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The Psychological Benefits of Freewriting

The importance of free writing was instilled into me from the very start of my degree in creative writing. However, I really struggled with the concept. Even now, if you put me in an academic setting away from the safety of my sofa or writing room, I’d struggle.

I didn’t get into free writing until I started my full-time job. Suddenly not being able to write as and when I wanted to made me feel suffocated. I didn’t start free writing intentionally—and frankly I don’t enjoy calling it that—but I do enjoy writing without thinking. I end up in a trance-like state, where the only thing that matters is getting the next words on to the page.

Just like editing, proofreading, plotting, and character development, free writing is a skill. You need to treat it as such—you won’t get better at it without practice.

Free writing is a skill, just like editing, proofreading, and plotting. Click To Tweet

It’s through free writing—and the sense of self-trust that it creates—that I’ve been able to write as many as 1,000 words in 15 minutes, and up to 14,000 words in a day.

It really is that powerful.

There are many benefits of free writing. Here's some of them.

But there’s more to free writing than just getting down the idea for your novel. It’s also used in counselling and therapy as a way of dealing with trauma. It can help you to deal with issues you can’t deal with in real life, and gives you somewhere to channel your nervous energy.

The psychological benefits of free writing

It’s relaxing

Some people compare free writing to meditating, and I can totally see this. You’re in a trance-like state where nothing matters but your writing.

When you’re free writing, you do it to get the story out of your system. When counsellors and psychologists recommend it, it’s done to get rid of pent-up emotions (usually anger). If you’re feeling pent-up emotions, why not combine the two? Pretend you’re one of your characters who’s angry at another character in your story, and run with it. Who knows where your characters will take you?

It’s good practice

When free writing, you do NOT edit. Many free writers don’t even fix grammatical issues. I’m not that strict—I can’t leave it if I spot it, and if I find a better word for something I’ll change it—but beyond that, I don’t edit. Any glaring holes I highlight for future reference, then go back to writing. That way, it doesn’t interrupt getting down the initial idea, which is the point of free writing.

You’ll have to edit the book later on anyway; why ruin the creative process by doing it now?

It exercises your creative muscles

You’re a writer. You’re inherently creative. By allowing yourself to free write for a period of time, you’re tapping into that creativity in a completely uncensored way. You’re flexing your creative muscles.

The more you flex those muscles, the stronger they’ll become.

When you start off lifting weights, you’ll only be able to manage a few kilos. The longer you lift weights for, and the more you practise, the stronger you’ll be.

Your writing muscles behave in exactly the same way.

You won’t get better at writing without practise.

There’s nothing that says you have to show the results of your free writing session to anyone. You don’t even have to keep it if you don’t want to (although I’d advise against this—you may find something you can use later on).

Just like you lift weights to increase your strength, you write to be a better writer. There’s no rule that says when and where you should show off your newfound strength/writing skills.

You learn to trust yourself

When free writing, ultimately, you’re training yourself to trust yourself.

Learning to trust yourself in that way is incredibly freeing, and, as mentioned above, it’s a skill that only comes with practise.

Getting that first draft down is the hardest part of the writing process. You have a lot more to think about than when you’re proofreading. But when you sit down and free write, you’re telling your subconscious that it has a good idea, and you’re happy for it to run with said idea.

This sense of trust in yourself eventually finds itself in other parts of your life, too. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference free writing can make in your life if you give it a shot!

Over to You

Do you find free writing useful? Do you struggle with it? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

Last updated: 29/01/17

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ABOUT
Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams is an author of fiction and nonfiction, writing and productivity blogger, and occasional poet. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. When she's not writing she's reading, baking, or finding other ways to destroy the kitchen. She can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte.

7 Comments

  • […] first three tips comes from novelist Kristina Adams who posted “The Psychological Benefits of Free Writing” on her blog The Writer’s […]

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  • 16th November, 2017 at 16:25

    I think free writing is a very freeing experience (pun intended). I liken it to a detox for the mind, letting everything that has been congested in there out. Sometimes I will find myself being overly critical of myself during this process but your article has encouraged me to “let it all hang out” and not hinder myself with negative self talk. Thank you for this article is was very informative, reassuring and entertaining all at the same time.

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    • 16th November, 2017 at 21:25

      You’re welcome, David 🙂

      I love the phrase ‘detox for the mind’, it’s so true. That’s definitely how I feel after I’ve written some pieces, particularly if the emotions in the scene reflect how I’m feeling at the time. The more you embrace free writing, the more you’ll get out of it, too. Negative self-talk just pulls you out of what you’re writing and takes the fun out of it! Good luck 🙂

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  • […] writing something engaging and compelling takes lots of practice and actually doing some writing. Kristina wrote that it helped her write as many as 1,000 words in 15 […]

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  • […] Free writing is a skill. It takes some time to build the muscles. […]

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  • […] on what kind of learner you are and what you find works best. I personally am a big fan of free-writing, which might involve spending about 10-20 minutes just jotting down a bunch of ideas and seeing […]

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  • […] Here’s a bonus!Are you already a writer? Kristina Adams, over at The Writer’s Cookbook, has some words dedicated just for you about the psychological benefits of free writing. Check it out here!Hugs! […]

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