One of the biggest causes of Writer’s Block is inhibition. The search for the perfect word, the struggle to write what you think is the best sentence, these are the things that hold us back as writers as we work on the next big book, poem or story. The need to get things right often distracts from the option of editing later. Remember: your first draft doesn’t have to be your final draft.
To help alleviate this problem, we’re going to address free writing. I’ve done this in the past with some moderate success, and had a lot of fun with it in the meantime. I’ve used it in my writing, and I’ve used it in the classroom. Free writing is diverse, and what you write is entirely up to you.
Let’s set some rules to help you on your way. First of all, you only have five minutes. Secondly, pen and paper only. Clear some space to write. Thirdly, write in the same field or genre as your current work in progress.
If you need some help finding something to write, here are some suggestions on getting ideas. I know what it’s like when you go to write something and suddenly your mind goes blank.
- Pick a well-known slogan from an advertisement. Use it as the title of your piece. This works especially well in fiction and poetry.
- Choose a line from your work in progress as the title, or use it to start your piece of free writing. For non-fiction, this can help you find another area of focus for your work; for fiction, it can provide some further insight into the story.
- Use the title of a movie, or a famous quote, as either the title of your piece, or as the first line. If you’re writing fiction, you have an easy job ahead of you, relatively speaking. Non-fiction will require a different set of skills.
Any of those three options should provide a good starting point. They look simple, because they are. Most importantly, though, you’re not going to plan anything. You’re just going to start writing. Five minutes, by hand, no matter how messy the handwriting, no matter how poor the story or article or poem is. You’re simply going to pour out every thought you have in an attempt at coherency for the duration of the exercise.
Another option is to ignore everything else entirely.
No title, no starting line. Just write. Describe how you feel. Write whatever thoughts come into your head. It might feel odd, at first, but by the time the five minutes are over you might have to force yourself to stop writing entirely.
The most important thing is that you don’t attempt to control what you’re writing. Any attempt to control the writing goes against the point of the exercise, which is to get your writing without any inhibitions. When you’ve done that, you’ll be more able to continue your work in progress.