Free Writing

In today’s blog I am going to set an exercise for you all to take part in. It is an activity that can help overcome writers block, or just help you come up with new ideas. The exercise we’re going to do is called ‘Free Writing’.

This can prove itself a tricky skill to master, but persevere and you and your subconscious could become great pals. There are two main schools of thought on how to do this. One is stream of consciousness and the other is train of thought. Neither is better or worse than the other, but they often deliver different results. The trick is trying to divorce yourself from the conscious aspect of thinking and let your brain run riot. The sentences needn’t make sense. Most exercises and practice requires a writer to think, to be present in the creation of their work. This exercise is the exact opposite. This is about you letting go.

Train of thought

The train of thought is the first method, and often this produces the most coherent ‘free writing’. That somewhat defeats the point of the exercise, but when practicing the technique, it is an easier introduction. Below is an example of some ‘train of thought’ writing I did as a free writing exercise. This exercise should start with you thinking of one thing, something you can see, hear or think of. Then allow your mind to start making connections and leaps.

I can feel a small pain at the bottom of my spine, the coccyx I think its called. A strange vestigial tail that we no longer have. I wonder what it would be like to be a monkey, or to have a tail. If  people would end up bedazzling them or having tail styles like we do with our hair? I reckon some people would cut them off like some people do to their pet dogs? 

The above is predominantly the ramblings of a mind that is easily distracted. But just doing that exercise took me to thoughts I probably never would have had otherwise. I don’t think the idea of ‘tail’ styles would have ever even entered into my conscious mind to think about, because lets face it, it is a weird idea. But now I look at it, that could work in a Sci Fi story I am writing.

Stream of consciousness

The second exercise is the stream of consciousness. We’re numb to that phrase. We hear it bandied about when people describe nonsensical or virtuoso writing. Yet it means so much more. Our sub conscious minds work in ways that has kept all the great neuro-scientists of the world flummoxed. The key to stream-of-consciousness writing is to relax your thinking mind and let the images of your subconscious take over. Below is an example I did of this style of writing.

Triumphant clockwork birds fly overhead, chemtrail sighs and long goodbyes. Pixelated clouds hold men who jump to the cause of others needs while oak trees drop squirrel seeds. The road is pale under foot, as the Sunday crashes in like a boot. Stomping through silt clay and the darling buds of May. 

I stopped there because I felt my mind was trying to make things rhyme, so I tried again. From above I liked the turn of phrase ‘pixelated clouds’ and I liked ‘Sunday crashes in like a boot‘.  I tried again.

What loss we find in the arms of others velvet orange cushion as ravens peck at my eyes. a deep dark vein that trickles up my hand, spidering like tributaries. Tartan sunsets handle messiah , leaves lie on the ground, lie to the ground, baskets tumble sideways vomitting up washing while aerosol hisses wheeze from the long grasses which hide a tiger. 

Now that felt more like it! It is all but nonsensical, but again there is something thrilling about letting your subconscious take charge. I particularly like the idea of aerosol hisses from the long grass. I may use that in some further writing in the future.

Once you have done the exercise a couple of dozen times, it is worth going back to them to see if there is anything worth salvaging. This kind of thing does lend itself to poetry, but as I’ve outlined above, just a few words next to one another in a combination my rational mind wouldn’t have come up with, is often all I need from the task. I’d really like to know if you guys practice free writing, and I’d love to see your examples in the comments.