A person doesn’t have to be published in order to call himself a writer. Write often, if not daily and anyone can be a writer. It doesn’t even have to be good writing (controversial but true). The point is, just write.
For those struggling to begin, I have found it beneficial to try free writing. The power of free writing can spark powerful gems that can lead to longer and more serious writing. Even the most novice to the very seasoned writer has used this writing technique for years, so it does have some validity.
In a lot of the workshops I attend, we begin class with a free write assignment. The instructor gives us a writing prompt and we all have to write for 15 minutes, sometimes longer depending on the prompt. Afterward we read out loud what we have written and we are not allowed to be apologetic or make excuses for our writing. We share knowing this is our first attempt with the prompt and what we write is in the very raw stages of the writing process.
Sometimes writers make the mistake of putting a lot of pressure on themselves by believing that everything they write has to be the next literary masterpiece. But if we continue to have this high expectation then we’re often going to be disappointed and probably discouraged to ever write again. Free writing allows us to put our guard down because we know and accept that what we write is going to be a draft. The good news is that often times, somewhere, in the free write there will be gems or ideas for your next poem, novel or short story. It’s actually happened to me quite a few times. In fact most of the stories I have written have stemmed from a free write—I’ve taken a line, paragraph, character, image and used it for a short story.
Free writes are streams of consciousness. It’s an opportunity to document the words ebbing and flowing in your mind in a very relaxed, low stress, low risk writing form. In free writing, it’s not about the quality of what you write, but it’s about exercising your brain and creative capacity to write for a specific period of time. For beginners I’d recommend 5-10 minutes. More advanced writers can increase the time. Also, most importantly, free writing is about letting go. That often means not allowing yourself to read back what you wrote or revising and editing during the writing time. What you write, stays unchanged. If you decide to use the free write a later time to for a story, you can edit it then. But during the 5-10 minutes of free writing, editing, revising and rereading should be avoided. Again, it’s about writing non stop for a short, specific amount of time and not editing yourself.
You’ll be impressed where your mind and creativity can take you for 10 minutes. You’ll write things down you didn’t think you had in you and you’ll ask yourself where did I get that from? That’s the comforting beauty behind free writing. Each time you do it, you’ll get an unexpected surprise. But even if you don’t use what you’ve written in your next story you’ll have had at least 5-10 minutes of quality time, pouring your heart out on paper, with no expectations and without any reservations.
To get started here is a list of ten writing prompts:
- a person covered in tattoos holds a lottery ticket
- a person with a devastating secret is in an empty theater
- I’ve never eaten a Mc Donalds hamburger
- I should have never
- the doctor’s note
- invitation from a stranger
- last, best kiss
- something beautiful yet useless
- here comes trouble
- a person who is lost in a supermarket after hours
Pick one and write for 5-10 minutes, non stop. Enjoy and have fun! And if you decide to try this, feel free to post all or part of your free write in the reply box. I’d love to read what you’ve written.