Nothing is as frustrating as wanting to write but not knowing where to start or what to put on paper. And even if you can motivate yourself to write, sometimes the words are not coming. A technique like freewriting will boost your creativity and pull you right out of that slump.
Freewriting, or free writing, is a technique created by Peter Elbow in 1973. By writing nonstop for a certain time, the author stops listening to their inner critic, diving into research, or focusing on anything else. This helps with breaking the barriers of writer’s block, trains the writer’s muscle, and improves their technique and speed.
So even if you are currently not struggling to write, you can benefit immensely from applying this technique on a regular. Freewriting will boost your creativity in many ways, but the following 9 are my favorite.
1. It shuts off your inner critic
I can be very perfectionistic when it comes to my writing. When I just started, that kept me from moving forward. After every single scene or paragraph that I wrote, I went back to scrutinize it. Editing on the go did not do me any favors.
When I was introduced to the freewriting technique, I had to break that habit. Because you only write for a set amount of time (I started with 15 minutes per session), it’s easier to tap yourself on the fingers and say no.
Freewriting will help you to let the words flow without you feeling the need for them to be perfect. It separates the editing stage from the writing stage, which can evoke a strong feeling of freedom. That’s why it’s one of my favorite benefits of this technique.
2. It helps you to start
Sometimes you have a story in your mind, but you just don’t know where to start. Maybe you doubt between introducing a character or starting with an event. Or perhaps you want that very first perfect sentence. Either way, it’s blocking you from writing.
Freewriting can take that blockage away. You are not after the perfect sentence, scene, or character. You only have one task and that is to write for as long as the timer is ticking. No looking back, no stopping, no time for doubt.
Even if you don’t have an idea, freewriting can help you to start. Simply pick a topic of your liking. Let’s say horses, bananas, or the ocean. A simple word like that is enough to start. Turn on the timer and write down everything you know about your topic or story. And off you go.
3. It serves as a brain dump
Maybe point 2 already gave this one away a little bit, but freewriting can also serve as a creative brain dump. Because you cannot put your pen down, you will automatically start to stack ideas. Leaping from one to the other.
When you keep pushing for that next sentence, you will start to develop a way to take a word or idea and build on that. Before you know it you can’t stop with writing because the flow of ideas just keeps coming.
This part makes freewriting extremely useful when you want to explore a world, or a character’s behavior, for example. But it can also help you brainstorm the idea for your next novel. I love it.
4. It trains your writing muscle
Although the idea of needing 10.000 hours of practice to become a pro is debunked, we can all surely agree that you do need the training to get on top of your game. The saying is practice makes perfect for good reasons after all.
Freewriting is not aimed at writing a scene, description, or even sentences that make sense. It only focuses on the act of writing itself for a certain amount of time. Even if that means you keep writing the same sentence over and over again until something sparks.
This act in itself trains your writing muscle. When you repeat this daily at the same time, your brain will start to prepare itself. It knows what is coming. You will notice that after a few days the writing flows a lot easier and it doesn’t take you as long to write something not repetitive.
Besides having experienced the benefits of this routine myself, the study also shows that the brain thrives on repetition. Your brain stores information so that it can retrieve it faster. The video below explains it all:
5. It helps you focus
Okay, I have to admit that this takes a little bit of practice. But that is exactly the point. When you write, you might sometimes find your mind wandering. One moment you are writing, the next you are staring out the window.
Freewriting helps with getting this under control. You only have a certain amount to write (fifteen to twenty minutes), and the goal is to keep your pen moving. This is a big challenge, especially if you are just starting.
You will find that you are so focused on keeping the pen going, that any outer world distractions pretty much melt away. After a while, the focus on keeping the pen moving also disappears and you are just writing for a set amount of time.
If you are a person with a short attention span, freewriting can help you with this. Just set your timer and don’t allow anything in until it goes off. It does not matter if you have to start with just five minutes, or maybe even less. This is something you need to build. Add a little every day. It will go a long way!
6. It allows you to experiment
I hope that by now you are aware that freewriting has one goal, and one alone. Do not let your pen leave the paper for a set amount of time. There is nothing else you have to do. And that’s amazing because that leaves you room for experimentation.
Freewriting time isn’t specifically used to write your next masterpiece, that one amazing scene, or even the next article to go online. You can use it in whatever way you like. So maybe you want to experiment with writing a different genre.
Maybe you want to see what it is like if you write your story from a different perspective. Whatever flows your boat. It does not only make for a great exercise, but it also keeps your freewriting time fresh and fun.
7. It increases your writing speed
This one touches a little bit on number 4. Freewriting helps speed up your writing because it trains your brain. It helps to retrieve information faster, which will put you in the writing mood almost instantly, which on its own will help speed up your writing.
But you will also become a faster writer because you struggle less and less with obstacles in your way. Freewriting rewires your brain to keep ongoing. So when you encounter a problem in your actual work, you’ll find ways around it.
Because you are no longer focused on minute problems that can be fixed later on, you will stay in the flow. Because you keep in the writing flow, you are more in touch with your story. Because you are more in touch with your story your writing will become… yes, you guessed it… faster.
8. It inspires you
Freewriting should be a part of your daily exercise routine if only to keep you inspired. If you are like me, you focus on one story at a time, and anything else is just a distraction. As a result, you can hit a creative dry spell when you finish your story. Well damn.
Freewriting will boost your creativity by also keeping you inspired. As I mentioned before, you will be so focused on pushing on to the next sentence and the next and the next, that you will make connections that you have never thought of before.
By regularly practicing freewriting, you learn to draw inspiration from every topic. Something as simple as a flower in a vase can turn into a story about plants releasing a toxic gas to kill all humanity. A slice of bread can turn into the hero of kitchen adventures.
Freewriting will take you in all sorts of directions, and that is incredibly inspiring. The best part is, you’ve already written it down, so you can always go back to it.
9. It will turn you into a better writer
Freewriting is practice. It will test your stamina, your willpower, and your grit. In return, you learn to think outside of the box, build perseverance, and sharpen your skills. It is not meant as in-dept writing, but simply to train and train and train.
As shown in the 8 other points, freewriting will boost your creativity and many ways. Each on their own might seem like a small fragment, but overall they make a huge difference. If you are looking for ways to become a better writer, this technique should be on your list.
The goal of freewriting is that you write for a certain amount of time without any interruptions. The flow of writing cannot be disturbed, and going back to make altercations or remove spelling mistakes is ‘strictly prohibited.’ There are no rules other than that your pen cannot leave the paper.
You might have noticed that I said pen and paper throughout this article, which has a valid reason. This technique works best when you are writing longhand. Going back on a computer is done faster than you realize and only causes frustration.
Of course, you can also do it digitally. There even are programs out there that will block out everything you wrote. For me, that just doesn’t help. Besides that, performing physical activity also helps with strengthening the neurons. In other words… you benefit from it even more.
So go. Grab that piece of paper, pen, and timer, tell everybody to keep quiet, and go at it. You got this!