Friday, November 16, 2007

Writing for Style - Freewriting

Staring at a blank computer screen or piece of paper has to be one of the most awkward times for a writer.

Suddenly your desk needs tidying, then the books in the bookcase demand sorting into alphabetical order, then it’s time to check your email—anything is more attractive than writing.

Making something out of nothing, creating something that has never existed before, is akin to Dumbledore waving his wand to produce a feast for dozens of hungry students. It’s magic. If the prospect of having to make magic makes you uneasy, you are not alone.

It’s not that writers have nothing upstairs, its just that most of us have no special talent for organizing thoughts and putting them down on paper. So instead of writing, I just scribble. Then I go back and try to make sense of it all.

This scribbling is called freewriting—writing without rules. If you find yourself searching for a writing topic, start by jotting down the first thoughts that come to mind, no matter how trivial or disconnected they may appear. Freewriting resembles the warm up you might do before exercising. There is no "correct" way to do this, so try your own variation of these steps:

  • Begin with a blank computer screen or a pad and a watch (or the clock on the computer). Freewriting involves generating words, not correcting them or getting just the right word. Set a time for yourself.
  • Try one, five, or ten minutes. Longer times may not be that productive since freewriting is a "warm up" for more focused writing.
  • Begin to type or write about anything that comes into your head. Don't stop until the time is up.
  • Then review what you have written. Are there words you like? Ideas that might work for your writing project?

For five minutes, write non-stop: don't lift your fingers from the keyboard or your pen from the page. Just keep writing. Don't stop to ponder or make corrections or look up a word's meaning in the dictionary. Just keep writing.

Next time: Focused Freewriting

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