Free writing is an exercise we often practice here at the Write Practice to unblock the mind and increase creativity and fluidity.
But free writing is more than a pill you dole out to cure writer's block, isn’t it? It has a much more important function than helping you finish a scene or discover an ending that resonates.
Free writing, practiced deliberately can set you free from fear.
Free Write to Become Free.
You cannot create art worth reading if you are always forcing yourself to color inside the lines of what’s acceptable and safe. You have to scribble right off the page and resist the urge to keep it sweet and sanitized. Of what value is your writing to yourself or others if you aren’t willing to be real and get messy?
Let your free writing be a pickaxe puncturing the dam dividing worthy thoughts from unclean. Let it set you free.
Free of fear:
Fear of expectations.
Fear of judgment.
Fear of self.
In this sacred space, no ones' eyes are on you and nothing you have to say is unworthy of the ink flowing across your page.
Getting Started: Utter, Seussian Nonsense.
There is no better place to begin than with utter nonsense. Let your freak flag fly and unleash the ravings of an unstable mind into the void in front of you. Do you remember the scene in the Dead Poet's Society where Robyn Williams pushes Todd, his most reluctant student, into free-speaking a stirring piece about a sweaty-toothed madman? I don’t know about you, but it gave me chills.
Unleash the sweaty-toothed madman. Let your mind go and write down every syllable of delirium that forms in your mind. Doo de do dee dum de dum.
Just let ‘er rip!
I was surprised when this bit of nonsense bit into my page:
And then the brown dog was leaping through the truck-o-sphere
dancing to its bone dog ways leaping over pits of fire and edibles,
eating its way into the night and airy way of life.
What a wonderful thing to be a free dog, fleas and all.
Believe me, it was a struggle not to take control of the pen when truck-o-sphere popped up. What does that even mean?
Don’t reign yourself in or your words will be dead fish stinking up your page. The world has enough smelly fish. Go for ugly fish, obnoxious fish, spiny fish, or even mutated-man-eating-fish, just please, no more dead fish.
Getting to the Heart: Be Obscene.
This paper is your private world. Give yourself express permission to be rude.
If you've ever thought it, no matter how ugly, write it. Invite the ugly to the surface. Resist the sober, polite voice demanding that you censor yourself, and trying to scare you out of honesty. If you are scared to write something down, you must write it! Don't avoid it. It may be your most important thought: a lie that has taken root, a wound you have buried, a rebel cry, a barbaric yawp. Whatever you do, don't be sedate.
When I write with the intention of keeping it polite and clean the words are always dead on arrival. Worse still, by keeping my pen on a leash, especially when I am supposed to be free writing, I am reinforcing the ban on uncomfortable thoughts, and burying them even deeper and with them my best stories. If you keep saying no to your muse she’ll stop sending you gifts.
Tell the whole truth.
Tell horrible lies.
Rant and rave and yell.
Write from a place of rage.
Write from a place of weakness and despair.
Write what you are most ashamed to think and feel.
Put all that ugliness out there on the page.
It is awfully selfish to hold back on authentic expression. To gloss over the ugly and raw places. To pretend they don’t exist, to wrap yourself in bleached linens and wad sterile gauze into your wounds hoping no one will smell the stench of rot and decay.
We don’t need more saccharine sonnets. We need your real, gut-wrenching, clotted, choked-up word spit.
You don't need to publish the carnage of your soul, but to create art that rings true you need to acknowledge the lies and thorns cluttering up your brain case.
Write while enraged/desolate/impassioned/ashamed. Edit while sober.
Rather than approaching free writing as an exercise to be done alongside your real writing, what if you gave yourself over to it? The honesty you pour onto the page could be the raw material for something great, something true.
Free write like a sweaty-toothed madman for fifteen minutes. Let yourself be absurd. Let yourself be obscene. Most importantly, let yourself be honest. Share the absurd in the comments. The ugly is for you to redeem.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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