One of my favorite ways to wake my brain up each morning is to begin my day (after coffee, of course) is to sit down with an old school composition notebook and a fountain pen with purple ink. I light a candle, take a sip of coffee and begin. Though I don’t have a definite goal and I no longer time myself, I generally aim for three pages. It’s as if I am skimming the crud from my previous day off before beginning my creative work. I have built a ritual into my work but that isn’t necessary. If you’ve never used a journal in this way here are some guidelines to use until you’ve built the habit:
1. Use a timer, either a kitchen timer or this online one ( www.online-stopwatch.com/countdown-timer/ ) for 5-30 minutes depending on how much time you have. I encourage people to start at 5 minutes and work their way up to more.
2. Use a good, fast moving pen. There is nothing worse than trying to write and find yourself with a pen that sputters.
3. Start the timer, put the pen to paper and begin. Once the pen goes down, the writing continues until the timer goes off.
If in the middle of your free write, your brain suddenly goes blank, write “I don’t know what to write…” over and over until your brain kicks back in if only to stop the inaneness of repeating yourself. The words will come back. Trust the process.
4. Don’t stop to edit in the middle of the write.
It drives your inner critic crazy not to be able to correct that word or sentence and is a good thing. Our inner critics have too much power over our words anyway.
5. When the timer goes off, I strongly recommend that you not go back and read what you’ve written right away.
I believe the purpose of this type of writing is to wade through the junk that is usually clunking around in your brain clearing the way for whatever else you have in mind for that day. You can go back after a few weeks, when you’ve given yourself some space and read what you have written, if you must. For my first words of the day journal, I don’t go back and read them. Most of the time there is nothing in them that is helpful except to see how much I’ve grown. If if find an idea that strikes me, I tend to use in for my other daily habit – writing 500 words, but that is another post.
Free writing cuts out the inner critic.
Topics abound everywhere. I suggest beginning with how you are feeling at this moment or what you had for dinner last night. It is possible to begin creating lists of topics or finding them on-line. Try free writing with the same topic every day for the week and see where that leads your writing.
This is a warm up, brain dump or any other word you’d like to call it and is not necessarily open for publication. My journal contains my private thoughts and normally isn’t fit for human consumption.
Free writing is a good way to work through writers block.
While I strongly encourage using a pen with paper, old school style, it is possible to use a computer. I would suggest trying both to see what works. Each way has its own benefits so don’t worry if one doesn’t work for you. This is an exercise that will help you grow both in your writing and personally.