52 Ways to Shift Your Focus

Shift #27: Revisit Freewriting

Today, it’s rainy. Gray. Leaves that still cling to the trees are bejeweled with drops of water that dangle from their tips. It’s the sort of day that drives me to sit at my dining room table where I can face the patio door while I work, where I can occasionally glance at the seemingly solid bank of clouds to the west and dream. The kind of day when I know I’ll drink the entire pot of coffee and then brew tea because that mug of warm liquid cradled between my palms is as much a part of my creative process as the writing.

On days like this, I love to return to freewriting. This post, for example, emerged from the morning’s handwritten pages. I chose to eschew my computer earlier for the sense of quiet that accompanies the faint sound of the pen’s rush across the page, for the change of mood offered by a change in method. Just because I use a computer daily does not mean that I must produce all my work on it.

It wasn’t just the weather that nudged me toward freewriting today. I felt a deeper need to reflect on things. This may be a common affliction of writers and artists in general, that desire to dig deeper into how our work responds to the world around us. Or it may be that I already felt tasked to muck around beneath my own surface as I thought about other things in my life that required more than a glancing blow. Whatever it was that whispered in my ear, I listened.

Which leads me to the idea of how we can revisit the technique of freewriting to shake our current projects loose. What always happens when I sit down and, in the words of freewriting guru Natalie Goldberg, “let it rip”, is that moment of surprise. At some point, something pours out that wasn’t fully formed a few seconds earlier and it changes how I think of something. This is one of the rawest ways of using a creative technique to discover what we might have been thinking all along and were too busy or too buttoned up to say aloud. Or write in public. Or put in a piece of art.

I took a Natalie Goldberg workshop many years ago, before blogging, before I became a poetry editor, before I did The Artist’s Way.  Come to think of it, that weekend workshop in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was at this time of year, on a day much like today when the world seemed gray. But being part of a community of people who came together with notebooks and pens to get a better sense of how to write something that mattered made that grayness fall away. What emerged were colorful, vibrant words that gave us all the impetus for further work.

So, what are you waiting for? Whatever’s on your mind will take a new shape with freewriting.

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2 comments

  1. What a beautiful description of the way a community can lift grey moods, vanquish grey days and lead to the conquering of new worlds.
    Just at the moment, at least in part because I am tired to the bone, I would really, really like to be able to focus. On anything. Tomorrow is a whole new day.

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