Back in 2005, I walked into my first class at the Second City Training Center in Chicago. The class was “Introduction to Comedy Writing” or ICW and our instructor was the multitalented Ranjit Souri. The first thing he had us do was sit down with our notebooks and free write. About anything. The key was to just write, and not edit as we went. So for 15 minutes I scribbled down a bunch of crap. I believe part of it said, “I have no idea why I’m doing this, but I don’t want to stop writing so I’m writing about oh look at the carpet isn’t that weird?”
At the end of the fifteen minutes, I had a few pages of notebook paper filled with random drivel that was mostly misspelled. But, in that notepad of nonsense was the beginning of a story. A story I had never thought of with characters that came out of nowhere.
Breaking out of “edit first”
The concept of free writing gets you out of your natural “edit first” mentality that we’ve all grown accustomed to. By forcing yourself to write continuously and not allowing yourself to edit at all (including using the Delete key if you’re on a computer) you push through those natural editing blocks most of us have. The result is you tapping into that big right brain of yours and pulling out a lot of juicy information – even if it’s horribly spelled and doesn’t make any real sense.
Free writing = creative training
Free writing is a great pre-writing technique to shed your inner critic before writing. As such, it’s a great tool to push past writer’s block. But free writing is also a tool you can use to exercise your creative writing muscle.
Athletes train to become better. They practice plays and techniques, training their muscles to remember the motions so it becomes second-nature. As writers, we need to do the same. Free writing is a wonderful tool to tap into our creative subconscious. By flexing this creative muscle on a regular basis, we are training our brain to tap into our creative side more frequently and with more ease. The more we tap into it, the easier it becomes in the future.
Tools for free writing
Free writing is pretty simple. Open a notebook or a document on your desktop. Set a time for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Now, begin writing. Seems simple, but it takes a lot of discipline to keep yourself focused on that task, and you may find yourself tapping your pen on the paper, or looking at a blinking cursor for a minute or two at a time. Luckily, there are some cool tools to help us out. Below are some great ones that I pulled from a great post on reddit.
This one is a paid app for desktop or iPad. If you feel that you need someone to slap your hand with a ruler to keep you motivated, here’s the product for you. You set your time goal on the app and then you begin typing. The app pays attention to how fast you’re going and whether you’re slowing down or take a pause. If you pause too long, the damn thing shrieks at you.
This is a great tool that keeps track of how many words you write each day and graphs out your progress over time. Unlike regular free writing, which is time-based, this program counts words and gives you points for how much you write.
Okay, so getting shrieked at for not writing isn’t motivating you. No problem. Type 100 words in this site and you get a kitten! (A picture of one, not a real kitten.)
Flex that right brain muscle!
Now go make a plan for yourself. You can set a schedule to free write once a day, for a specific period of time, or use free writing as a way of warming up your creative flow before you sit down for a long writing session. Do what works best for you. Happy writing!