Contrary to popular belief, no one is born a writer. While you may be predisposed to have a love for the craft or have a special knack for, it’s still a skill that you were taught, typically at a young age. Therefore, writing is a learned skill.
As with any learned skill, it requires practice and constant learning.
For example, if you want to run a marathon, you don’t just wake up one day and start running the race. You have to train. Maybe the first session you only run half a mile, but the next time you go a bit further.
After training continually, you may find yourself running further than you ever thought possible. By repeating the exercise, you work your way up to that marathon race, little by little.
The same is true for writing. You need to practice to become that “marathon writer.” Even when you become a writer at a professional level, you still need to hone your skills.
One particular form of practice that I’ve found extremely useful is freewriting.
So what is freewriting anyway?
Freewriting is a habit where you allocate a specific amount of time or number of pages where you just write. Simple enough, right? During this time you write without stopping—no need to rush— just set your timer or goal and continue writing until you reach it.
You can set your goal for as little or as long as you’d like.
If you’re new to this idea entirely, start with 10 minutes or 2-3 pages (however you’d want to frame your goal). As you continue, try increasing the time by a few minutes or adding pages to your goal. As with any skill, the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be doing it.
As you continue, try increasing the time by a few minutes or adding pages to your goal. As with any skill, the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be doing it.
Don’t pause to edit for spelling or clarity or even cohesiveness. Just write. You can choose to write on a particular subject or see where your imagination takes you.
The main idea behind this habit it simple enough.
For best results, schedule time into your schedule to practice this habit regularly. Whether you’re a full-time or part-time freelancer, making time for this habit should be easy enough because you truly only need a minimal amount of time to see genuine results.
The key to this practice is making it a regular part of your routine.
The simple habit of freewriting comes jam-packed with benefits, especially for those who write for a living.
One of the most significant changes I’ve seen in my writing after practicing freewriting is my ability to write with increased speed.
When you sit down and write without concerning yourself with spelling errors or grammar, you write faster. Many times, your end product will be a mostly unusable piece of work, which is okay!
After all, the point of freewriting isn’t to bang out fully formed articles or posts but rather to train your brain to organize thoughts on the go. Typically, as you continue practicing the habit, you’ll make fewer and fewer errors.
This habit also translates strongly to your writing as a professional. Freewriting helps you learn not to edit as you go, a practice that can often slow you down. Outside of freewriting sessions, you may find your first drafts come to form more quickly.
Freewriting really makes you focus on the process rather than the result, which is incredibly liberating (and beneficial!).
Allowing yourself to write uninhibited can be an immense boost to your creativity.
Writers’ block is something that many, many freelancers come up against, even if only from time-to-time. As writers, our works largely depends on our creativity to craft captivating and engaging pieces. But when you hit writer’s block, those pieces suddenly seem impossible to start, much less complete.
To unlock your creativity through freewriting, start by deciding on a theme for your freewriting session. It can be an idea, a feeling, or even just one word. Set your timer or goal and write away only on that theme.
Allow your mind to wander and explore whatever pops into your head. Freewriting allows you to tap into your subconscious, the part of your brain that isn’t gripped by writers’ block.
At first glance, the result may appear to be a string of nonsensical thoughts or unusable paragraphs. However, upon second look, you might just find a few sentences or ideas that truly inspire you.
Save the best bits in a separate folder or page to use later. As I like to think of it, freewriting is the gift that keeps giving.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”— Louis L’Amour
Many writers will tell you, once you hit your stride, it can be hard to stop. Freewriting is one way to keep your momentum moving forward.
As we mentioned above, sometimes your session will leave you with a few strong sentences or ideas. You can use those “gems” to inspire a new piece or take an article in a new direction.
Other times, even a freewriting session that doesn’t produce any viable ideas can leave you motivated to keep writing. I like to call it being in the “writing zone.” You can use that motivation to start a project you’ve been procrastinating on or to finish a piece you’ve been struggling with.
The arch-nemesis of any freelance writer is self-doubt. It can creep in and hinder your ability to grow. Whether you’re struggling for new clients or look back on a piece and think “I’m a bad writer,” self-doubt is easy enough to fall prey to.
Freewriting can be an excellent way to combat that dreaded foe. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “practice makes perfect.” Great! Now throw that notion out the window.
There is no “perfect,” especially in writing. What there is, is growth.
We mentioned that writing is a skill that you often learn at a young age. Do you still write the same way as you did back then? Probably not. You’ve grown, and your writing has evolved. The truth is, your skills are always changing.
You can help that growth along by practicing that habit daily. When you practice in a no-stakes environment, such as freewriting, you take out the pressure that often hinders progress.
Through practice, you continue to learn how to craft better sentences, how to most efficiently get your point across, or otherwise better tell captivating stories through words.
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”― Jodi Picoult
Among the many ways freewriting can improve your writing abilities, it also offers another impactful yet straightforward benefit. Freewriting gets you writing.
In our everyday lives, we’re up against distractions, responsibilities and more. Often we find ourselves waiting for the perfect writing conditions, or for motivation to strike. However, sometimes the best way to get going is to just go.