They say when you don’t know what to write, just put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing. Free Writing is the official title.
Free writing is weird. Who in their right mind would just start hitting the keys on a keyboard? After a few minutes wouldn’t you see line after a line of asdfjkl; asdfjkl; asdfjkl;? That’s what I thought the first time I heard about free writing.
But it turns out the human brain can work on it’s own. It’s like a crawler running at the bottom of the tv screen. No matter what is showing on the main picture, the crawler just keeps going and going. That’s what running somewhere in my brain. A stream of words making up of streams of thoughts that eventually make up sem-coherent ideas.
I don’t understand it but I do know it works. This post is proof.
I was talking with my oldest child yesterday about my project to become a writer. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. She’s taught freshman english while in grad school and now she’s an editor for a publishing company. Her point of view and opinion means a lot to me because I know she knows what’s she’s talking about.
We were talking about the light bulb moment we both had when we realized writing is a skill that could be developed instead of mystical power a few lucky souls possessed. To show how much smarter she is than me all you have to know is she figured that out at 22 and I got it at 52. I guess I do feel a little better knowing her students didn’t believe it either.
She tried to introduce the freshman in her class to power of free writing and the way it can free up a locked-up brain. I wish I had known about free writing when I was taking English 101 and 102 as a college freshman. But you know what, either of my professors could have told us about it but I was trying to decide if I should leave at the break and go hang out with my buddy who lived next to the English building and didn’t hear them.
All I remember about those two classes is staring down at a blank sheet in college-ruled spiral notebook trying to come up with something to write. I was in college just after the end of the dark ages and we still used dead trees and pens to write papers. The challenge was we wrote some sort of paper every class. Persuasive, informative, Narrative and the dreaded 5-paragraph paper. The professor would teach for what seemed like 30 seconds then give us the rest of the class to writer the paper.
This was a cruel joke on those of us who wrote slowly and poorly because you were free to go after you turned in your paper. What 18 year old freshman dude can write while watching people leave after 20 minutes and all you’ve got is your name, date, class number and name of the professor. Now that I know about free writing I’m a little bitter because I missed out on some great parties sitting in class way longer than I needed to.
Look at that, I started typing with no idea of what I was going to write about and now I’ve 560 pretty decent words. The next time you’re stuck try free writing. You’ll be amazed at the results.