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We are often asked by those who sometimes have a little fear or intimidation regarding the written word about a good way to get started when we just have to produce something. Our preference is to engage freewriting, a method that tends to clear the mind and capture focus, albeit in a roundabout way.


The premise of freewriting is to put a pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and write without stopping for a minimum of 10 minutes. You can start with your topic in mind, but don’t stop writing or pause to think for the full 10 minutes – write whatever comes to mind, even if it has nothing to do with your desired subject. Write words, phrases, a description of the weather, anything. Don’t correct anything, worry about spelling, punctuation or any other things that might distract from the writing.


At the end of the exercise you’ll be exhausted, but the premise of freewriting is that somewhere buried in the stream of consciousness output will be cogent ideas, interesting sentences, and threads of narrative that get you started on the project at hand. That is where we begin to find the focus and the ability to get started.


Peter Elbow, the great writing coach with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, talked about the exercise this way:


“Freewriting may seem crazy but actually it makes simple sense. Think of the difference between speaking and writing. Writing has the advantage of permitting more editing. But that’s its downfall too. Almost everybody interposes a massive and complicated series of editings between the time words start to be born into consciousness and when they finally come off the end of the pencil or typewriter onto the page. This is partly because schooling makes us obsessed with the “mistakes” we make in writing.”


And, therein, lies the root of that kernel of fear, intimidation, or just uneasiness that we sometimes get when it comes time to write. Freewriting is a method that lives up to its name. Without judgment of any kind, you are free to write in the stream of consciousness exercise.


In the freedom of the freewrite, we often find the inspiration, form and function we need to get started