by Nancy Casey
Sometimes when you sit down to write, your mind is full of the things you could put down on the page. Then you pick up the pen and your mind becomes suddenly blank. Nothing that you were thinking seems important anymore.
Sometimes you know what you want to say, but the ideas roil so uncontrollably in your mind that it’s impossible to start.
Other times, your mind feels truly blank. Maybe your whole self feels blank. The pen weighs 400 pounds. The empty page is wide and desolate as the Sahara. It doesn’t seem possible for an idea to form.
Regardless of what makes you feel stuck, freewriting can get you un-stuck.
When you freewrite you write anything at all. Anything. Throw all of the rules out of the window. Spell the way you want. Forget grammar. Don’t expect to “make sense.” Just write stuff, whatever bubbles to the surface of your mind. It could be a string of unrelated words. It might be phrases or sentences. Maybe there will be capital letters and punctuation and maybe there won’t.
Today in your writing practice, fill a page with freewriting.
Some people find this very difficult. It’s hard to chuck out all the restrictions that come with years of training in “correct” writing. You can feel a strong resistance to writing down anything that’s not meaningful. If that’s how you feel, here are some “directions” to get you started.
Begin with individual words. Just words. Whatever pops into your mind. Write them down next to each other, one after the other without thinking of any connection they might have to one another. If “bubblegum” is followed by “lizards” and “traffic jam,” that’s just fine. If “bubblegum” is followed by “bubblegum” is followed by “bubblegum,” that’s okay, too. Fill up about a third of the page with single words.
As you move into the next third of the page, write phrases, a couple of words at a time. “phone on the desk” or “mosqitoes in evening gowns” or “throwing up lunch.” It doesn’t matter. Just phrases. You can put commas or dashes or slashes between them. Or not. Keep your hand loose. If it starts to feel tired or cramped, make it looser and write more slowly. It’s not a contest.
By the time you get to the final third of the page, your mind is likely to have relaxed quite a bit. The blockages between your mind and your hand dissolve.
When the freewriting begins to flow nicely, you will settle into an easy pace. New words and phrases arrive in your mind at exactly the rate you can write them down. The tensions that come with trying to write correctly fade. The freewriting has become free.
When you are finished, read it over. Notice the journey you have taken. It will make some kind of odd sense to you, but not necessarily to someone else. (When you read it tomorrow, it might not make sense to you anymore, but that’s okay.) There might be parts that you really like. It might all seem like nonsense, but that’s not a problem because the important part is the simple experience of having done it.
Be sure to date your writing. Give it a title by writing whatever comes to mind as your hand hovers over the spot where the title goes. Here is an example of what your writing could look like, except that yours will be original, something only you can do.
Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. If you have a writing project you would like help with, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.