I love freewriting. I love opening up a blank document or journal page and writing down whatever unwary thoughts flit through my head. Through freewriting, I have uncluttered my mind, quieted my anxious soul, and rediscovered things that were lying buried and forgotten.
I do two different types of freewriting. The one I do daily is the what I refer to as my “morning” pages (yes, in apostrophes), an idea taken from Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. Her morning pages are not in apostrophes because presumably they occur in the morning. Since I only get up when the kids are hammering at my door and demanding breakfast, my “morning” pages happen during afternoon quiet times or at night. The “morning” pages alternate between prayerjournaling, mundane lists (often of the to-do variety) and, occasionally, some introspection. They are written in longhand and never meant to be read, since my handwriting is quite terrible. That’s okay. I also write my entries in a code composed of sentence fragments, word contractions and initials. A year from now I couldn’t tell you what I meant, even if my handwriting were legible.
(For my heirs, this means burn my journals. They are of no earthly use to anyone once the pages are filled up, except as campfire fodder. Feel free to roast marshmallows over the ghosts of my thoughts.)
I have also had great luck with timed writing (I discovered them in this workshop by Holly Lisle), which I do on the computer. These are directed exercises, with a phrase, question, or word to get me going. Holly has a list of topics at the end of her article, should you want to try it out. I’ve used this technique to figure out why certain images keeping coming up in my writing (snow and ice are big ones) and what themes I like to explore in my novels.
And sometimes, I just have fun with them. For example, here is my Ode to Orange:
I used to think that you were one of the most insipid of colors, slightly better than pink, superficial and shallow as a California Valley Girl. I scorned you, except in the context of sunsets and sulked if you showed up as the dominant color in the fabrics Mom bought for me. You were too bright, too bubbly, without substance, certainly not as deep or profound as I was trying to be.
I’ve changed my mind about you in the last few years. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up enough to not need the sober colors, the blacks, the browns, the deep dark reds and greens. I do not need to dress older so people will think I am older… heck, I’m 28 and pretty grown up right now! Perhaps I decided to give you a break when you became the Firstborn’s favorite color, and now the Princess’. After all, a color so singled out by my kids couldn’t be that bad, right?
I started to see your good qualities in the bright rainbow of the cups and plates and bowls and flatware that Robin got for the kids at Ikea. I began to appreciate how good you looked on the Firstborn, especially with his darker summer skin, almost-black hair and deep chocolate brown eyes. You are not a color that many guys can wear without being overwhelmed, but you and Firstborn… you look good. And as for the Princess; well, she looks pretty and flirty and cute in orange.
Then I began to see you in a better light in other places-how you fit into a sunset, for example. How you twined and danced in the flames of the fire. How you beamed out from a flower or were dark and subtle on a butterfly’s wing. My views of you changed as you became an integral visual part of the themes of my stories—themes of sun and warmth and blaze and scorch. You can be mellow, you can be intense, you can be volcanic, a slash. You can be sharp at times, diffused at others. You can be light and playful, dark and understated, pointed and stabbing. Yes, orange, you and I have come a long way in our understanding of each other.
But I still won’t paint my bathroom in you.
Free your subconscious. Try freewriting.
You just might be surprised by what you find.
You know what’s funny? My group at Think Sideways is discussing free writing right now. I’ve never done much of it in the past, as I always preferred to focus in one what I needed to do, but you make me wonder!
Love your “coded” journals! This cracks me up, because I’ve gone back to some of my old stuff, where I used initials… and I haven’t the foggiest clue who they were referring to now!
I started freewriting seriously during my last pregnancy. I had no focus for writing a story, but I still wanted to keep my hand in. I was pleasantly surprised by what my muse came upwith when given a direction and free rein.