Not so long ago (when I was in college) I had friends who used to say that the best way to cure a hangover was to keep on drinking. I preferred sleeping, so I never really figured out how true that was. What I have learned over my years as a writer and editor, however, is that freewriting is one of the best ways to get over a bout of writer’s block.
Not being able to write when you really want to is frustrating. Many things can cause it, but one recurring theme among the writers I’ve talked to is fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of saying the “wrong” thing. Fear of letting out the words one really wants to say. These fears will curl their claws around your mind and keep you expressing yourself the way you were meant to.
Why did you become a writer in the first place? Surely not to censor yourself at every turn! The only way to become better at writing is to actually do it. Even when it seems impossible. Sometimes you can’t find the time, or you’re tired, or the motivation just isn’t there. I get that. But rather than find 99 reasons why you can’t, you can take up a pen and and a notebook and tell yourself that you can.
Pull yourself out of that writing slump by plopping down at the computer to bleed. Freewriting is exactly what it sounds like: a few minutes of pure, unburdened writing. You can say anything you want and not worry about spelling, grammar, or making any sense. It’s a method where you don’t restrict your creativity with rules and expectations.
You can just write. Let the words flow. No pressure, and no stress. It is a great way to get a lot done and feel accomplished without looming any self-imposed deadlines over your head. Write whatever comes to mind. Get any and all words out. Do it on a computer, or in a notebook—it doesn’t really matter. Just write until you have absolutely nothing else left to say.
That’s when you’ll take a break, close it, and come back tomorrow to edit, revise, and write again. If you get into the habit of free-writing, you will always have material to work with. On days where you don’t feel very creative, you can always go and revise an old free-write. Once you’ve got several pages of raw writing, the refining will be the point where you will improve on all your skills. That is when you will edit it to make sense, and add more content to fill in the gaps.
Writing is your golden key to becoming a better writer. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become with words. Use dictionaries and thesauruses to expand your vocabulary. You’ll feel so much smarter, I promise. You can read books, eavesdrop on conversations, and throw story ideas around in your author groups, but until you get around to actually writing, your skills will never get any better. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a good book.