Friday, September 9, 2011

Free Writing and More

I thought retirement was to be calm, quiet….fishing from a gently rocking boat. Lately, I have been busier than a coon in a corn crib. Yesterday’s calendar held five items. I canceled one; another was canceled for me the night before which made the day a little more manageable. Last night was a tight schedule, but all worked out well when I got to attend both the Writers’ Guild meeting and a Distinguished Writer series at PSU.

Two people visited our guild last night which was fantastic and energizing for all. I hope they return, and one has said she definitely will. Our guild always does an in-house Halloween story contest in October. So with that in mind, I introduced writers to free writing with autumn or Halloween in mind. Last month I talked about free writing and most had not heard of it. The two that had felt it was not beneficial to them. I forged on this month anyway.

Almost any writing book will suggest beginning with free writing, journaling, note-taking, memo-making, or listing. Julia Cameron, who has written extensively on creativity and writing, advises Morning Pages. That is, starting every day with two or three pages of just your thoughts and priming the pump of your mind so to speak, letting creative ideas appear. Monica Wood, author of The Pocket Muse of Endless Inspiration, recommends changing prompt words every 45 seconds in free writing. Elizabeth Lyon in her Manuscript Makeover proposes Riff Writing, yet another form of free writing applied to your own written material. Last night I used a composite of all suggestions for a guild activity.

Free Writing is a timed writing exercise where writers jot down everything that comes into the mind, whatever it is. No punctuation, no spelling worries, no lifting the pen for any reason. If the mind is blocked, just write the word Blocked until something else comes. Last night we did a six minute free writing. I prompted with a new word every 45 seconds. We started with thinking about autumn, hoping to generate ideas for next month’s contest stories. Several members were quite enthused for writing at home when the exercise was finished.

Then DH and I raced 40 miles to PSU so we could hear Thomas Fox Averill read from his new book rode. Averill is a prolific writer and a professor at Washburn in northern Kansas. His newest book, one his agent called his best work yet, was inspired by hearing the old ballad "Tennessee Stud". He loves the song and knows it by heart, sang it to his children while they were growing up. He began to research the song, to travel the states the hunted man took in escaping his lover’s family, and the novel grew. Averill read some wonderful passages from this book last night. I shut my eyes and enjoyed being read to by this bearded teacher who happens to play the bagpipes for fun.

Averill said although his agent and publisher both said the book was wonderful, they could not sell it in the present market. He nearly gave up when he tried University of New Mexico Press, who took accepted it right away. The book has some settings in New Mexico, but the whole story touched the editor who also likes ballads, was a lover of music, particularly "Tennessee Stud".

Averill also impressed me when he told his audience he had about given up the battle of writing to earn money. Instead he just writes for the love of the experience and what wordsmithing satisfaction he gets personally. I bought a copy of his book and expect it to be as good throughout as the passages he read aloud. The setting and story definitely have a western flavor, the tale rich with both outlaws and a romance just like the old ballad.

If you are a writer, do you practice Free Writing?


cj Schlottman said...

This is a great reminder! I call it stream of consciousness, but it never fails to fuel my imagination. Trouble is, I get so wrapped up in minutia that I forget the basics.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bookie....I have done a lot of free writing, especially when I taught Creative Writing to federal prison inmates, and later to teenage mothers. The students always got into it and when they read their pieces outloud, they were often outstanding. I love free writing!

Of course, I love most writing! Take care, dear Bookie, and thanks so much for Following my blog, being a faithful blogger, and for your comments, too. Sincerely, Susan from

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Claudia,
I don't like free writing or timed writing, but if you give me a topic and a quiet place, I can produce a worthy tome. I can't write on demand.
You are busier than ever!

Martha said...

A great post -- don't we all love writing and isn't that why we blog!

BTW, you were not that far from my little town on the prairie if you were at PSU! We're the next town north! (or the next biggest town north!)