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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brainstorming: The Freewriting Technique

When you’ve got a new idea for a writing project, how do you brainstorm to develop that idea? There are a lot of different ways to brainstorm from making lists to mind mapping, but the one I like best is freewriting. Freewriting is simply writing as quickly as you can to spill from your mind everything that comes into it. In freewriting, you do not allow yourself to stop and contemplate the organization of your ideas or the validity of the ideas. You also do not allow that inner critic to condemn you for grammar and spelling errors or to trip you up with doubts about the quality of your work in any way. In freewriting you are truly “free” to let go.

The act of freewriting is exhilarating. It invigorates me and makes me believe in myself and in the impossible. While freewriting, I really get to go to those “forbidden” places such as the sky, the depths of the earth, the places where ideas run rampant. In freewriting the unpredictable takes charge and takes me on a wild ride. Freewriting is equivalent to driving in the country with the top down on the car on a beautiful spring day with the radio blaring and me singing at the top of my lungs.

The most common propeller for freewriting is the use of prompts. Take a prompt and freewrite to it, knowing that there is no such thing as the “right” way to write to it. Let your imagination run and just see where it takes you. This is a natural high and makes you believe that you are potentially the best writer on earth! If nothing else, it is cathartic.

Another common use of freewriting is as a brainstorming technique for an idea that is percolating in your head. You’ve got the idea, but need to let it develop before you begin the actual writing. OK, so freewriting is the most effective way to do this in my opinion. Ask yourself “what if…” and write out the possibilities. The key is to not think first, but to let the thinking happen as a result of what emerges on the page. Thinking first puts your mind in control and kills the element of freedom. Freewriting is designed to go down into your mind where conscious thinking can’t go. In the process of freewriting you go to the places in your mind where magic happens!

Freewriting is wild and passionate! For me, freewriting is the open door where my muse comes in to play with me. Freewriting is a ritual for me, and it is absolutely the most enjoyable aspect of writing.

There are many ways to brainstorm and I believe that brainstorming is an essential first step to any writing project. Sometimes listing works best for me; other times it is mapping or webbing. But always I include the act of freewriting even if I do not consider it an exercise in active brainstorming because without freewriting, I often miss the one key element that makes the difference between good and fantastic!

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