How can free writing help you beat writer’s block?

We’ve all been there: you sit down to write and… nothing happens. You stare at the page, wanting—needing— to write. Perhaps you even have a few false starts, but they sputter out as quickly as they begin. The juices won’t flow, the magic isn’t happening.

Writer’s block, blank page paralysis — call it whatever you like, it always sucks. It’s frustrating enough at the best of times, but when you’ve got an essay due, a client deadline, or you’ve just managed to carve out this small window to work on your manuscript, not being able to get started is a nightmare.

The next time you find yourself drawing a blank over a blank document, give free writing a try.

What is free writing?

Think of free writing as a warm-up; like stretching before a run. The act of free writing—of writing without intention or purpose—helps get your brain ready to think creatively, without the stress of having to churn out words that matter.

How do you free write?

Every writer who practices free writing has their own method that works best for them, but the basic idea is to give yourself a set amount of time (Say, 15 minutes) or space (One full page? A minimum of 500 words? It’s up to you) to write whatever comes to mind. It’s like a brain-dump of random sentences and thoughts; think of it as doodling with words.

What you write can be about your project or about nothing in particular. Perhaps you write poetry or transcribe a dream you had last night. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar — nothing about your free writing needs to be perfect. It doesn’t matter what you write, it just matters that you do.

If you find yourself paralyzed by this much freedom, try this sample starter:

“What if I wrote about ____________”

What are the benefits of free writing?

As I’ve said before, writing is essentially a type of exercise. And if writing is a way to exercise your creative muscles, free writing warms those muscles up so they can perform at their best.

Free writing also tends to be habit forming. Many writers use the practice as a way of signaling to their brain that it’s time to shift the way they think. The more they do it, the easier it becomes for their minds to switch into “writing mode” when they want/need to write.

And, finally, while free writing isn’t meant to be serious, you never know what kind of gems the unencumbered mind might unearth! In your drabbles you may come up with some wonderful lines you want to keep, or perhaps you manage to work out a tricky plot-point that’s been holding you up. You might even end up brainstorming a whole new project idea!

Do you have any experience with free writing? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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