Freewriting – use it to unblock, or to argue with yourself


Freewriting is advocated by many people, and by many universities, as a way of overcoming the dreaded writer’s block.  Some go so far as suggesting that it is a good way to begin any writing session.  Personally, I find that lots of preparation in outlining a piece helps with the actual writing and getting started. I do find, though, that freewriting is a very good way of engaging in an argument with myself – and the advantage is that I always win.

philosophersSometimes, I get stuck with setting out an argument, or even just deciding what I should do about something.  I may not want to discuss it with anyone and expose my latent weakness.  In those circumstances, freewriting is a great way to move ahead.  For example, I am still debating with myself how to handle the mass of data that I have uncovered in original sources.  It is clear that I can’t process it all – or is it?  Freewriting is a great way of working through the pros and cons of different ideas in an incredibly unstructured way.  It doesn’t always provide an answer – but it can help to clear the muddle in your head.

For the purists, classic freewriting guidelines suggest:

  • set aside a short time to freewrite, say 10-20 minutes
    • set a timer so you don’t focus on the clock instead of on writing
  • choose how you are going to write – it can be on paper, with pen or pencil, or on computer
    • my suggestion is to choose something different from what you normally use when writing.  This will engage different parts of the brain
  • choose a topic on which to write – don’t worry if you can’t get that far, just choose the first thing that comes into your mind
  • start writing – use sentences, not bullet points and don’t bother about punctuation or grammar – keep writing
  • fight the temptation to make corrections
    • it’s better to write “I have made a mistake” and write or explain your correction than to cross something out – this also helps to engage the brain
  • even though you know what you are writing is rubbish, don’t be tempted to make judgments or to censor what you write (though you might want to be careful where you leave the finsihed item lying around)

Freewriting can be fun and, if nothing else, should help with making you more comfortable with writing.



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