Free writing, also known as ‘flow writing’ or ‘stream of consciousness’, is, for me, one of the cornerstones of a regular writing practice.
The process is simple. You set yourself a certain period of time or number of pages and write continuously for as long as you have agreed. You do not stop, pause, edit or make corrections. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are not important, nor is it necessary for the writing to make sense.
What occurs during this practice is that you allow your mind to pour out its junk onto the page. But the real beauty is that amidst the seeming litter of the subconscious, you may find, in the dirt, some unexpected, glittering gems.
It may be a word or two, a turn of phrase or a whole paragraph that leaps off the page with its subtle strength, playful originality or unbartered truth. You may find that you have expressed yourself in a way that is so curious and uncontrived, that you never would have achieved it had you been trying to do so.
Again and again, I have been surprised and delighted by the treasures unearthed by my free writing. I have used extracts from these unhindered passages to create poems or as springboards for stories or new free write sessions. I have sometimes gained valuable insights from my own source of inner wisdom. Take this for example (punctuation added later):
Breathe woman, breathe in the love of yourself. Remember who you are deep, deep within, when you are not playing hide and seek with yourself amidst the everyday dramas of domesticity.
Or this extract, which I decided worked well as a short stand-alone poem:
Rustle of love,
Catch me closer
To your beating heart of autumn leaves.
Keep tabs on your rational mind. It will want to leap in and coax your sentences into making sense. It will try to divert the flow into something cohesive. Sometimes this works, other times it kills the whole mystery of it.
Similarly, do not enter into free writing with any expectations. You may not find anything spectacular in what you have written. Don’t be disheartened. Just the practice of flow writing is helpful in clearing the way for creative or productive thinking and warms up the writing hand.
Choose a pen or pencil that is smooth and easy to write with. Write by hand for 6 minutes non-stop (as described above), starting with the phrase ‘At midnight…’ If you reach a dead end or feel stuck, start from ‘At midnight…’ again. As many times as necessary.*
When you have finished, read back through what you have written and underline any words, phrases or sections that stand out for you for whatever reason.
If you like, you can use one of those phrases or words to kick-start another stream of consciousness, either immediately or another time. Or you may want to use your selections to create a piece of poetry or prose.
*You do not need a prompt, you can simply start writing the first thing that comes out of the pen, but a starting word or phrase can be helpful and can take your writing in a certain direction.
I am curious to read your creations. Feel free to share an excerpt of your writing in the comments below, if you wish.