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Break Writer's Block with a Freewrite
Do you find it easier to organize your desk than your thoughts? When it comes time for serious writing, do you instead challenge yourself to another round of Spider Solitaire? I used to plow through reams of paper, just trying to get the first paragraph right. Then, I found the freewrite.
The freewrite is a fantastic device to add to your writer’s tool belt. It does precisely as its name proclaims – it frees you to write, and to write freely.
rules, what rules?
Rule #1 – There are no rules. Do not to be bothered by capitalization, punctuation, grammar, spelling, format, theme - - nor any other structured tool of regular writing. (Other than the actual writing bit – you still need to form letters, words, and so forth.) You can write one long paragraph, line by line, or a circuitous route around the border of the page if you choose. As long as you write, write, and keep on writing.
Rule #2 – Set a time limit, a mere 5 minutes to start. You can work your way up to 10, 15, 20, and 30-minute intervals later. For now, five minutes should be enough to get you into the process and see the value of the exercise.
Do you have your paper and pen in hand? Now, think of a topic. It can be anything – from describing your relationship with your mom to discussing your love of motorcycle rides on Sunday mornings. Just think of something, anything, to write about.
Your pen should not stop moving until the time limit is up. If you get stuck, repeat the last word you wrote or write your current thought or feeling, as long as you keep writing. Let loose and have fun with this exercise. Your brain and hand will work in sync to push your thoughts through and break the writer’s block barrier.
Rule #3 – When time is up, STOP! No need to finish a thought, complete a sentence or wrap up the paragraph. The idea is not to have written a polished piece, but to have written. A freewrite will open the channels of creativity in your mind and get you writing again.
adjust and add
I began again to write about my son’s automobile accident from the natural viewpoint of his mother. Soon into the exercise, however, I saw words of pain and despair cross the page as I re-enacted similar frightful experiences of my own. When I connected my own tears and tremors to the story through the real, raw emotions developed in the freewrite, the story took on a new viewpoint and added dimension that was needed to make the piece poignant.
The revision sold to a national magazine the first time I queried (to be published in September or November, 2003). The freewrite helped me to break the mold I kept envisioning for the story and find a new fresh angle. In fact, as I underlined key points and phrases in the freewrite, I discovered a sidebar list that I also sold to the same magazine. Whether a beginning hobby writer or a professional paid journalist, this exercise is beneficial to all levels of writers.
When your brain freezes and the blinking cursor on your monitor mocks, pull the wacky, but reliable freewrite out of your writer’s tool belt to grease your writing gears and start writing freely again.
Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary and arts magazine, Haute Dish. As a freelancer, her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.
She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students and helps to edit the column of her 18-year old, British-bred cat on coolpetsites.com, Purrfect Gypsy – The Cat’s Eye View. She is married with two college-enrolled children, and keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Her published clips can be viewed via her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.