Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Freewriting


Ages ago, I had promised to elaborate on 'Freewriting', and since I use it so much in my own work; I think it's time to share this little gem of an idea.

Before you begin writing anything, you need to understand your own writing process. It's only when you can grasp your own techniques, most of which are the same no matter the subject; that you can understand why and how you need to change to improve your writing style. Some writers gather their research and put down a draft based on this material. Others simply put down their thoughts before they can slip away (and we know how often that happens!) and then gather their research and begin their draft outline.

But what happens when you have no ideas and no indication as to where your research must start? This is where freewriting comes in. Simply put, freewriting is a process where you put your pen to paper or hands on the keyboard and write, non-stop, for 10 minutes. That's it. No stopping to think, no going back to correct spellings or grammatical errors. No making any changes. Just writing down whatever comes to your mind. If your mind begins to wander, then let it- just continue to write down what you think.

The value of freewriting lies in that your mind is too busy (as are your hands) to critique what is being put down on paper. And once the critic is silenced, your thoughts are allowed to flow. And it's quite incredible the direction this flow takes you. You may not get your complete draft from a freewriting exercise; indeed, often your thoughts go in a totally different direction. But you most likely will end up getting focused and if you are lucky, then you will have a central point from which to continue to work.

I love freewriting and even if I'm familiar with a topic I'm about to write on; I use it to help me put down all the jumbled up thoughts in my mind. Then once I've done my research, I can see if I've missed researching any of the points my mind initially came up with. And sometimes, I even find my starting sentence (usually my most difficult sentence) from a freewriting exercise.

To try your own freewriting exercise, do the following:


-Select an upcoming topic you've been asked to write on. If you don't have one, never mind. Select something that you would like to write on; preferably not something you are extremely conversant with.

-Do a 10 minute freewriting exercise on this topic. Don't stop till the timer you've set (or alternatively, keep a clock besides you) has gone off.

-I prefer typing with my eyes shut. This minimizes any distractions that may crop up (such as actually viewing spelling typos). You can do it with your eyes shut or open- just don't stop to make any changes.

-At the end of the exercise, read through it and see what key points come up.

Practise freewriting for at least 7 consecutive days and at the end of it, you'll find that your thoughts wander less often and your mind comes up with wonderful ideas on the subject at hand.

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