Combat Writer's Block With this Easy Exercise
Writer's block. We've all been there before, and for a writer it's one of the worst things out there. It's like being stuck in a traffic jam on your way to a meeting that could make your career. And sometimes the cars in front of you start creeping along slowly, and you feel a dash of hope –maybe it'll be alright. But then they all stop again, and nothing. Just you, in your car, as the minutes keep ticking away...
People try to break through writer's block in different ways. Some may turn on music. Some may go for a quick walk. Some may feast on chocolate, because chocolate is the answer to everything. How you try to get out of this blackhole is up to you, but something we recommend strongly is 'free writing'.
What is Free Writing and How Can it Help?
Put simply, free writing is writing quickly with no purpose. It sounds counterintuitive – after all writing is a tool used to communicate ideas or illustrate stories. But in free writing, you're going to temporarily forget the traditional functions of writing. Instead, you're going to use it to vent out thoughts and ideas you never knew you had. And those thoughts and ideas can help get your creativity going again.
Free writing can also help you regain control. When you're stuck in your writing for minutes or hours, you start to feel like you've lost your skill forever. You start blaming yourself or you start procrastinating on Facebook. Such situations can get out of hand quickly, but free writing helps you bring the focus back to what you wanted to do in the first place – write. It helps you recreate the moments of inspiration you've had before, when your fingers couldn't stop flying across the keyboard. You'll remember what it feels like to be the one in control, and this positivity will push you on through the dark times.
It's also extremely liberating. Think about it, when's the last time you wrote, just for the sake of it? No word counts to meet, no audiences to please, no structure to worry about. Just you and your wild thoughts.
How to Free Write
- Set a timer to 5 - 15 min. If it's your first time free writing, the shorter the better.
- Start writing. Don't make an effort to think. Just write down the thoughts that come to you. Don't think about grammar or spelling or articulation. Just write. (*more details below)
- Stop writing when the timer goes off, and take a quick break.
- Read through what you wrote. Don't judge your own writing – just let yourself be surprised at the ideas that you generated.
* Here are some extra tips for step 2:
DON'T STOP WRITING
If your mind is completely blank, then write about that. If all the words in your internal dictionary have disappeared, write about that. If you lose your thoughts mid-sentence, that's okay. Just start a new one.
DON'T ERASE ANYTHING
Mistakes don't exist in free writing. If you're free writing on a laptop and those red dotted lines bother you, turn off spell checking. If you're using pen and paper, resist the urge to scratch your words out.
DO GO WILD!
Forget every writing technique or taboo that you've picked up over the years. Just let your mind go free.
Sharing Something from Free Writing Feels Like Publishing Your Diary...
But here goes:
What happens when you just turn your mind off and write? what appears on this blank page could change the world. Although the world is a very dark place. Maybe I’ll switch to freewirting on paper instead, because I’m so slow at typing. I do love my new keyboard though. They say multipotentialites are good at cross-breeding ideas and knowledge. I guess in a way that’s true. I notice so much how different areas ofAnonymous
knowledge is useful in other areas. I can’t remember any examples off the top of my mind. Because I can never remember stuff. I wonder what it feels like to be that guy from Memento. I tried walking from the bus
stop to our house today, pretending like I was him. But it didn’t work well, since it’s a walk I’ve been walking for 10+ years, and even if I couldn’t remember why I was there, it’s fairly obvious I’m walking home. One thing I didn’t really get from that movie was that lady. The one who was a waitress. I don’t really get why she used the guy. I can’t even oh. Now I remember. His name was Lenny. I wonder why he had such good abs. Like he never left notes for himself reminding himself to workout. I guess it was a
The above was from a 5 minute session. Notice how immature and unpolished it is – this is completely acceptable in free writing.
And although the passage itself has very little literally value, there are a few interesting topics that come up. You can then take these topics and build on them. For example:
"Although the world is a very dark place."-> How is it bad? What happened that made it bad? How can it be made better?
"I'm so slow at typing"-> What are the best ways to learn how to type? Who's the fastest typist in the world, and how did they train?
"cross-breeding ideas and knowledge" -> What are some good examples of this? What ideas and knowledge do I have that I can cross-breed?
"I wonder what it feels like to be that guy from Memento?" -> What would it feel like? What memory would you most like to keep?
The ideas that you generated may be completely irrelevant to what you need to right at that moment. But it's important to read through what you wrote. It may end up unlocking more ideas, or they might become great topics to write about in the future.
Ways to Spice it Up
Once you're used to free writing, try setting yourself a topic. Here are some of our favorites:
Apple (fruit or company)
As you can see, literally any topic works. But try to choose a topic you don't normally think about. It will take your mind places you've never been before. If you're up for a challenge, try using this cool online software – it generates random topics for you to write about.
Now that you know how free writing works, let's see an example.