I have a coaching colleague who likes to say: “All roads lead to Rome.” By this, she means that no matter what you start talking about with a client, the real issue will soon show up.
I feel the same way about free writing. It’s one of my favorite tools to explore my own creativity. There are many different ways to use this tool.
Basic Free Write
I usually start with my pen and paper in hand. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then open my eyes, letting my eyes fall on whatever object that is in my line of sight. Then I start writing, using the object as my starting point. Then I just keep writing, usually for 5 minutes. If I can’t think of what to write, I write “I can’t think of what to write” until another thought comes. I glance at the clock to know when to stop.
For example, a free-write might begin like this:
I see the stool that Joey sits on when he helps me make pancakes in the morning. I hope he’s feeling better tomorrow than he is today.
While this is not earth-shattering stuff, it does show how quickly one can go from a mundane object to whatever is at the front of one’s mind. If my son wasn’t sick, I might have continued to journal about the stool and mentioned how my son calls the ground coffee he spoons into my coffee funnel “coffee crumbs.” Again, not earth-shattering stuff, but memories I will be thrilled to re-read at some point in the future.
Fiction Free Write
I use the format of the Basic Free Write, but I start with the perspective of my character. How might my character view the stool? Or, if I already have a setting picked out, how would my character describe it? The most important rule is to keep writing. Do not let the pen stop moving (or the fingers stop moving on the keyboard) or you will lose that momentum. It feels silly, but only for a short time, before I’m lost in the world of my character.
Nonfiction Free Write
When I have a speaking engagement, or need to write nonfiction for a particular audience, I have found that doing a Nonfiction Free Write really primes the pump. I start by closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and asking myself a question, such as: “What do I want my audience to know?” What do I have to say about this topic?”
The short time limit and the need to keep writing without stopping give me a structure that allows me to write to my audience in a very authentic, intimate way. After the free write time period is up, I usually put it away for a while and then go back and mine it for nuggets that I can use in my actual presentation or article.
Do you Free Write? How does it work for you? What other techniques do you use to get your creativity flowing?
Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach, part-time writer. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment. Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.