I love to write. Fiction, op-ed pieces, you name it. But it’s definitely a labor of love for me. Getting a solid piece of writing completed can be agonizing for me, due largely in part to relentless self-editing. This is that annoying voice in your head that keeps telling you the words you are writing (or typing) aren’t good enough, that you need to switch them out for more appropriate or more complex terms, or to drop your storyline entirely and go in a “better” direction. (Ugh.) This annoyance is usually briskly followed by writer’s block. (No?!) Your subconscious has now relayed to you that you cannot possibly write anything of value, and even if you could, it would be too time consuming and difficult a task to write what you are truly attempting to convey, so why bother?
It only took me a decade or so of writing, including 7 years actively teaching creative and academic writing to my high school English students, but I have found and put into practice something that works for me: the three-minute freewrite! The genius is in the simplicity of it all:
1. Grab paper and pen. (Or laptop or device you type on)
2. Set the timer on your phone for 3 minutes.
3. Start your timer and continue writing about absolutely anything for the entire three minutes. Do not stop to edit, proofread, etc. Just let the words runneth.
By doing this in the morning, not first thing because coffee, toddler, etc., but fairly early in my day, I grab my notebook and get a timed freewrite in. Though I do a large portion of my drafting on the computer, I find a pen to paper freewrite very nostalgic and creative. I infinitely prefer it in terms of what I look to achieve with this process and am left feeling inspired and successful. The same goes for before bed freewrites. I like to end my day by attempting to get a bit of brilliance on paper and feeling accomplished.
What is the point of these freewrites?
Aside from inspiring confidence and creativity within yourself, they can be expanded upon to create longer, polished pieces, such as poetry, short stories, or editorials. Even if writing is not really “your thing”, though I would argue that it certainly could be, you can use it as a means to center your thoughts and reflect on your goals and what is important to you, come up with inspiration for other creative avenues, such as painting, photography, music, etc., or just vent about what is currently pissing you off.
Below are two sample three-minute freewrites of mine and one from my brother who is a fellow creative but classifies himself as a non-writer. Keep in mind that these are 100% unedited:
It burns. The agony of the past harm comes back in wave after excruciating wave. There is no reprieve. I cannot fathom how, and if, this will end. Perhaps it won’t. It may be that this is the only guaranteed in life. That this is the only thing that can be counted on to show up, to be true, to do its job, fulfill its destiny. Why question? Accept. Live. Or die. But don’t question. Just go into the darkness. Let it wash over you and envelop your being. Words aren’t needed. Nor is hope. Just simple, mindless acquiescence. It can be such a beautiful thing, if you allow it to be. All you have to do is cease to be.
I love the winter. It may seem an odd choice given the other picks, what with the warmth of summer and the freshness of spring. But a good freeze ices over the regret and absolves all.
If these walls could talk . . . they’d choose the eternal reprieve of silence. What happened here isn’t polite dinner conversation. It isn’t even crime-scene conversation. Its horror is beyond any sense of needing to discuss it. Discussing is to find and reach a mutual understanding. Nothng is to be gained from that here. Only a highlight of the disgusting arrogance and cruelty of a man with a free conscience.
As I arise from my slumber for the hundredth/thousandth/millionth time, I come to the conclusion that there are parallels between what we deem to be “reality” and dreams. We take our baggage from one world to the next without truly giving thought as to why we exist in such states.
We have now produced writing. Hooray, us! We can do with these pieces whatever we wish. Mine are a bit morose (I blame the very British murder mystery I’m currently reading and American Horror Story Hotel, my current binge-watch of choice) but I will likely work them into my current novel draft in some way. My brother isn’t big into writing, but his piece is great and he can either expand upon it or let it lead him in an alternate creative pursuit, such as a film concept.
To quote the great Margaret Atwood, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write.” So get those darn words down on the paper. Muse about the future. Rail against injustice. Create a new world. It all begins with beginning.