I’m not sure if it was the first time I was introduced to freewriting, but the first time free writing really stuck with me was when I read Natalie Goldberg’s, Wild Mind, in high school. I was struck by the concept of just letting the words dump out onto the page without caring about grammar, punctuation, or even if it was written well. It was so freeing.

When I’ve taught beginning creative writing craft workshops, I always stress the benefits of freewriting. I even talked about how freewriting can help marketing professionals create content in a recent PR Network presentation.

You never know what you’re going to bring out when you free write. It may simply just clear out the junk so you can write what you really want to write. Or you might think of your next big idea. Or you could flush out character profiles or plot twists. Or your random words can turn into a poem later. This has happened to me a lot. I thought I was just writing random things that popped into my head, but when I reread it later, I found meaning and a poem.

There are many different ways to free-write, but I’ve often had the best results with timed free writing. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes or however long you have and keep your hand moving. If you get stuck, write “I don’t know what to write,” or whatever pissings and moanings you can think up. Eventually, your brain will get bored with that and give you something more meaningful.

Another technique I learned from Natalie Goldberg is to set your timer for an additional three to five minutes after the first timer goes off. As she advises will happen, I’m often startled at what comes out in those last few minutes, writing that would be lost if you stopped writing.

In either Wild Mind or Writing Down the Bones (or both), Natalie Goldberg provides some great “rules” for free writing:

  • Keep your hand moving
  • Lose control
  • Be specific
  • Don’t think, just write
  • Don’t worry
  • You are free to write junk
  • Go for the jugular

I try to remember to follow these rules every time I free write random things or on a specific project like a novel. Once I get that first draft of whatever it is down, I know that half the battle is over.