1.3 - The Free Write - Own Your Distortion

The bridge between your infinite brain and the concrete reality is built in freewriting.

We’ve seen it in the movies - the novelist stares at the cursor blinking on the blank page until they go insane. Or the legal pad that is stripped down, crumpled up and tossed page by page into the wastepaper basket. Make room for the trash and imperfections, nothing is great the first time through. 

This isn't marble. It's paper. 

Successful freewriting is a mix of putting words to the page when you don’t much feel like it, and being ready to scribble down things as they come to you. Pocket notebooks are great for this. So are the backs of shopping receipts.

Freewriting is exactly what it sounds like: free, open, no rules, no expectations. No one will ever read what you put down in your freewriting. It is purely practice. It is the scales to your music lessons. 

Pen to the page. Fingers on the keys. The stuff that’s rattling around in your head, no matter how weird or innocuous or dumb you think it is: add it to the page. 

Everyone client I take on is required to write for at least a half-hour each day. This is practice, not perfect. This is a chance to observe and explore. You aren’t just seeing and feeling, but you’re writing it down - text on a white page - to consider again and again.

Have the dedicated space for your freewriting to live in. Maybe it's a notebook or a Word document. Anything will do, so long as you know you can return to it. I keep a pocket-sized book to jot down ideas and little observations that come to me during the day, and then I have something to address in my freewriting.

There is a balance to the energy you want to bring to your freewriting. There will be days you know exactly what you want to write, every word, and you know what it might look like on the page. Great, write that stuff down in addition to the freewriting.

You will have days where the page is cold and lifeless like you have nothing to offer - this is when you dig into the little notes from observations you had throughout the day. The more notes you take, the easier these observations come, the more you can draw from in your freewriting.

30 minutes. If 30 feels like too much, start with two and you’ll be at 20 before you know it. You can do anything for two minutes. 

Your first day of writing will be your best day. 

The second day will be twice as difficult. And every day after will be twice as difficult as the day before it, forever. Fortunately, the discipline grows with the practice. The process gets easier, but the subject matter gets more serious. Or the demands of the audience linger overhead, or a client has increasingly unreasonable expectations.

Get yourself to day two or five or fifty. This isn't a hobby or a fun thing you might do once in a while. Approaching the world as a writer is a way of life.

But, in case you do get stuck: 

30 Ways To Tell A Story

Consider the writing prompts. The internet is full of them, most are lousy but just about all of them are salvageable. The sole purpose of the prompt is to get your brain thinking of a response - the response is what kicks your ego into gear and gets your pen moving. After all, the world needs to know your opinion on the matter.

To make any prompt worthwhile, work on it for a month. It doesn't matter what the prompt is. I will write it out on a sticky note and move it from one page to the next. No matter what I plan on writing for that day, I start with the same prompt. 

No matter how much you loved the prompt on day one, you will hate it by the end of the month. Every day is a chance for a fresh take of the same prompt. How can you approach the prompt differently?

What other thoughts come up? Feelings, ideas, how your handwriting falls on the page - all worth noting. 

At the end of the month, you'll have 30 different ways of looking at the same idea. This is the very foundation of what great writers do: intentionally distort how their mind reactively looks at problems and finds ways to get others to look at their own problems differently.

Crafting a lens to distort in a very specific way takes practice. With enough practice, you might make it through 12 prompts a year. 

What would have kept you in bed this morning?

The distortion, the writing life, all of this is about owning the beautiful fact that the way you look at things may not fall in line with the status quo. 

There is a popular line of thinking for wellness professionals who tell their audience to come up with a list of all of the things in life that get you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Turn the idea around: what keeps you in bed? 

If you didn't get out of bed, what percentage of your life would actually fall apart?

The answer may surprise you - then you know you're on the right track: when you can surprise yourself with what you put down.  

Part of the writing life is looking at the other side of things - the part of the world most people are afraid to