How To F-R-E-E-Write

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Creative Intelligence Sand FreeThe most important requirement of F-R-E-E-Writing, and the one people often forget when doing it alone, is that you must write as fast as you can.

With F-R-E-E-Writing, what you write (content) is far less important than how you write (attitude). The perfect attitude to take is that you are allowing the words to present themselves through you.

By writing fast, faster than your conscious, willed thoughts, you leave yourself open. You allow the words to rise spontaneously within you, to come and place themselves on the page without interference.

F-R-E-E stands for:

  • Fast
  • Raw &
  • Exact-but-Easy.

F-R-E-E-Writing does not aim to be linear or logical, it does not aim for anything — other than to be done.

Each F-R-E-E-Writing session is a new journey without a map, in which you just write whatever it is you have to say at that moment in time.

When you allow words to be written in this way, they embrace your whole self and your whole life in the moment of writing. They also recognise that you and your life are in constant flux, changing from moment to moment. That the next time you write, you-in-your-life will be different.

F = Fast

You write as fast as you can while remaining legible. Keep your hand moving: once you begin writing, you don’t stop until you have completed the time or page space you have allocated to the exercise. You don’t pause to reread what you’ve just written, because that leads to stalling and attempting to control or refine your first thoughts.

At first your wrist or hand may be sore but don’t worry about that – just keep going. Your muscles will adjust in a few days. Write as fast as you can until you have completed the allocated time or pages.

Let the words flow. Lose control.  Be F-R-E-E-

R = Raw

Writing raw has two meanings. On one hand, because you are writing as fast as you can with the aim of unleashing your unconscious mind, you can forget all about spelling, punctuation etc. This writing is for you; when you read it back you will know what you mean: so forget everything your English teachers ever told you and write as raw as you like. Pay no attention to style or expression, just write the thoughts that arise in your own, everyday language.

Don’t cross out or correct or try to edit anything, either as you write or once it is written. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it stand.

The second meaning of writing raw is to resist any urge to self-censor. From time to time, you will find thoughts rise in you that you don’t want to write, thoughts that feel frightening or silly or disgusting or pathetic. Thoughts you don’t want anybody else to know you ever had. Let them come, raw as they are. Get them out of you. The words you least feel like writing are often those that are most significant. Don’t think, just write.

“First thoughts have tremendous energy,” says Natalie Goldberg in her great book, Writing Down The Bones. “It is the way the mind first flashes on something. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we generally live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thoughts, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first, fresh flash…

“First thoughts are also unencumbered by ego, by that mechanism in us that tries to be in control, tries to prove the world is permanent and solid, enduring and logical. The world is not permanent, is ever changing and full of human suffering. So if you express something egoless, it is also full of energy because it is expressing the truth of the way things are.”

When we start F-R-E-E-Writing regularly, we can sometimes be confronted with great emotions that can feel overwhelming. The temptation at that point can be to stop writing, to throw down the pen, to get up from the notebook and walk away.

By writing on through the tears and confusions, we get through to the truth — a place beyond the waves of emotion, that is deeper and calmer and more peaceful.

Let the words flow. Lose control.  Be F-R-E-E-

E-E = Exact-but-easy

What we mean by “exact” is that you should be precise about detail as you write. Not “some fruit” but “a bunch of green grapes”. Not “a man” but “a 35-year-old bricklayer”; not “She sat at her desk, looking sad,” but “She leaned over her desk, her book discarded, her fingers caressing the furrow between her eyebrows.” Take the time and the extra few words it takes to be specific.

This is also a matter of using the original detail of your own life. Nothing makes us more mindful of our own lives than writing down accurate details of how things actually are for us — the sights and smells, the tastes and feelings, the sounds and senses. Everyone’s life is at once both ordinary and extraordinary, trivial and important.

The trivial detail is always worthy of record: through it, somehow, we sense our own significance.

The challenge, then, is to keep the writing exact-but-easy.  Recording specific and precise details without stopping to chew our pen or slowing down. This sounds contradictory but is actually just a matter of practice. Take a moment, before you begin a session each time, to instruct yourself to write concrete and specific details.

We all have the habit of thinking and writing in abstractions but lived detail is what we’re after in our F-R-E-E-Writing. Once you’re aware of its importance and give yourself the instruction in advance of your writing session to do it, you’ll find detail and specificity arising automatically.

Whatever happens, don’t chastise yourself for getting this, or anything else “wrong”: if you write something vague like “flower” and notice it, just put the name of the flower – “a rose” – beside “flower”.  Always, always with F-R-E-E-writing, you can be gentle with yourself.  Just doing it is enough.

And if forced to choose between speed or detail, choose speed: writing fast is always the primary requirement.

Let the words flow. Lose control.  Be F-R-E-E.

Freewriting book


For more see our book, How To F-R-E-E-Write & Why You Should (publication Sept 2013)