Freewriting is one of the most useful tools I’ve learned in recent years and helps SO much when it comes to writing for my business, whether that’s on my website or in marketing posts.
Struggling to write about ourselves and what we do is one of the most common difficulties photographers face. We got into this job because we love taking photos, but actually writing is a skill that we’re called upon to use almost as frequently (or sometimes more than!) photography – writing blog posts, our website and brochure copy, social media posts, emails, marketing materials etc. If writing’s not something that comes naturally to you, this can make things so much harder! That’s why today’s advice is to freewrite. Let me explain.
Sometimes the toughest bit is actually starting – we get ‘stage fright’ about writing those first words and get stuck before we’ve even started. Or sometimes, we start writing but lose confidence quickly as we start to think what we’re writing doesn’t sound good enough. The problem is that usually when we start to write, we edit ourselves as we go – so we keep stopping and starting, deleting, re-reading, amending and rewriting at the same time as we’re trying to get our ideas out – and all of this prevents us from getting into ‘flow’ with it – it just feels awkward, disjointed and full of effort and error from the start. Our inner critic stifles confidence, ideas and creativity.
One of the most useful techniques for blasting through this is freewriting. Overthinking and indulging our inner critic is the enemy of writing with ease – so this technique gets us off the starting blocks and accessing our best ideas by removing this internal censor from the equation, stripping back the process and making it so much more simple, fun and relaxed.
What is freewriting and why do it?
Think of it a bit like an intense, uninterrupted brain dump of all your ideas – a constant and muddled stream of consciousness where you get absolutely everything OUT of your head onto the paper in one, messy, continuous go. It’s a totally non-judgmental way of writing where you write in a state of flow, getting your ideas out without worrying about whether the ideas are stupid or whether you’re using the right words to describe them.
Freewriting reduces anxiety around writing, helps with writer’s block, takes the pressure off to produce something ‘perfect’ and can unlock lots of latent ideas that may not have the chance to come to the surface if you fixate on correcting and editing your sentences – the focus is on producing IDEAS rather than getting the ‘right’ words. You get your ideas out with no pressure, and then you re-draft, pulling out all the great bits, reordering, rewording, tweaking and editing.
How to freewrite?
It’s easy peasy.
1) Grab a pen and some paper – this is all you need. You can do freewriting by typing into a computer if you absolutely have to, but it’s proven to be much more effective when you write manually with pen and paper.
2) Remove all distractions – put your phone in another room, get comfy and make sure you can focus fully on the task at hand, uninterrupted – you’ll need about half an hour.
3) Choose your theme / topic / subject that you’re going to write about. It might be a blog post idea, or perhaps a section of your website or brochure, maybe your ‘About Me’ page, anything at all.
4) Set a timer for somewhere between 5 and 25 minutes – this is how long you’re going to write for without stopping. If you’re new to freewriting or find writing particularly difficult, perhaps just try a shorter timeframe to begin with – you can always increase the length of your freewriting sessions as you get more comfortable with it. The optimum time is usually 15-20 minutes.
5) Start the timer and write continuously on your chosen topic for the full duration until the timer pings.
Freewriting rules and tips
You must not pay any attention to any technical mistakes and must not correct anything. Don’t stop if you make any mistakes, don’t correct them or cross anything out. Pay no attention to spelling, punctuation or grammar – none of these are important at this stage. You don’t even have to write full, grammatically correct sentences – just write whatever pops into your head, even if that’s half sentences, or random phrases cobbled together. Just keep going, even if the sentences don’t fully make sense.
There must be no structure to your writing. Don’t worry about organising your ideas or writing about things in a certain sequence, and don’t worry about paragraphs – there doesn’t have to be any coherent order to your ideas and words – just get them all out, even if they’re all jumbled and back to front.
Don’t think about or question the content of what you’re writing – it’s not just the technical aspects like spelling, punctuation, structure and grammar, you also don’t want to introduce any logic or fact-checking and you mustn’t re-read anything you’ve written until after the timer ends. Don’t judge what’s coming out – sometimes you’ll write something that you feel ridiculous writing and this is ok. At this stage, don’t think consciously about any aspect of what you’re writing – you’re literally just dumping a stream of consciousness onto the paper.
Your hand must keep moving – you must keep writing no matter what and must not stop for anything at all. Don’t stop if you think what you’ve just written sounds stupid (hint: you will, it’s unavoidable!) and don’t stop if you run out of ideas. If you can’t think of anything to write, just keep writing the last sentence over and over again, or keep writing ‘I don’t know what to write’ until your mind unblocks and you start writing something else. The important thing is to not stop writing at any point. It’s the constant nature of the hand movement and incessant outpouring of words that stops the conscious critical brain taking over and keeps everything in flow. Yes, this will mean that a lot of what you write may be nonsense, but this is totally fine and part of the process.
Remember it’s private – no one else gets to read this apart from you. It doesn’t matter if it’s cringey or embarrassing – if it’s not then you’ve probably not been writing as freely as you should and have perhaps been censoring yourself as you go. Sometimes the cringiest parts are actually the real nuggets as you’re accessing ideas that you perhaps haven’t explored before and might be considering concepts that could be quite transformational for you and your business, that might really elevate and differentiate what you offer. Remember you don’t have to include this idea in exactly the same words as you wrote it in the freewriting – but pay attention to it, and ask yourself afterwards – is there something in that? Is there some way of adapting that so it feels better to me?
The end result will be an unstructured, messy load of writing with a reasonable proportion of it being total twaddle. But within it will be absolute gems. Underline / highlight any words / phrases / ideas that you like. If you have enough to work with, use these chosen ‘gems’ as starting points for creating a more organised piece of writing – at this point you might like to map out a provisional plan, and re-order these little nuggets into a more coherent structure, or perhaps a series of bullet points that you can then flesh out in your next draft. It’s only now in this second re-drafting stage that you start to edit, reword and tweak your ideas. If you feel you haven’t got enough good ideas from this first session to flesh out what you need, schedule another freewriting session, using your favourite ideas from this session as starting points.
I really hope this helps – happy scribbling and if you give freewriting a whirl, let me know how it goes!
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