When I present my journaling and creative expression classes, I always include at least one, and usually several, freewriting sessions with the writing exercises. Why? Because they are so effective at getting to the heart of whatever we are working on for the class.
What is Freewriting?
Freewriting is a writing exercise that focuses on the process of writing rather than the end result. Rather than stopping to think and then write, we keep the pen moving, writing whatever pops into the brain. What we are trying to do is out-write our own internal editor so that we can access the unvarnished, raw thought and ideas that are lurking in our subconscious.
It’s not, really. But through this process, people often end up writing things that give them, and others, goosebumps. In a good way.
How Do You Freewrite?
I find it best to start with a timer. Generally, I choose a writing time between 5 and 20 minutes. Shorter than five minutes won’t get you far, even five minutes is a bit short, but I find that more than 20 minutes can be too much. With the longer time, it’s easy to forget what you’re doing and go get a cookie instead of writing.
Set your timer.
Start writing. Don’t let your pen stop moving.
Write about anything that pops into your head. If you think you don’t have anything to write, write “I don’t know what to write” over and over again until different words start coming out of your pen.
Keep writing. Ignore spelling errors and grammar, just shovel words onto the page. They don’t have to make sense. Just keep writing more words, without stopping.
When you hit another wall where you think you can’t come up with any more words, keep writing anyway. Write the words that sound wrong. Write the words that make you want to hesitate. Just get the words out of your head and onto the paper.
Keep writing till the timer stops.
That’s it. It’s that simple, and it’s that challenging.
What are the Benefits of Freewriting?
1. A freewriting practice allows you to separate the editing process from the creating process.
2. Freewriting is a practice that helps you overcome the need for perfection in your earliest drafts.
3. Freewriting can reveal thoughts and ideas that you didn’t realize were percolating under the surface, and get you more in touch with your own thoughts
4. The process of freewriting is often a catalyst for inspiration and increased creativity, especially when done as a regular practice.
5. It is often possible to gain some clarity and perspective on a troubling issue while freewriting.
6. Freewriting can be a form of release, of letting go of bottled-up thoughts and emotions.
This whole process is meaningful and useful for creatives, but also valuable for dealing with everyday life.
If you have a freewriting practice, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you. Share your tips and triumps, and any frustrations you have with the practice as well.
If you’ve never tried it – I dare you. Tell me how it goes.
LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in celebration of Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish on-line, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities.
To the mom who brings her child their own cup cake to a kid’s birthday party:
I know you get looks from the other parents, but I understand.
Food sensitivities are nothing to mess with.
I know you stayed up late working on that cupcake. You made it extra pretty.
You brought it, not because you were trying to make your child feel excluded, but just the opposite, you wanted her to be a part of this party, and you wanted her to have a treat, just like all the other kids. But you had to make it safe for her.
It’s not easy to see your kid on the outside, and I promise you, I will not take your kid’s special diet lightly.
To the mom who’s wondering when she will start to feel like a grownup and have all the answers:
I’m sorry, but we only have all the answers about how other people should parent their kids.
The moments of feeling like a grownup are rare, but most of the time you have the bills, the responsibilities, the mouths to feed, the guilt about your own shortcomings, and conflicting advice from all the usual suspects, but not so much with the answers.
You feel like you haven’t quite arrived at being a grownup, until one day you wake up and realize you’re old.
Of course, feeling old is no guarantee you’ll have the answers. Same old questions, new arthritis.
To the mom of the toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store:
I’m sorry I was staring. I promise I wasn’t judging you; I’ve been there, and I was reliving it. The world is full of people who think the wailing and kicking are because the parents always cave, but I know that that little fit was because you didn’t cave.
Or maybe it was just because the store was out of Spiderman toothbrushes and the Incredible Hulk just wouldn’t do.
I’ve encountered so many people who believe children should be seen and not heard, and for that matter almost never seen except for when they’re being perfect and adorable. They would never admit they believe this, but they give themselves away… “why don’t they just take the kids home when they fuss?” people wonder.
But I know.
I know you and your children would starve if you took the kids home every time they threw a fit.
To the mom who is tired:
The mom who will go to bed soon, but first she has to make sure the clothes make it from the washer to the dryer before they sour, load the dishwasher, and get the kid up for a midnight potty so she doesn’t wet the bed…
I know you’ve been told before that you need to take care of yourself first, so you have the strength to take care of the kids.
I also know you’re just going to keep doing what you feel like you need to do.
I hope, sometimes, you get the rest you need.
The kids will grow, and soon they’ll be able to pour their own bowl of Cheerios. They’ll destroy the kitchen in the process, but at least you’ll get to sleep in for 20 minutes or so.
To the mom who is living with cancer or another life threatening or chronic condition:
I’m right there with you.
I know what it’s like to wonder how much time you have with your kids.
I’ve listened to my baby cry, unable to pick her up and waiting for someone to come bring her to me, feeling helpless and maybe a bit useless.
I’ve had those dreams that ended with someone else raising my child.
I’ve wondered if I was enough.
I’ve wondered if I could hang on long enough that she would be old enough to have memories of me. I’ve wondered if it would be easier for her if I didn’t.
