I also coach students in grant writing, and I sometimes think they must hate me because when I review their work, I correct everything, including spelling and punctuation. I’m looking with an editor’s eye, as well as a proofreader’s.
If they could see my freewriting material, they’d laugh. If in pen, it’s a nearly-illegible scrawl, with spellings only I could untangle. If on the computer, it’s a sea of red and green underlining – Microsoft Word helpfully pointing out all the things I’ll have to go back and fix. But that’s okay. Freewriting is a time to let loose on the page. In fact, I sometimes write with my eyes closed, just so I don’t let myself get distracted. We need time to write whatever comes to mind, without the censoring, editing mind leaping in, trying to structure everything. It’s like a helicopter parent – trying to be helpful but really inhibiting the growth process.
So today, try Natalie Goldberg’s Rules of Writing Practice: 1. Keep Your Hand Moving. 2. Be Specific. 3. Lose Control. 4. Don’t Think. Set a timer and just write. Longhand is best for this, I find – it helps you connect your brain to your hand in a way typing doesn’t – so I encourage you to try it. It can be tremendously helpful as a regular practice to prime the pump before a “real” writing session. It can be “writing practice” on the days when you just can’t get motivated or feel like you don’t have anything to say. You can freewrite on a stuck place in your novel, or simply describe the room around you. Just pick something, and write. What comes out may be crap, or it may surprise you. It’s writing as Zen practice – no expectations, just writing.
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