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.
Aaron spent the past two days simmering his homemade ragu. I’d love to share a recipe, but his sauce is an expression of his love for food rather than anything that could be pinned to paper. Two days of simmering, tasting, adding, hand wringing, simmering, tasting, adding, tasting, simmering… a lot of love went into this meal. On Father’s Day, we finally got to sit down and eat it, and it was definitely worth the wait. I’m not sure if he planned to have the sauce ready for Father’s Day, or if it just worked out that way, but I certainly wasn’t going to get in his way. I didn’t have to cook. And the food was amazing.
I’m so lucky to have such a great husband, who also happens to be an awesome dad to our 5-year-old, and an amazing, if occasional, cook.
So instead of cooking, I’m going to round up some of my favorite fathers day posts this year. I’ll tackle the dishes later.
Dale Partridge is one of my favorite writers, and he delivers again with this post on the things dads need to hear.
Suzanne Braun Levine discusses how dads parent differently now in this HuffPo piece. This is something I have noticed myself. I love how involved dads is not only a trend, it’s becoming an expectation, and guys are living up to it.
Hillary from Domestic Bliss Squared pens a letter to her dad explaining how she came to a new understanding of his perspective after becoming a parent herself.
On BlogHer, manvsmommy comes through with a wonderful letter to her husband that said something dads really need to hear, and reminding me that I need to say thank you to my husband as well. He’s an awesome dad, too.
I think sometimes fierce gets a glamorous image. It’s easy to think of finish lines, mountain tops, and triumphs when we think of the word fierce – but fierce isn’t the finish, it’s how you got there. Fierce is the long, lonely runs in the rain, months, even years before the starting line.
Fierce is giving it your all, knowing there is no finish line. Do or die. For real.
Fierce is defiantly holding your baby after the mastectomy, against doctors orders.
Fierce is getting up in the middle of the night to change your infant’s diaper as your body reels from the chemo induced nausea and fatigue.
Fierce is getting up the next morning to go back for another excruciating treatment. Day after day after day.
Fierce is not passive; fierce doesn’t have time for pity parties.
Fierce fights back.
Fierce isn’t pretty, but it’s beautiful.
Fierce is making difficult choices.
Fierce is finding the courage to have a difficult conversation.
Fierce is embracing your integrity, even when it makes you feel unloved.
Fierce is knowing who you are, and being that person the best you can.
Fierce keeps learning.
Fierce understands that sometimes learning means un-learning what is no longer true, or even more painful, what you finally understand was never true.
Fierce is understanding that cancer is not a shortcut to courage, or wisdom, or strength. You still have to do the work to gain and keep those qualities.
You don’t have to have cancer to be fierce.
You don’t have to have cancer to practice courage, or wisdom, or strength.
You have a choice.
You can be fierce.
How are you fierce?
This piece was written as part of the Clever Girls’ Collective Traveling Blue Wig Project. This project supports the Fierce Fund which will donate $20,000 this year to organizations that help girls and women. Check out their site and help select the Fierce Fund grant winner.
Judy Schwartz Haley is a mother, wife, student, writer, photographer, and breast cancer survivor. If you really want to see her get fierce, try to take her chocolate.
28 women finding ways to squeeze the day, every day, while living with cancer and it’s after effects.
Every year we converge on this little retreat center in the woods, on the edge of the canal.
Every year we laugh, we cry, we eat, drink, and dance,
We challenge each other, we hold each other up.
And even more importantly, we rest, and we are cared for.
Every year I come back home feeling two inches taller.
P.S. This year, I brought a spare camera and handed it over to the group, asking them to take pictures as well. I’m so glad I did. I came home with pictures that were complete surprises to me, and this year, I was so engaged in just being present that I hardly took any pictures at all. Thanks so much to my friends for picking up the slack.
P.P.S. The link in the first line will take you to the poem I read at the retreat. It resonated so profoundly with so many of us, and I received many requests for copies. (I’m not affiliated with the writer of the poem, but when you write stuff this good, it deserves a link.)
