Use Freewriting to Jump Start the Writing Process

Freewriting is a good prewriting strategy if you often have a lot of thoughts buzzing around in your head and struggle to get them organized. By letting you pour all those ideas out onto paper, this technique will not only clear your head, but it will also bring out more ideas that you didn’t even know you had. All you have to do is grab some paper or sit down at the computer and just write.

Write everything that comes into your head. Yes, everything. If all you can think is, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write,” then write that. That’s a good beginning. The goal is to keep your hand moving across the page the entire time you’re writing. How long should that be? It depends. Start with ten minutes. Yes, you can write for ten minutes. The laundry will wait. Your hand won’t fall off. This is important. When you see what this strategy can do for your writing, you’ll love the results.

But here’s the real trick to freewriting: even if at first, your hand is flying across the page and you’re pouring out lots of thoughts, there will come a point where the ideas stop. You’ll think you’re done, nothing else to say. Don’t stop.

Just sit there quietly for a minute. Then read back over what you have. Slowly at first, you’ll start to get more ideas. And then more, and then more. And some of the ideas that come to you here at the end will be some of the best ones, so don’t skimp. Keep going until this second wind runs out. Then you’re probably done.

What, you may ask, is the purpose of pouring out all this junk onto the page when half of it may not even relate to the topic you want to write about or the story you’re working on? Moving your hand across a page (or your fingers on a keyboard) has magic in it. The very act of putting ideas on paper makes room for more in your conscious mind. So this isn’t just about recording the ideas you have, though that’s important too. It’s also about generating new material that you can then work with as you start to craft the piece.

To find a topic.

If you have an academic writing assignment and you don’t know what to write about, you can use this technique to find a topic. You might free-write for a few minutes about whatever is in your head. Or you might sit down with the textbook for the class and free-write on whatever you see on any random page, or the cover. You may find a topic the first time you do this or, if you have time, you could try a little freewriting every day until something comes to you.

To focus a topic or get unstuck.

If you do have a topic for your writing, but you aren’t sure how to hone it, where to focus, what your story is really about, freewriting is a great technique to solve that problem. Putting your thoughts on paper lets you look at them more objectively. It also encourages you to pour out your feelings about the writing project, and often that’s where the block is.

To get started.

This is also a great strategy to help you get into your project each time you sit down to write. If you keep a journal, you might freewrite for ten minutes as a warm-up routine before you get to work.

And always remember to make your prewriting fun.

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