Every Monday afternoon for the last seven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.
Over the last six weeks we have looked at (amongst other things) the passion that books can bring to our lives, the benefits of writing a letter to younger/older selves and retuning our mind to look at the positive rather than negative aspects of our lives.
Today, we took a look at freewriting; a writing technique that can be beneficial in unblocking writer’s block and freeing our minds during journalling.
What is freewriting
Freewriting involves sitting down and writing for a predetermined period of time. During this time – usually five to twenty minutes, depending on the individual – you write whatever comes to mind without thinking of spelling, grammar, topic or structure. If you cannot think of anything to write, you write that you cannot think of anything to write – and keep writing about this until another topic springs to mind.
Rarely will freewriting produce useable material, but in analysing the end product of freewriting, it will often shine light on topics you would like to write about as you are writing without the usual self-criticism or apathy.
One major example of when I freewrite is in my journal writing. Rarely will I sit down and write about what I did during the day or how I felt at a certain time, I sit down and write freely for half an hour and just see what springs to mind.
An example of freewriting…
This is the unedited result of the freewriting exercise we undertook in today’s group, partly inspired by the painting A Race with Mermaids and Tritons by Collier Smithers. For the record, we freewrote for approximately twenty minutes.
Whenever mermaids arise as a topic, a work of art or characters within a motion picture, Meadhbh goes into total overdrive. For some inexplicable reason she adores these nymphets of the sea second only to dragons in the mythological ouvre. If there was such a thing as mermaids riding dragons, or mermaid-dragons or dragon-mermaids, she would probably achieve some heavenly level of bliss. At this second, with a painting of a mermaid a mere few inches from her, she is squeeing and squirling like a kid over hundred&thousand covered ice-cream. I am not. I am trying to concentrate on this exercise throught the rabble and din she is making. And not very easily considering I had intended writing fiction but instead find myself writing about her – again – although it could be worse, I could be writing about me. And what would I say then? Not much. So. Alrighty. Well. Let’s try tell a wee story.
Once upon a time there was a mermaid whose name was Kira. Kira lived in the North Sea – not so far off the coast of Scotland – and had spent most of her life completely pissed off about the shoddy and entirely stereotyped portrayal of her kind. Hans Christian Bloody Anderson! Bollocks. The Little Effing Mermaid; horse shit. She wasn’t some doe-eyed, naive little moron who swanned around with fishes and forever dreamt of being human. Who the crap would want to be human? Meandering around dry land without even a squid for company? Bor-ring! She relished being under the sea. She loved her scaly posterior. She adored the fact she couldn’t sing cheesy love ballads. Damn human stereotyping. Kira was a lean, mean fighting machine. Hell, she once took on a fucking Killer What and came out on top.
And yes. No freaking idea where that story is going. A Hit-Mermaid? How exactly is that gonna work? God knows. But hey, it’s the most creative I’ve been for several millenia. Damn homelessness. Damn abuse. Sucking me dry. Or is that just an excuse? Mere procrastination because I can’t be arsed finding the focus I once had? Probably. When I look at the image I see a love story about a couple with two sides of the painting. I see a historical piece about its creation. I see a piece of erotica about sex-craved mer-folk. I see an urban fantasy about the individuals depicted. Yet despite seeing all this, I can’t even begin to write the tales. Yup. It’s either procrastination or trauma-induced blockage or just that I don’t have the skill. Bollocks. I have the skill. I just don’t…again…procrastination.
Meadhbh hates me for that. She misses the creative side of me. Misses the explosion of joy when I get an idea. I dunno. Running out of steam now. Metaphor for my life. Perhaps I just need to write a story about mer-dragons and keep everybody happy. Hmmm?
…and what it tells me!
After reading the piece back, I decided to analyse what it actually revealed and whether there were any themes or ideas I could expand upon in more detail in the future:
1) It reveals that I am physically tired and that I am having issues with procrastination and finding the focus.
2) It contains several possible ideas for fictional stories (including the slightly random Hit-Mermaid idea!)
3) It also reveals information about my primary voice, Meadhbh and her various likes and dislikes; as well as something that Meadhbh doesn’t like about me.
4) It also tells me that I am still adversely affected by both homelessness and the abuse I experienced, as well as proving my negative self-view is firmly embedded in my thought processes.
Thus, the stand-out themes for me to write on would be homelessness, abuse and self-criticism (which I have been writing on for some time), my procrastinating nature/lack of energy (something I have not touched on in any great detail) and dragons who are also mermaids; which, I have to admit, sound kinda cool! :p
So why not give freewriting a try yourself and see what happens? You may be surprised at what you come up with.
Further reading on Freewriting:
- Using Freewriting to Smash Writer’s Block (writerlyedge.com)
- Freewrite. (thecreatedplayer.com)
- An Exercise in Freewriting (laniseb.wordpress.com)
- Freewrite when you’re feeling uninspired (ahechoes.wordpress.com)
- A letter to Samantha, from Meadhbh (myjourneywithhearingvoices.wordpress.com)