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  • Miss Mara

Unleashing Your Creativity with Free-Writing

Hi there! I'm sharing some of my favorite blog posts from my archives - back when I had aspirations of becoming a noteworthy blogger. Although my desires may have shifted, I still enjoy enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts with others. I also think this post is probably more relevant to me than when I originally wrote it a couple years ago. Funny how we stumble upon things at the right moment. Enjoy!

Many moons ago I took a free-writing workshop – on a Friday evening nonetheless. I wasn’t sure what to expect aside from a bad case of sweaty palms that I would have to secretly (yet furiously) cool on my worn pant leg. My mind raced and wondered what would be asked of me. “Would we have to read our scribbles aloud?” I cringed. Immediately I was transported back to one of many corporate team-building sessions I’d participated in years ago – yes, the exercise where you’re encouraged to introduce yourself to a room full of strangers with “tell us the most interesting fact about yourself!”

So. Much. Fun. Cue the eye-roll, spare the drum roll, please.

I’ve generally shied away from any activity where you’re forced to write creatively or “think of something interesting” under a severe time constraint because I always draw a blank. Normally I would welcome such a canvas but not when it’s in my brain.  And now we’d only have 3 minutes?! Are you kidding me? What could our instructor possibly ask us?

I tried in vain to anticipate the question. “Describe your favorite childhood memory? Tell us about a recent victory? It could be anything.” I thought. Whatever it would be I decided to take the approach of painting a picture with words.

If you’re not familiar with free-writing, the premise is to write the first thing that comes to your mind when prompted with a question, phrase or word. You’re not allowed to pause, cross out, fix grammatical errors or erase any words. You just write. Even if you don’t know what to write, you put pen to paper and jot down… “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write….” until a new string of words starts to flow. Eventually it happens. Trust me. Its purpose is to encourage new ideas, help you get through a creative block, stop self-criticism, or even work through personal challenges.

After the instructor gave us an introduction to the practice, we dove into the first of 3 writing sessions. We were prompted to write about our favorite color at the age of 7 for the next 3 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that I wrote with ease. It was a good warm-up. We read our paragraphs aloud which wasn’t as scary as I thought. And it was fascinating to hear each person’s perspective on such a straight-forward question.

Inevitably I knew the second prompt would dig a little deeper. “I am beautiful because…” The words flowed so easily from our instructor’s mouth. Let’s see how they’d land on paper. “I am beautiful because I am snow falling on cedars” was my first thought. Snow falling on cedars sounds quite beautiful and effortless. The writing bit was not. I eventually worked through the next 5 minutes through ebb and flow. Again we shared. None of us in our small group of 4 were writers but each story was breath-taking in its beauty and we were eager to hear more.

The final prompt was a doozy – “What I wanted to say but didn’t was…” Pull this answer from the inner recesses of your mind or maybe your magic hat. This was a loaded phrase and could turn quickly depending on which fork you chose. I took the high road and completed the phrase with “thank you” and wrote on. We concluded the session again by sharing our stories and bonded over the victories and difficulties associated with finishing such a sentence. Everyone was surprised at how much they learned at the workshop and how connected we became after sharing these little slices of life.

I highly encourage everyone to give free-writing a go. You don’t need to take a workshop to glean the benefits though it might be a great way to give you a kick start. I prefer writing first thing in the morning before my brain has a chance to make any excuses. Just find your favorite writing spot, pick a prompt and set a time duration. I started with 3 minutes, edged up to 5 and have been holding steady with 10-15 minute sessions since the workshop.

And to be really bold, below is an example of a free-writing prompt and exercise I wrote for this post. And remember, the point is not to create a masterpiece! The exercise just shakes out the cobwebs and frees your mind.  So get over yourself and don’t worry about things getting cheesy.

Have you tried free-writing? How have you benefited from the experience? Would love to hear your thoughts!

What do you think of when you see the color red?

I think of tulip kisses. In the Spring. A tear of rain splashing on its opening bud. The reflection of a stoplight on a wet sidewalk after that drenching rain. Alarm and excitement. When is it going to turn? A smear of lacquer on a toothsome grim. “Why didn’t anyone tell me it was there?” I think. The forever stained dinner napkin after slurpy, sauce-covered spaghetti. Polish on my nails or is it ink from an evening of painting? It’s all the same. Red Hot Rio.

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