I’ve written about my gratitude practice a few times lately, and one of the things it has most reinforced for me is that you find what you’re looking for. This video has been making it’s rounds of the internet lately, and for good reason. It’s lovely, and it’s inspiring. it’s worth the three minutes to watch.
Friday the 13th was a travel day. My time was spent contending with weather delays, missed connections, mismanagement, cancelled flights, long lines, and four separate boarding passes before I finally broke free of the Houston Airport. That flight actually took me to Washington D.C. (yes, coast to coast) before I could reach my destination in Indianapolis.
Exhausted from the chaos of the previous day, I joined my colleagues for breakfast, and the opening address from our CEO. I leaned back in my chair, sated with a delicious breakfast, and allowed the coffee to find it’s way through my circulatory system. I was acclimating. Then the words she was saying started to sink in. Like scraping the needle across a record, something in my brain screeched to a stop. I sat up straight.
You want to change YSC? You want to change the one thing that has been most helpful in keeping me sane over the past two years? I looked around the room; I wasn’t the only one looking uncomfortable. This wasn’t just any room, this was a room full of breast cancer survivors and supporters. These are women and men who are all-too-familiar with having change thrust upon them, changes no one should have to endure.
While the purpose of the event was to steer the organization towards a sustainable future that supports its mission to provide services for young women with breast cancer nationwide, I got a little something else out of it as well. The three day weekend distilled itself quite neatly into a lesson in change management.
On one day I saw agents rolling their eyes, defensively barking at everyone that they can’t control the weather, and disparaging travellers who were exhuasted, hungry, sore, irritated, anxious, travelling with a hoard of kids, and some (who may or may not have been me) who desperately needed to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to lose their place in line after already waiting an hour. To be sure, I do not envy their jobs; dealing with that many people in a crisis situation far from home can’t be easy. But in many ways the agents themselves contributed to the chaos and stress of the situation, encouraging it to advance from an unfortunate inconvenience to angry, pushing crowds.
The next day, I witnessed a very different method of dealing with change.
These are big changes that impact programs that were built with sweat, tears, and heart by unpaid volunteers. They are mucking about with, what is for many of us, our safe place. But I went home feeling ok about the situation, not because I agree with everything that has been decided, but because of the way the announcement and the subsequent activities were handled. The day was programmed around providing more information, and requesting comments, criticisms, and concerns from the participants. I’m fascinated by how liberating it felt to make a comment and have it really heard. Each time that happened, the stress lightened up a bit. After a night of dancing, things started to look a lot better the next morning.
There is also a great deal of value in hearing management say they don’t have that nailed down yet because they intend to consider our responses. Whoa. This was more than just letting affiliate leaders vent to get things out of their system, they were really collecting information.
I think there were two elements that were most effective in helping us process these changes: understanding and time. There’s just no way to quantify the value of being heard and really understood. Additionally, I have a better understanding of the plan, and on a logical level, I can see that these changes will help our organization be more nimble and responsive, remain sustainable, and ultimately help more young women with breast cancer. My head is there, my heart may take a bit more time to catch up.
And time was a critical element here as well. It allowed me to get used to the idea. These changes are six months off, so we have room to acclimate, plan for them, and make the best of them. Over the weekend there was a pattern of relieving pressure by taking and answering questions, followed by some time, and then another pressure relief opportunity. By the time I got on the plane to return home, I was still unsure how I felt about some of the elements, but the angst was gone. The transparency demonstrated throughout the event gives me hope that concerns that arise in the interim will be handled with the same grace.
It should be noted that the participants in this meeting are women and men who have already faced daunting changes and challenges, rose above them, and used them as a catalyst for helping others and improving the world around them. We have plenty of experience in adapting, and making the best of a situation. Give us a little time, resources, and infrastructure; we will make this work.
On the other hand, less time in Houston would have been preferable. But DCA turned out to be a beautiful airport (top photo), and I got to see the Washington D.C. monuments from the air, both coming and going. It’s been a quarter century since the last time I saw them.
How do you deal with change? Do you prefer to have time to get used to an idea? Or does more time mean you stew and worry more before it happens?