I’ve done free writing on and off for the last few years. Free writing is essentially spontaneous writing. You put your pen to paper and write. Punctuation, spelling and cohesive presentation of points are secondary to just getting whatever is in your head in the moment, on paper in the moment.
Free writing is the foundation of morning pages, an approach for exercising writing muscles to which I was first introduced in Julie Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way a few years ago. At their core, morning pages is basically constraint-based journaling. The idea is you free write for three pages; padding if necessary, finding a way to wrap wrapping up early if the end of page three is coming up and you haven’t finished your thought.
I recommitted myself to morning pages this past summer. With few exceptions, I’ve done morning pages every day since the last week of June. I’ve found the process very helpful for my blog, newsletter and even reports for my clients. After all, you have to start somewhere. That often means getting over the preciousness of the blank page (or screen in the case of work) and making the first mark (hat tip to Christopher Griffin for that mindset).
Dave Fleet introduced me to a way of exploiting willingness to do free writing. He told me of a book which encouraged free writing for problem solving. Essentially, you write your way out of the problem. He didn’t get into specifics though the concept seems pretty clear. When a problem needs your attention to find a solution, you pull out a piece of paper and start describing the problem and see where it takes you.
The important part of free writing is using the pen and paper. I find it easier to free write when I make a committed mark on the page. It’s far too easy to hit the delete key and edit as you type. Free writing needs to be a pen and paper activity.
Since my chat with Dave, I’ve used free writing to work through and solve two problems. I probably would have found a solution for them anyway. I cheated, though. I used my morning pages. In my defense, it wasn’t planned. Still, it worked.
[By the way... I used free writing to pull this post together. So, there's likely a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes. Free writing allows that.]