There comes a time in every writer’s career, when you look back at a piece of work and realize how truly bad it is. Wait. Did you just say that happens to you all the time? Well, isn’t that funny, because that happens to me all the time too. It’s like the work done before (even if done just last week!) becomes an immediate target for all your ridicule and disgust. But the truly loathsome stuff, happened back in the beginning of your writing career. That’s the stuff that gets burned or stuffed in a locked drawer never to see the light of day again.
There is a defining moment, though, when you realize that your approach to writing was all wrong, or perhaps your understanding of how to write was all wrong. You go back to read a project to discover a most horrifying truth… the piece is a stumbling piece of disastrous plot, unbelievable characters, graceless dialogue, and just overall forced writing.
As I already discussed in The Amazing Benefits of Free Writing, practicing free writing on a daily basis can open up writing in a wondrous way. This happens in the best way possible when free writing is focused on a specific topic or question. The topic or question can be anything that you chose, but the more specific the question the better. Having a broad topic to work on can be more confusing than helpful, but allowing freedom to explore inside a narrowed topic or question allows for discovery that might be surprising and quite enlightening. Here’s how I do it…
I like to make a list of things I want to know more about. When I have the time to sit down to write, I chose one from my list to write on. I let the pen take me to where it needs to go. I give myself permission to go beyond the borders of my chosen topic, but only if I think it will help fill in the blanks of the subject at hand. Any stray thoughts that have no relation to the writing “topic” is put in the margins of the paper, so I can come back to it later. At the end of the focused free writing practice, I often find myself surprised at what I come up with. The point is to be flexible enough to explore an idea fully, but not to go off the path so far as to be nowhere near the first original idea. It’s a delicate balance that can only be found through lots of practice.
Not sure where to start in focused free writing? Look at your own work. Do you have questions about the story, the characters, the plot, the ending, the beginning? Do you have questions about a certain topic in your story? Or maybe you have questions about where your writing journey is going? Do you have mixed feelings about the contract deal you’ve just been offered for a new piece of work, or whether to attend a writing conference, or maybe the question is as simple as trying to figure out the optimum time of day to write?
Focused free writing can be beneficial, because it offers a deeper look into current and future writing projects, or even into the actual writing journey. Sometimes just the act of writing out a problem can give a solution that has been illusive for days or weeks. Most often, it is during this act that allows a writer to stumble across solutions never considered before.