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The Dangerous Trap of Forced Writing

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.

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Posted in Boosting Creativity, focused freewriting, free writing, learning to write, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing practice

More on Focused Free 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.

Posted in Boosting Creativity, build confidence as a writer, creative writing, free writing, freewriting, how to write, learning to write, learning your writing style, learning your writing voice, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing practice

The Amazing Benefits of Free Writing

There are many tools in a writer’s toolbox, but none is as helpful as the simple practice of free writing. It’s something that I picked up in my writing journey, which I used––but never fully appreciated––until I learned how powerful it could really be. This happened after reading the book How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig.

Nearly all her exercises, in the 265 page book, uses different variations of simple free write and focused freewriting. After doing several of the exercises, I found that all the free writing I’d done up to that point was really just a warm-up. I never took it to the next level, because I hadn’t realized I wasn’t doing free writing nearly enough (it should be done everyday), or even asking the right questions to do focused free writing.

Free writing is a remarkable tool that has, in a short period of time, led me to amazing discoveries about myself and my writing. The act of writing my thoughts directly onto the page, without any censorship, has given me the ability to articulate things that I wanted to say, but never knew how to say. It even unearthed things I never expected, and has led me down an entirely new path of writing, which I never would have seen without the process of free writing.

What is free writing and how does it work? It is actually a very simple process of writing either with pen and paper, or computer––whichever you feel more comfortable––for at least ten minutes without stopping (I use pen and paper because I find it’s easier to let go of the editor and just write). Turn that inner editor off! Don’t erase or correct mistakes! Keep writing no matter what! Set a timer, or an alarm if you want to keep the free writing limited in time (at the very least do ten minutes, if not more).

If you run out of ideas to write about, then just keep writing, “I don’t know what to write now,” until something pops up. Believe me, once you let the gate open, a flood of ideas will hit and you might even find it difficult to stop. I usually want to keep going, but have to move on to something else (but will come back later to explore more). Other times, I find that I’ve exhausted my ideas, and move then on to another subject to free write on, or another writing project all together.

The beauty of free writing is that you can free write on anything you chose. It can be a journal; a way to help get rid of the random thoughts, or the list of things you need to get done that day, or an argument you just had with the next door neighbor––or what I like to call “junk”––filling your head any given day. Once that junk has been expelled, other ideas are free to float to the surface.

The free writing can be on a specific subject or topic you want to write about. It can be on a new character that’s been haunting you. It can be, “I don’t want to do this” over and over. It doesn’t matter. Keep the pen moving! The point is to let yourself go and see where it takes you.

In doing this, you may wander into territory you don’t want to touch on, so change the direction. You may even find something new to explore that you never considered before. It’s up to you where you go and how long you want to go there. Just don’t have any expectations for your writing and allow yourself to enjoy the journey. You are in control!

The most important is to keep any free writing you do private. This gives you the freedom and you need to explore without judgment from others. The pressure is off and you no longer feel like you have someone looking over your shoulder. It is just you and your thoughts. Doing this will eventually boost your confidence as a writer, and will also let you just practice being a writer.

As important as it is for others not to judge your work in this practice stage, that goes double for yourself. If you find what you are writing “terrible” or “wonderful”, just ignore it, and move on. There will be plenty of time later to decide to polish up an idea, or just dump it all together. Right now, all that matters are the words being poured onto the page. Those elusive words and ideas are no longer hiding inside your crowded mind, but in solid form ready for you to use in any matter you chose. So keep that pen moving, and let the ideas flow!

Check out More on Focused Freewriting to know more about the free writing process.