Free Writing Tips To Overcome Writer's Block
It's frustrating to sit down to write and end up with nothing.
‘Writer’s block’, the frustrating condition that makes squeezing out even one decent paragraph seem like a Herculean task, is an incredibly common affliction. A bad case of writer’s block often leads to obsessive introspection or armchair psychotherapy, but the cure that actually works is more akin to what you must do when you fall off a horse.
That’s right: The way to cure writer’s block is to just start writing.
Before you throw up your hands and groan, consider trying these free writing tips.
Free writing is a technique in which you write whatever pops into your head without stopping for a set period of time.
Free writing sessions tend to work best when done with a writing partner or with a small group of other writers (no more than three or four). Set a timer for five minutes or put one of the participants in charge of watching the time and announcing, “Go,” and “Stop!”
When the timekeeper says, “Go!” the idea is to just start writing and don’t stop, no matter what. Keep your hand moving. If all you can muster at first is something like “I’m writing, I’m still writing, I’m still writing…” that’s just fine.
You will discover that the initial frozen feeling we call writer’s block quickly gives way to free associations on the page, and those associations rapidly turn into small stories, anecdotes, or ideas. A few sessions may be necessary to really get the juices flowing, but they will indeed flow if you give them a chance.
It’s fun to practice free writing with others, because not only can you break through your writer’s block this way, you can also get instant support and applause, which builds confidence and keeps that blocked feeling from coming back.
Most people who get together for free writing sessions read their scribbling aloud at the end of each exercise. When you practice with others, it’s important to have a ‘no negative criticism’ ground rule for commentary.
Some free writing groups disallow any commentary on the participants’ readings, while others allow only positive remarks.
Remember that the goal of a free writing session is not to come up with polished pieces ready for publication, but to tap into the creative unconscious and break through fear and excessive self-editing.
Many writers save all of their free writing exercises or keep them organized in binders. That way, they can go back and tap a surprising metaphor, an intriguing characterization, or a creative word combination for a more formal project.
If you don’t know anyone who wants to meet for coffee and free writing sessions, another good option is to keep a free writing journal. Unlike traditional journals that recount daily activities or help clear your emotions, a free writing journal is intended specifically for free writing exercises and nothing else.
When you find yourself blocked, simply reach for your free writing journal, set a timer, and go! Keep writing in timed free writing bursts until something catches your imagination and you are ready to start a formal short story, poem, or creative nonfiction essay.
You can also set longer periods for your sessions if you wish: ten, twenty, even thirty minutes. Sometimes, when free writing is going well, you can get an entire rough draft this way.
Writer’s block can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to be even a minor annoyance. All you really need to do is get out your notebook, set your timer, and go!
You’ll be amazed at what comes out of the end of your pen.
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