I worried that I was letting her watch too much TV, but let me tell you something, TV is awesome. Besides, SuperWhy taught my daughter how to read.
Now I worry about my relationship with my own patchwork body, and how I can help my daughter develop a healthy body image when I still feel like my body betrayed me. My husband and I joke about my million dollar body, but I still miss those missing parts, I’m still anticipating the next body part failure.
To the mom who apologizes to her kid after losing it:
Thank you for showing your child that adults make mistakes too, that making mistakes and learning from them is part of being human.
Thank you for teaching your child that what you do after a mistake is often as important, if not more important than the mistake itself.
Thank you for modeling that behavior. It’s so awesome for kids to have a real live example, so they know what a meaningful apology is supposed to look like.
To the mom who is lonely:
I’m lonely too.
We’ve got the kids, but there’s only so far I can follow a conversation about My Little Pony or Minecraft before I really need to talk to another adult, and my husband doesn’t get home till late.
How do you connect with the parents of the other kids at the playground? Even when your kids hit it off and you have a nice conversation, there’s that awkward moment where you work up the nerve to ask about a playdate.
Sometimes you’re just not able to work up the nerve at all, but when you do, It feels like you’re asking the mom out on a date. You give her your number and wonder, will she call?
And they don’t always call.
Sometimes you meet up and it’s awesome, up until it’s time to go home and then your kid is the one who throws the epic tantrum that can be heard from 3 blocks away.
But every once in a while, you make a friend.
To all these moms, and to all the other moms out there:
Let’s stick together, lets have each other’s backs. Raising humans is hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s often a thankless job so let me just take this moment to say thank you.
I was getting ready for Get Hitched Give Hope, an amazing, annual charity event that pairs wedding planners and vendors with happy couples planning their nuptials, and the proceeds benefit two organizations that support people living with cancer: the Young Survival Coalition and the Dream Foundation. It was my biggest formal event of the season, and the driving Seattle rain had just gone horizontal.
I was so glad I arranged with Vera to have stylists come to my home to do my hair and makeup. I could get beautified at home in my pajamas, and not have to brave the weather until I left for the party.
My hair likes to frizz and be difficult, and on a rainy day like this, I needed help. Tanya Joseph came over to do my hair.
Since she was right there in my home, I could show her my dress and jewelry, so she was able to make suggestions that would balance the neckline, accessories, and my hairstyle.
I washed it right before she arrived so it was ready for her to get started with a blowout.
And then we had a lovely chat while she did my hair.
I’m telling you, even in this tiny apartment, I felt like royalty having someone come over to help me get prettied up.
After Tanya finished with my hair, Megan Yamamoto came over to do my makeup.
Megan showed up with a coolest tower of tools and sooooo many pretty colors. Her hands worked magic with a palette and a few palette knives, blending colors and shades and consistency to find just the right mix for my skin.
She listened to my fears about too much color on my face, or the way my eyes get lost in shadows with too much smokey eye shadow. She found a good balance, and while I was a little nervous at first, I loved the look when she was done.
By the time they were both done getting me all prettied up, the sun broke through the clouds and we were treated to a stunning rainbow.
I kept thinking how much easier it would have been to have stylists come to us for my own wedding.
The rain held off for the rest of the night, and I had a lovely time at the event with some of my favorite people.
My hair stayed beautiful all night long, with nary a frizz, my makeup stayed put and looked fabulous, and Get Hitched Give Hope raised a lot of money to help people living with cancer while helping a lot of love birds plan their weddings.
Rather successful day all the way around, I’d say.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Vera and the stylists for providing these services to me for this special event at no charge.
While my husband was in grad school studying Persian literature, I started exploring Persian culinary traditions as a fun way to embrace and support his studies. One of our favorite meals is the very simple dish of koobideh, ground lamb kebabs, served with roasted tomatoes and basmati rice.
The trick to a successful koobideh is to drain out the onion juice. This will help the meat to hold it’s shape better without being to soggy. The ground onion creates a much different experience in the flavor and texture of the dish than simply chopping the onion and adding it to the meat.
Strain onion in a fine sieve or through a cloth to remove the majority of the liquid. Then return the onion pulp to the food processor.
Add garlic cloves to the food processor.
Chop off the tough ends of the parsley stems and add parsley to the food processor.
Add egg and spices to food processor and blend well.
Break the ground lamb into large chunks and add to the food processor. Blend until just combined, being careful not to over-work the meat. Refrigerate mixture, allowing meat to rest and flavors to blend for two to three hours )or even overnight).
Divide the meat mixture into 8 portions, and form each portion into a long, narrow strip, 6 to 8 inches long, and place it across the width of a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining portions.
Use a knife or spatula to cut notches along the length of the kebab.
Kebabs can also be grilled over high heat. There are special wide kebab skewers made for koobideh; these are not necessary, but they do make turning the meat on the grill much easier.
Koobideh prepared in the oven does not need to be turned.
Place tomatoes on the pan in the spaces between the kebabs or around the grill.
Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. The skins of the roasted tomatoes may blacken a bit.
Serve with the roasted tomatoes, over basmati rice.