My blog is a living memoir and throughout I have posts categorized as “freewriting”. What is freewriting? It’s when you sit down with a blank page (or a new document from the word processor of your choice) and write for a length of time about anything without paying attention to the nuts and bolts of effective writing. It’s like a seed planted in haste – it may sprout or it may not. Freewriting is about priming the pump of your mind and seeing what you dredge up.
For me, freewriting is easier if I have a prompt to get me started. Prompts can be anything. For example, look around the room you’re in, pick something hanging on the wall or sitting in the garbage can or on the shelf, and start writing. What comes to mind?
Perhaps the time you bought the item? Or the reason you bought the item? Maybe the person who gave you the item?
Now, take ten minutes and just write about something related to the item.
When you’re finished, you’ve either got something to spur you on to more writing, or filler for the circular file.
I wish the idea were mine. Instead I offer you the latest offering for writers from Natalie Goldberg titled Old Friend from Far Away. She applies the unattributable concept of freewriting to the practice of writing memoir. Here’s a short excerpt:
Memoir gives you the ability to plop down like the puddle that forms and spreads from the shattering of a glass of milk on the kitchen floor. You watch how the broken glass gleams from the electric light overhead. The form of memoir has leisure to examine all this.
Memoir is not a declaration of the American success story, one undeviating road, the conquering of one mountaintop after another. The puddle began in downfall. The milk didn’t get to the mouth. Whatever your life, it is urging you to record it – to embrace the crumbs with the cake. It’s why so many of us want to write memoir. We know the particulars, but what really went on? We want the emotional truths under the surface that drove our life.
So let’s pick up the pen, and kick some ass. Write down who you were, who you are, and what you remember.
Nearly all the freewriting exercises posted on my blog come as a result of prompts from Goldberg’s book. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope that, if you love to write and would like to tell the world your story, you’ll take the time to read her book. It’s not for everyone, but it may be just what you need.
Happy reading and joyous writing!