Having trouble getting ideas on paper? Try this technique:
- Clear your mind. Relax. Forget all of the rules concerning grammar. This is the most important part of the exersise.
- Set a time limit for yourself. If you are a beginning writer try a ten-minute limit. If you are a more experienced writer, try fifteen to twenty minute sessions. There are recommendations for longer sessions: forty-five minutes to an hour, but I have found that any session longer than twenty minutes become ineffective. What usually results are splintered splatters of ideas that are so abstract and far removed from the original focus that the writer cannot use them for the given piece of writing.
- After you’ve set a time limit, WRITE. Don’t stop. If you spell words wrong, don’t go back to edit. If the idea fades KEEP WRITING. This is crucial to the exercise. Even if you have nothing on your mind, write “I HAVE NOTHING ON MY MIND, I HAVE NOTHING ON MY MIND, I HAVE NOTHING ON MY MIND.” You can keep writing this over and over because it is okay. What you are doing is freeing your mind, and eventually something will surface even if you have to do multiple sessions of free writing.
- When the time limit is finished, STOP. Write nothing else. Then go back to the page. Read it slowly, and underline all of the ideas that surfaced during the session that pertain to the formal writing on which you are working. If the freewriting is too unfocused to use, take a break. Try a second session later, but try to maintain focused on the subject on which you are writing.
Freewriting is important and can be beneficial to all writers, but it is geared specifically to non-linear writers. It allows the mind to vent ideas that wouldn’t ordinarily surface under the conventional, linear framework of writing.
Created by Allen Campbell
Freewriting is one of the better techniques that writers can use early on in the process. If you have an idea for a topic but aren’t sure whether it will work or not, one way to find out is through freewriting. Additionally, if you know what your topic is (and perhaps even have a working thesis), you can come up with additional ideas and/or content for your essay through freewriting.
Freewriting means what its name suggests: writing without constraint. Too often, writers get self-conscious about writing and want everything to be perfect the first time. The practice of freewriting eliminates these obstacles and allows a writer to generate creativity.
How it works:
With a possible essay topic or idea in mind, get out a pen and a piece of paper, and spend a set amount of time writing about this topic (5-10 minutes is a good timeframe). Write down anything and everything that comes to mind, even if you don’t think it is useful or relatable. Once you start, do not stop writing; do not criticize or edit what you have written; do not even read what you have written yet. There will be plenty of time for editing and evaluating when you are finished. For now, the idea is to get as much down on the paper as possible, even if it isn’t particularly well written and/or contains grammatical mistakes.
Once you are finished, now read what you have written. Is there a main idea that has emerged that can become a topic for an essay? Are there several ideas that relate to a potential topic/thesis and can be written about in more detail in an essay? Are there actual sentences that can be used in an essay, even if they have to be revised? More than likely, the answer to these questions is yes. If so, you now have a start for your essay. At this point, you can begin the initial process of developing a working thesis, grouping your ideas together through brainstorming, and/or creating an outline.
It works even when it doesn’t:
Although unlikely, it is possible that what you wrote will not lead to further ideas or development. If this is the case, don’t worry. Thanks to this freewriting exercise, you now know that this potential topic or idea for your essay may not be the right one for this particular assignment, and you can try out another topic. Coming to this realization now, after only a few minutes of freewriting, is much better than realizing it later, once more time has been committed to this potential topic. In this way, freewriting saves time whether it leads to specific topics/ideas or not.