The Freewriting Journey

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

I worked hard to consciously write a better story, but in doing so, I wrote a story that was even worse. 

I had studied hundreds of books and taken many classes on how to write better, which focused on building the best plots, composing amazing sentences, and developing other technical skills. I worked hard to integrate those lessons into my writing and consciously write a better story, but I still wasn’t happy with the final product: The plot served its function, the scenes that did what they were supposed to do, but the story lacked anything unique or special. 

Frustrated with my results, I began searching for answers. I scoured every page in my writing books, diving deeper into theory until I got more and more lost. 

When I discovered Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow, a new way of writing dawned on me. The book introduces a technique called Freewriting, which is private, non-stop writing. All I had to do was write for ten minutes without stopping, fixing mistakes, or judging my work. Easy enough, I thought. Could this be the answer I was looking for? 

But then I dug deeper into Elbow’s advice. He says “you will have piles of rubble” and that “this may seem a wasteful method.” I realized that I would have to write pages and pages before I had a few paragraphs of something special. 

I didn’t have time for that. I needed to publish my book in two months, and I couldn’t afford to waste time writing piles of rubble. I’d find another way. 

The next morning, I got up at six a.m. to work on my novel, and I experienced the same feeling: My scenes were functional, but they were missing that special touch. That’s when I said “Screw it.” 

I opened a blank page, and full of frustration, I let my freewriting rip. It flowed out of me like no other writing had ever before. It sparkled with language and images and metaphors that I had never before been able to achieve. There was a truth to it, my truth, and a strong voice that said, “Hey, listen to me. I’ve got something special to say.” 

Was it messy? Yes. I used almost no punctuation and made grammar mistakes on every line, but the content was rich. I sat statue-still, considering what I could become if I worked hard. 

That is how I officially became a Freewriter. This blog will focus on Freewriting for fiction writers. I will share the processes and tools I have created to push my writing and force gold nuggets out of the mud. And I will be writing a novella using only Freewriting techniques, which I’ll record and post in weekly 5-10 minute videos. 

I leave you with a challenge: Today or tomorrow, try your hand at freewriting. Sit down in front of your computer, or grab a pen and paper, and start writing. It can be about anything, but don’t stop. Allow your unconscious to drive the process and take your writing where it needs to go. Even if you get stuck, keep writing, repeating, “I don’t know what to say,” or “What is interesting to me,” until a new idea springs up. Then take that idea and run with it.

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