As writers, one of the first things we must overcome is our fear of “bad” writing. We must look the metaphorical monster in the eye and get really close to what we are putting on the page.
We have to cut through all of the negative thoughts and emotions we bring to the table. Or not. Maybe that’s the fuel for your stream-of-consciousness train.
I will take you through a number of no-risk writing exercises. My hope is that you will have fun, enjoy writing and feel greater confidence with which to tackle your more serious writing tasks!
General Guidelines for Free-Writing:
- Find a place where you will not be disturbed for the time in which you are writing and remove as many distractions as possible (turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, etc.). Feel free to either write or type.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
- Pick a topic from the list below (or come up with one of your own) and write continuously for 15 minutes. Do not stop for anything. Even if you are writing complete nonsense, just keep going. Feel free to write with no structure or punctuation, essentially breaking all of the rules you normally try so hard to follow (this in itself may be liberating).
- After the timer has gone off, sit back and take a deep breath. Let your heart rate return to normal.
- Now it is time to face the madness. Read through everything you have written, preferably out loud. Highlight specific phrases or sentences that you are proud of or that answer the prompt you are writing on.
- Repeat this exercise once a week choosing new topics from the lists or making up your own.
The more you write, and the more you face this unpolished writing, the easier it will become to start new projects or dive into writing academic papers. You will no longer be paralyzed by the feeling that you must write a polished paper the first time you sit down to write. The more writing you do in general, the better you will feel about writing, and the more confident you will become.
Now let’s try it out!