10 Minute Writer

Confessions of a Busy Mom Who Became an Independent Novelist

Why The Freewrite Should be the Biggest Gun In Your Writing Arsenal (Or The Blog Post In Which I Have WAY Too Many Metaphors)

(While this post is about freewriting and it’s importance, it’s also a counting game. How many metaphors do I use? Leave a comment guessing the right number  and I’ll randomly pick one of you to receive a free digital copy of  The Truth About The Sky, my latest release, which also has a lot of metaphors.) 

The one writing tool that  I use almost daily, the one that has saved my bacon more than once, the one that has become my go-to time and again, the one that moves me from nebulous mess of an idea to some sort of brown, sticky, smelly draft, the one that has taught me to go fast, the one that is the best defense against the inner critic, and the one that when I’m on my game, I am shocked and humbled at what I finally do put down — is the freewrite.

There was a time early in my writing where I decided that I would “rehearse” writing. I was not actually writing. I pretended to myself that I was. I realized that it was in those times, when I wasn’t overly concerned with what anyone was thinking, that not only was I the most free, but I was the happiest and my prose was the strongest. It was then that I embraced the free write and I haven’t stopped doing it since.

A  free write is a brain spew, it has as little self correction as possible (sadly, when I get going, I mistype words right and left and I go back and fix them before I go on) it  works best with people who are already on the speedy side when it comes to writing, it is an unstructured, unfiltered, brain vomit of anything.


Like this! Could this be another metaphor? You betcha!

Like this! Could this be another metaphor? You betcha!

If you aren’t a good speller, it is in the freewrite that it doesn’t matter. If you aren’t good at grammar, it’s in the free write that you can get away with it.

It is from freewrites that great metaphors can be discovered, that new insights can be shared, that a memory is triggered about something that applies, that the richness of our inner life, especially as we grow in the habit of writing like this, can pour out into the page.

The freewrite is just a blob of paint on a canvas, it is not the art itself. From the blob, you learn what craftsmanship is, which is certainly not leaving the blog there, hoping to get noticed. A writer/craftsman takes this freewrite and analyzes it from all sides, chipping away word by word; adding something here or there, moving sentences around, embellishing this and minimizing that.

A free write is raw material. It is never meant to be seen by the readers. And the more often you use the freewrite to start your books or paragraphs or papers, the easier it will be for you to manipulate one into something beautiful and worth reading.


Is this a an example of throwing paint on a canvas or is it a melted popsicle?

Is this a an example of throwing paint on a canvas or is it a melted popsicle?

If you make freewriting a daily habit, even as little as ten minutes a day, you will  . . .

Have far less writer’s block.

Have other ideas come out of the flood that you have just written.

Have learned to make the most of your writing time.

Have learned to be more analytical of the words you write.

Have silenced your inner critic faster.

Have strengthened your voice.

Have plenty of ideas from which your big idea could be germinated.

Have raised your standard of excellence.

Have practiced trusting yourself in your own creative process.

Be more confident.

Be released from the expectations of others.

Become a better writer.

Speed really is the key, but if you're a one fingered typist, you better break out the pencil.

Speed really is the key, but if you’re a one fingered typist, you better break out the pencil.

 Never attempted a free write before? This is how you do it.

1) Open up a new document or a grab a piece of paper.

2) Set a timer for ten minutes.

3) Write EVERYTHING that you can, as fast as you can. Every nuance, every tangent, every cliche, every thought, everything. Think stream of consciousness or a Jackson Pollock painting. Just write it down! 

4) Don’t stop for anything. Especially  that little voice inside you that says you must be doing it wrong.

5) Repeat as you can for every element of the piece you are working on, fiction or non-fiction, blog piece or novel. Don’t have a piece? Don’t worry about it.  Write about anything! How you feel about the weather. How you are feeling physically. Your to-do list. The thing you are looking forward to most in the day, the thing you are most dreading. The reaction you have to what you are reading. The thing you noticed yesterday about a family member. What is driving you crazy. What is making you pleased. If you can’t freewrite, start with emotions.

6) Read what you have written but have low, low expectations. This is part of your data collecting. You are looking for is usable raw materials to put together in some order. Do not be surprised if after ten minutes of freewriting you have only one or two sentences that you can work with. You are not looking for good sentences, you are looking for good concepts. Good metaphors. Good description. Good art. You are looking for the unusual. You are looking for the phrase that is more you than anything else. You are looking for your distinct voice.

Need freewrite ideas? Go to Morguefile or any other photo resource and find something to write about.  Like this person. Who is this? Where are they going? What's with the hat?

Need freewrite ideas? Go to Morguefile or any other photo resource and find something to write about.
Like this person. Who is this? Where are they going? What’s with the hat?

I say freewrite everything. I say freewrite your themes. Freewrite your characters. Freewrite your settings. Freewrite at every single step in the course of writing. Freewrite your title. No one is looking, so let loose of every hinderance and keep going. The most authentic, passionate, creative writers are those who have tapped into this part of who they are and have written freely. You need to learn to do this.

Do not cut corners. If you are looking for ways to write a novel without doing the work, then you will not write a very good novel.  Do NOT neglect the freewrite. Freewriting takes practice. Freewriting is, ironically, a discipline.

p. 78 of STORY by Robert McKee says, (which should be on your shelf, in your Amazon shopping cart or dog-eared to death next to your computer– it is THAT good of a resource)

“No matter our talent, we all know in the midnight of our souls that 90 percent of what we do is less than our best . . . . and if you make brilliant choices to find that 10 percent of excellence and burn the rest, every scene will fascinate and the world will sit in awe of your genius. 

No one has to see your failures unless you add vanity to folly and exhibit them. Genius consists not only of the power to create expressive beats and scenes, but of the taste, judgement and will to weed out and destroy banalities, conceits, false notes and lies. “

I believe that it is in the practice of the freewrite that genius, brilliant ideas are conceived. I believe that in the practice of the freewrite, the other muscles, like analysis, organization and metaphor really come to play. I believe that good writers are good free writers.


So, do you free write? What do you think of the practice?

A story about a dysfunctional pastor's family who finds grace amid scandal. It's a Jesus-y book. Just so you know.

A story about a dysfunctional pastor’s family who finds grace amid scandal. It’s a Jesus-y book. Just so you know.


Wanna free copy of The Truth About The Sky? Leave a comment!


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6 Responses to “Why The Freewrite Should be the Biggest Gun In Your Writing Arsenal (Or The Blog Post In Which I Have WAY Too Many Metaphors)”

  1. Monica

    Bookmarking this post to re-read often!

  2. Brian

    You are on a roll this year … Mrs. Queen of Awesome! This could be all the advice an aspiring writer ever need !!

  3. Monica

    Came back to re-read, and saw I didn’t answer the metaphor guessing question. I will guess: one million.

  4. This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject of freewriting, and the first to make me seriously consider that I might enjoy it. Must be the metaphors… :) .

  5. Katharine

    Thank you! From you, that’s a high compliment! :)

  6. Thank you for finding me on Twitter, and mentioning your book, which i just finished –
    and loved- even though it is rather Jesus-y :)

    I also really love the freewriting idea, which I used to do a version of (Morning Papers).
    I miss my writing practice, so am gooing to do some of this and see what happens!

    You are admirable, writing with 5 kids at home!

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