When I first began blogging, I didn’t have much experience writing articles or blog posts. I didn’t have a writing process to guide me and keep me on track.
Since those early days, I’ve learnt a lot about how to make a habit of collecting inspiration for later use, how to get to the heart of what I want to say, and how to hold off publishing so I don’t end up having to edit a live post fifty times while cringing inside.
I’m still figuring all of this out. But what I’ve learnt over time, I’ve distilled into a few steps which I’ve consolidated into my writing process. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes creativity abounds from a groundwork of habit and structure.
Freewriting is the most important step in my writing process. I have found it to be an invaluable practice for my writing.
I discovered the power of freewriting while I was out on a walk with only a notebook and a pen. An idea came to me that I needed to flesh out right there and then before I forgot it. I sat down on a bench and started freewriting about my idea; I didn’t hold back or save anything for later.
Before this, I would’ve jotted down a few stray ideas and saved the fleshing out for later. And when I got home, I would’ve started writing the post in WordPress. But in doing this, I was skipping a crucial step in the creativity and writing process.
By handwriting my first thoughts out in full in a notebook, I’d created a new creative space that I entered from a completely different mindset.
My writing felt completely different, more me. As I was writing, more ideas came to me. The physical act of writing with my pen in hand, free from expectations and just letting whatever wanted to come out on the page, was yielding different results. I was connecting more dots and drawing parallels between other things I had seen, heard, or read. My brain was fully engaged and giving up the goods.
This is why freewriting is so important. You write purely for self-expression. You’re free from rules and outside pressures. There are no distractions: no beeps, blinking lights, or flashing text cursors. It’s just you thinking on the pages of your private notebook, and there are safety and freedom within those pages. Often, this is all we need to get out of our own way and get to the heart of the matter.
Freewrite By Hand
I believe the best freewriting is done by hand. You can do it on your laptop, phone, or any way you choose, obviously. But, freewriting manually with a pen and paper is how you’ll get the most value out of it.
There is a proven connection between the hand and the brain. Handwriting requires singular focus, it gets your brain working far more than typing. It’s personal, tactile, and active. Handwriting makes your brain work harder. That translates into you getting better access to your reservoir of knowledge and experience and being able to process and cross-reference it all so that you can add your unique perspective and put things into your own words.
I have discovered that my writing voice and style are different on paper. There’s more personality in my handwriting. For me, freewriting by hand offers the perfect conditions for my personal style, voice, and thoughts to come to life.
Freewriting, especially by hand, is all about letting YOU out onto the page. All creative work is about showing us the world through YOU. That’s what makes it interesting and unique.
“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman
Freewriting Is For All Writers
You might be a blogger busting out creative non-fiction posts about travel, lifestyle, or personal finance; a consultant writing technical project reports; a professional crafting business communication and copy; or you might be a novelist, poet, or short story writer.
It doesn’t matter what you write. If you write, someone will be reading your words. And there is nothing better than reading well-crafted writing with a distinct voice and style. Readers want to hear the human behind the words, no matter the subject or formality of the language. We want to connect with your ideas, your story, or your message.
Freewriting, as I mentioned earlier, is the best method for getting to the heart of what you want to communicate. A lot goes into writing that is clear, simple (in a good way), and engaging. Freewriting is the tool that’ll help you explore and process your subject matter, new information, and your thoughts so that when you start writing you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how to structure it.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
What To Explore In Your Freewriting
It might be helpful to be intentional about what you want to get out of your freewriting when you use it for your writing. It is about writing freely and without expectations or limitations; there are no rules. However, it can’t hurt to have a general idea about where to start digging for the gold. There are three important areas to explore when freewriting for content creation or as a step in your writing process.
Explore Your Opinion
When you get an idea, it’s often no more than a small seed in need of nourishment to grow into something fully-formed. Ideas are usually sparked from us making connections between interesting thoughts and takeaways from other sources. This is why so many creators, including Picasso, believe that all art is theft. Our art, our writing, is original only in so far as the new connections we make, the parallels we draw, or the perspectives we bring to the table.
That’s why exploring your own opinions is so important. The experience you contribute and the dots you connect is what makes your work special. Freewriting is the perfect way to explore this.
In my experience, the freedom and spontaneity of freewriting by hand almost always reveals opinions, perspectives, and connections that I hadn’t thought of before. Freewriting lets you access the awesome stuff you hold in your subconscious.
Use freewriting to explore your opinions, and more importantly, explore your subconscious mind. Give yourself space and freedom to allow what’s in you to come out onto the page. It won’t always be gold, but it’s great nourishment for idea seeds to grow, branch out, and bloom.
Explore Your Subject
Freewriting is one of the planning techniques recommended in Hacker and Sommer’s A Writer’s Reference to explore your subject before writing your first draft.
They write that “whatever technique you turn to, the goal is the same: to generate ideas that will lead you to a question, a problem, or a topic that you want to explore. At this early stage of the writing process, don’t sensor yourself. Sometimes an idea that originally seems trivial or far-fetched will turn out to be worthwhile.”
As a technique to explore your subject, you’ll be going beyond your own opinions and contribution. The act of writing by hand about your subject will help you get to know it better. It allows you to process new information and facts. It may feel like you’re just regurgitating what you’ve discovered, but that’s fine at this stage.
It’s better to get this type of writing out in your freewriting so that when you come to write your first draft, you’ll have a better grasp on what you’re writing about and it’ll come out in your own words and your own voice, rather than sounding like you’re copy-pasting information.
What’s important is that you give yourself the freedom to explore without conforming to rules or censoring yourself, and the space to process and incorporate new knowledge about your subject. It’s an opportunity to get robotic-sounding writing, that often results from not being familiar enough with new facts and information, out before you write your first draft.
“Most things have been done, but they have not yet been done by you.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Explore Your Voice
Your voice, your way of expressing something, is the gold that glints. The content of your message might not be entirely original, but what’s yours and yours alone, is your voice. It’s what breathes new life into what has already been said.
We don’t always know what our voice sounds like and, sadly, we often don’t feel confident enough to let it be heard. Everyone struggles with this. But one of the best ways to to get a feel for your voice is to freewrite.
Write freely and as if no one will ever read it regularly enough, and you’ll begin to hear it, develop it, and grow confident in its power.
This is the most important reason to practise freewriting because your voice is the element that’ll set you apart. Sound like everyone else and you’ll be lost in a sea of similar-sounding voices.
One More Important Reason To Freewrite
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s fantastic book, Big Magic, she writes, “One of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on human beings is to bury strange jewels within us all, and then stand back to see if we can ever find them.”
Freewriting is a powerful tool you can use to uncover your strange jewels buried beneath layers of conditioning and expectation.
If for no other reason, freewrite for you; to heal, to discover, to create a space where you can be you.
What Do You Think?
Do you freewrite? How has it affected your writing and/or your life? Leave me a comment.
References + Further Reading
Disclaimer: Some of the book links in this post are affiliate links and if you click through them to make a purchase I’ll earn a commission. I am grateful for your support and thank you for reading.
Is It Better to Write by Hand or Computer by Laura Deutsch
How Handwriting Trains the Brain by Gwendolyn Bounds
Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter by William R. Klemm Ph.D.
Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing by Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay