Freewriting – Process vs. Product

 

CoffeePaperPenThe concept of freewriting is to allow your words to flow onto the page, uncensored.  Read a prompt, put pen to page, and write.  Don’t stop to think… just write what comes to mind based on the prompt.  Allow whomever you draw your creativity from (the Universe, your Muse, God) to speak to you.  Use the prompt to conjure up sensory details from all 6 senses (see, smell, touch, hear, taste and “feel” emotional connections). Be spontaneous, expansive, and fluid.  Write first thoughts.  Freudian slips are okay, even welcomed, as they often take us where we really need to go.

Writing Prompts (or Assignments)

Writing prompts are intended to trigger your mental archive.  Use them as a springboard from your personal experience into writing.  All of us carry around images, emotions, and feelings that connect to past experiences, current situations, and future dreams.  Allow the prompt to “inform” your writing, but not “define” it.  The prompt may tell you to write something a certain way, but what comes to mind for you is something different.  Great!  Fine!  Write what your creative spirit tells you to write.  Anything you write is wonderful-neither good nor bad, it just is.

Allow yourself to be surprised.  Use the prompt to draw out your creative spirit and allow her writing to show up on the page in whatever form you choose.  Welcome short bursts-small pieces of 100 words, for example, can always grow into big pieces too.  Just get something, anything, written down.

Prompts as Writing Practice

I believe there are two kinds of writing:  writing for process and writing for product.  While the two go hand in hand, I believe what comes first is writing for process.

Consider:  where do you get the seeds for a new piece of writing?  how do you get from a series of thoughts to a fully polished piece that’s ready to send to a publisher?

In my experience, working with prompts and writing practice is a natural stepping stone on the path to publishable material.  Our first step is to write based on inspiration triggered by a prompt, allowing our writing to flow with personalized intention.

I call this “writing for process.”  You may not be able to see where this piece of writing is going, but what you’re doing is tapping into your mental and experiential archive.  You’re getting thoughts and ideas down on paper.  You’re strengthening your writing muscle.  You’re acknowledging your writing voice and personal style.

I believe as writers we need to collect a good sampling of these “writing for process” pieces.  They are the springboards for larger projects and help point us in directions we may not have seen or acknowledged before.

Once you have a collection of “process pieces” you can then begin to shape for publication the ones that interest you.  Here’s where your “process pieces” turn into “product pieces.”  These “product pieces” become the writings that you actively “work on” and polish.  With the “product pieces,” you begin to look for suitable markets, honing and refining to publisher guidelines.

In order to get your writing practice started, or to stimulate your creativity further, I invite you to get a free copy of my ebook “99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing.”

3 Easy Creativity Tips You Can Use Every Day

We welcome Guest Blogger Heather Bestel to Your Write Life. Heather shares her personal approach to stress free writing. Learn how to make your ideas come more easily and watch your creativity flow.

From one writer to another, I’d like to offer you tools that have helped me be more creative and productive.  They are very simple techniques that you can use every day.  It’s something that I’ve been doing over the past twenty years and it has served me well.

Step One ~ Every day I take just ten minutes at the beginning of the day to meditate. This involves me sitting quietly and focusing on my gentle breathing for the first couple of minutes. I then start to clear my mind; I let thoughts float in and then float out again. 

If there are any thoughts that just won’t go I acknowledge them and make a mental note that they need to be dealt with later and then I let them go.  This simple process sets me up for the day ahead and helps keep my focus sharp.

Step Two ~ I take another ten minutes during the day to allow myself another moment of relaxation especially if I’m having challenging creative issues.  It’s a time for me to settle my mind and let the creativity flow. This time, instead of clearing my mind, I allow myself to daydream.

Whenever I’ve interviewed other writers, daydreaming is something they all agree with.  Even though it is discouraged throughout our schooling, it is one of the most powerful creative tools we have.

When I was writing Magical Meditations 4 Kids, I took this time every day to daydream and it made such a difference to my work.  Waiting for the writing muse to hit is often very frustrating.  Putting ourselves into a creative state is much more powerful.

Step Three ~ Whenever I feel overwhelmed, tired or stressed by sitting with my writing too long, I take a break.  In this break time, I get away from my writing totally. I may go into the garden and just sit in the sunshine for ten minutes or I may take a shower (a lot of my creative ideas happen there).

You will be interested to know that this isn’t a new idea. Here’s a wonderful quote from a great creative who lived over 500 years ago.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment …. Go some distance away because the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.

Leonardo Da Vinci

So, before sitting down to write today (and every day), I encourage you to stop and take a moment to really clear your mind; let it wander to a place of pure tranquility and calm.  And then let your creative ideas start to form and take shape.  Allow yourself this time of relaxation and reflection and notice how differently you feel and how easily your ideas flow.

During your writing today, if at any time you feel stressed or tired, take a moment away from your work.  Go and do something totally different so that you feel refreshed when you return.  Taking time out helps our concentration and focus and means we work better, our ideas come easily and our creativity flows. 

Happy Writing!

Heather Bestel is a therapist, writer, lecturer and award winning business coach.  She is the published author of Magical Meditations 4 kids and the founder of: HeatherBestel.com MagicalMediations4Kids.com ALittleBitofMeTime.com and MumsGotABusiness.com

 

National Get Organized Week – 1st Week in October

HousekeeperNational Get Organized Week is celebrated each year during the first full week of October–or at least it used to be.

Started by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in 1992, Get Organized (GO) Week “was created to focus on the benefits of getting organized and the tools and techniques necessary to achieve that goal. This week is an opportunity to streamline your life, create more time, lower your stress and increase your profit. Simplify your situation and make it more manageable by taking advantage of this time to get organized.”

Call me old school but I still like October as a time to clear the desk mess even though in 2005, NAPO moved National GO (Get Organized) Week to National GO (Get Organized) Month to January.

But hey, why not use October to set fresh goals to burn through to the end of the year? After all, October’s the beginning of the final quarter of the year so why not set in motion a final push to get things done?

Writers, let’s GO this week and use these tips for writers to clear the clutter and make a fresh start!

GO, right now. Grab a broom, a mop, and a dust bin (that’s old school talk for “trash can”). Roll up your sleeves, put on some rockin’ movin’ music and do this:

  1. Take everything off your desk or writing table. That means everything.
  2. Give your desk or writing table a really good clean–dust the top, the sides and bottom, then sweep or vacuum all around it.
  3. Put back only the essential “hard” tools, such as your computer components, lamp, phone, etc.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary clutter created by knickknacks and chotchkes. I’m all for little mementos too but place them on a shelf or windowsill, away from your desk surface, which should be reserved for your creative projects ONLY.
  5. Turn your PILES into FILES. That means going through the piles of paper and organizing them into categories. Put LIKE with LIKE, and give the former PILE a FILE folder with a label.
  6. Organize your files in a stand-up fashion, using a rack system. Your rack system might be file drawers.  Or, file boxes, tubs or totes.  Or, create a rack-type space between two strong book ends to hold the files in place. (I like to get creative and use “found objects” such as vases filled with sand or rocks to make decorative book ends.)
  7. If possible, place your rack-type system away from the surface of your desk, perhaps on a credenza or within a filing drawer. That way, your desk is open for your writing, and thus, is more open to your creativity without the visual noise and clutter.

Look around your writing space now. What do you see? Remember, clutter drains your energy. It zaps your creativity too. If there’s more to do, continue the process of decluttering and organizing. Twenty minutes a day is all it takes.

Clean up and clear out stuck energy. Make good use of the “old” National GO Week to get a jumpstart on finishing the year out as a savvy, productive writer.

Now it’s your turn… what will YOU do this week to take advantage of our personal celebration of National GO Week?

Please post a comment below with your ideas.  Thanks!

Before You Write, Declutter!

Have you ever noticed that clutter of any kind, whether physical, emotional, or mental, shouts out, “Hey, do me… don’t forget about… me… what about me?”

Clutter is stuck energy.  Clear your clutter and you will remove stagnant energy, free up space, and open up the channels to your creativity.

Clutter is defined as anything:

  • unfinished
  • unused
  • unresolved
  • tolerated
  • disorganized

When we begin a weekly decluttering regimen, we begin to clear out the old and make room for the new.  We cast off old projects, broken promises, and forgotten sidetracks.  We get rid of what we’ve been tolerating.  We put order to chaos.  The simple act of clearing clutter can transform your life by releasing what is no longer needed.  You’ll generate renewed energy, allowing you to create space in your writing life for the things you want to achieve.

Decluttering is an organic, ever-evolving part of the prewriting component in the writing process.  Do IT!  Start right now.  For the next 20 minutes focus your attention on a small pile of stuff, a desk drawer, a file folder, a computer folder, a countertop.

Ask yourself these 3 decluttering questions:

1.  Does it lift my energy?

2.  Do I love it?

3.  Is it useful to me now?

If not, out it goes (to the trash, to recycling, to charity, to a good new home).

It’s Okay To Take A Break

Sometimes taking a break can make you more productive than ever.  Sometimes you don’t even recognize that you need a break but then you get these little life nudges that say, “Hey, stop! You’re pushing too fast!”

Do you ever get the feeling that “pushing” causes more resistance than if you were to gently pull your ideas forward?

Before I was a writing instructor and coach, early in my career days, I worked in an engineering environment where new ideas floated around all day long. Of course, just as in writing or any creative endeavor, ideas are easy; it’s what you do with the ideas that matter.

I noticed that engineers who took time out to get feedback from others gathered more ideas that created even more momentum for their projects. So when these guys (all men but 1 woman at the time) took a break, they weren’t slackers. They were feeding the forward momentum of their projects in a way that forcing or “pushing” would have never worked.

You might need a break if:

  • you question if what you’re doing is working.
  • you’re feeling depleted of fresh ideas.
  • every day seems a struggle to get yourself writing again.
  • you’re stuck with no idea for what’s next.
  • you’ve stopped doing anything but feel guilty for doing nothing.

The antidote: Take a break to feed your forward momentum:

Day 1 – Have a “nothing day” where you leave your writing project completely alone.

Day 2 – Make a list of questions you have or things that bother you about your current project or writing process. It’s okay if this list is long and hairy and disorganized. Think of it as a brain dump of your frustrations.

Day 3 – Make another list of ALL potential solutions. Censor NOTHING. Everything counts!

Day 4 – Seek opinions of others. Share your concerns with a trusted writing friend, colleague, or professional, such as a writing coach. Brainstorm ideas together for possible next steps.

Day 5 – Sort through winning ideas and map out a calendarized next step plan for your writing.

Day 6 – Take another “nothing day” and truly make it an open day free of project anxiety.

Day 7 – Return to your writing project ready, relaxed and renewed by the fresh ideas that will pull you through to success!

{Please pass this writing tip along to others.}

Video – My FAVORITE Must Have Book for Writers

When it comes to this writing tool, I’m a rabid proponent that EVERY writer MUST have the J.I. Rodale Synonym Finder on his or her bookshelf.

You’ll see why when you watch this video.

Don’t wait another minute to add this book to your Writer’s Essential Bookshelf. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone writes without a plethora of word choices right there at their fingertips. Do you?

 

Frank McCourt, A Teacher’s Brush with The Teacher Man

Frank McCourt in 2007 at Housing Works bookstore in New York City (photo courtesy David Shankbone)

Frank McCourt in 2007 at Housing Works bookstore in New York City (photo courtesy David Shankbone)

Things are a little grayer all over the world today with the passing of author Frank McCourt, on Sunday, July 19, 2009.  Angela’s Ashes, published in 1996, and the first in a series of memoirs written by McCourt, probably did more than anything in the past two decades to create the heightened desire in writers to preserve and craft their own personal stories. During his years as a classroom teacher in the New York public school system, he “always told his writing students that they were their own best material.” Toward the end of his teaching career and into retirement, he took his own best advice and penned Angela’s Ashes and two subsequent memoirs: ‘Tis: A Memoir, and Teacher Man.

The people who read and enjoyed his books were common folks just like most of us. Some were better off but knew someone–perhaps a neighbor, or their child’s teacher, or their grandparents—who had come from a hard-scrabble upbringing and had a story to tell. Suddenly, everyone wanted to capture their own lives on the page, whether to publish like McCourt had, or to simply create a legacy in words to leave behind for their progeny.

McCourt achieved one of publishing’s highest accolades when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. But he never lost his humble bearings.

I met him, shook his hand and had an opportunity to speak to Mr. McCourt briefly during the 2001 Florida Suncoast Writers Conference. A gentle teacher man, the same age as my father, he had just presented the opening keynote at the conference. He took my hand, turned it over, and said, “I bet you’re a teacher.” I was taken aback, for indeed I was. In fact, I had just started teaching memoir writing courses the semester before at the University of South Florida.

Because of the resurgence in personal storytelling McCourt had spawned, I’d switched from teaching business writing to creative nonfiction writing classes so I could read stories, like McCourt’s, for a living, and help writers write, and perhaps publish, the books of their dreams.

And I shared that with him. He never broke eye contact, and I locked on him, too, reveling in this brief moment with a mentor, a literary icon.

In his characteristic Irish-laden brogue, he thanked me for carrying on something he started “as kind of a bother.”

He winked, then said, “You know, I sometimes still prefer teaching.  Writing is kinda fun, but on the bad days, it can get you down, ya know?”

I agree, both writing and teaching have their flip sides: good days and bad days, great days and blah days.   Whether we’re the student or teaching from the other side of the desk, both are integral parts of the journey to publishing.  The writer’s life is (or ought to be) a lifelong act of learning and figuring things out, as Frank McCourt’s memoirs attest.

What remains a mystery to me is how the iconic Teacher Man figured out I was a teacher by simply taking my hand in his.

Related articles:

In tribute to Frank McCourt, Whose Irish Childhood Illuminated His Prose, Dead at 78

Frank McCourt from photographer David Shankbone’s perspective