Facets of Freewriting

Crumpled PaperIf you’re like most people, odds are, you get a little tense about writing. “Is my grammar ok? Does this sentence make sense? What about my thesis? Do I even have a TOPIC? GAAAH!” Trust me, we’ve all been there. 😉 And while yes, writing can have this wonderful, studious side which explores the nooks and crannies of a subject, it can also be invigorating and relaxing. Often times, people write when they HAVE to. That’s it. You go to school, and write a paper last minute. You go to work, and write a letter to a client. But too often, we go home and neglect the pen and pad. Let’s discuss freewriting and some of the benefits that come with it.

Freewriting is, simply put, writing freely–without constraint or control. Essentially, you sit down and time yourself for about five minutes and…write. Just write. Don’t have a subject in mind, don’t worry about grammar or anything else–just write.

Suggestions for Freewriting

  • The best way to time yourself is setting an alarm for 5 minutes after your start time. This way, you won’t be watching the clock.
  • Set aside a time that you can freewrite every day. It’s 5 minutes, it’s not too hard. Before bedtime works for most people.
  • If you’re typing on a computer to freewrite, turn off your monitor, or, if you have a laptop, cover the screen. You don’t want to be too friendly with the backspace button.
  • If you’re using a pen and paper, make sure the pen is comfortable and easy to write with. If you use a pencil, do NOT erase. Just keep moving.
  • Find someplace quiet to write. If you are listening to TV or music, and if you really let your mind go, you’ll end up typing the words they say!
  • Whatever you do, do NOT stop writing! If you lose your train of thought and can only think of the word “and,” keep writing it until your thoughts pick up again.

Why does this work? Very rarely throughout the course of a day does a person get to just “let go.” Freewriting is a lot like stretching. Stretching is a great way to warm up for exercising, just like freewriting is a great way to prepare for writing an essay. Furthermore, if you do this on a daily basis, you’ll become more “flexible” in your writing. You may even allow your subconscious come to the forefront in your writing.

“Kelly, I’m not doing this crap unless you give me a more solid reason to do this.”

Alright, I understand that. So let’s figure out how this will help you academically, because let’s be real–you care about grades.

Freewriting for Academia

Let’s say you have a paper about Canterbury Tales. It can be about any story, any topic, 5-7 pages, no research necessary. So you set your alarm for 5 minutes, and start writing. Your freewriting might be something like this:

I really like The Miller’s Tale in Canterbury tales because it’s funny with the butt scene and all. I like the idea of the churl and how even though in medieval times chivalry prevailed, there were these tales to amuse people. These were looked down upon because they were written by lowerclass people. The Wife of Bath’s tale shows true “nobility” by discussing Arthurian Legend.

Notice my grammar SUCKS here. I wasn’t concerned about it. So I would read over this one minute freewrite and think, “What can I pull from this?” Notice I wrote about the Miller’s Tale and the Wife of Bath’s tale. Perhaps I could do another freewrite comparing/contrasting these.

Miller’s Tale: mocks religion–absalom being a player, wife cheating on husband (Joseph, religious name), sexually explicit. Wife of Bath: magical, feminist, Arthurian, chivalry.

So then maybe you could narrow it down even more. Obviously, using 5 minutes, your writing would be longer and have more to focus on. If you’re having trouble finding a topic (which happens frequently when one doesn’t have a specific topic), “straining” your freewriting can help develop a thesis.

Freewriting for ESL

English as Second Language students can gain a particular benefit to freewriting. ESL students are mostly concerned about the small, immediate details like grammar. As such, they may miss the big picture and not realize that they aren’t writing a defined argument. Writing everyday gives students practice, even if it is free form, and helps them become more accustomed to and relaxed with writing.

“So what is this post about?”

In sum, practicing freewriting can help you relax. It improves your flexibility in writing, and by writing every day, you’ll be more comfortable and prepared for professional or academic writing. Do it on a daily basis for 5 minutes, and watch yourself improve!

Posted in Writing Wisdom.


  1. thanx for sharing this 🙂 it reminded me of my creative writing lessons when i was jolted to know i am supposed to write anything in just 5 mins…yes! this was my first exercise and i thought it to be sheer madness; not knowing where this may lead us to…and we never knew when we started creating stories!

    • I used this technique in a poetry writing course; I thought it was difficult enough with prose! Luckily we were always given a guideline to assist in the process–use a particular year from your life, use stickers to fill in words, etc.

      Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as brilliant with creative writing as I am with academic writing! 😀

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