Journal Writing Tips: The Benefits of Freewriting

by Amber Lea Starfire on February 23, 2011

FREEWRITING is one of the most effective and easy forms of journaling. The idea is to write for a specified length of time (usually ten minutes), or to fill a specified number of pages, and not to stop until the timer’s sounded or the pages are full. What you write about is not important — only that you write and that you do it without stopping, without thinking, without evaluating or judging what you write.

The main benefit to freewriting as a journal writing method, is that you learn not to edit your words — or your thoughts. Sometimes previously repressed thoughts and emotions surface (you may be surprised at what you write), but then again you might write total incoherent nonsense for ten minutes. It doesn’t matter. Most of us have a compulsive habit of editing as we write, resulting in a repression of thoughts and emotions we consider unacceptable or “not good enough.”

When we freewrite, things are allowed to tumble out uncensored. Thus, freewriting clears the mind and emotions of clutter, relaxes some chaotic part of us, and allows us to then address important issues with a clear head. When used as a writing exercise, freewriting helps us find our natural rhythm and voice.

Freewriting can also help you to:

  • Explore emotional issues on a deeper level. For example, let’s say that you find yourself unusually annoyed or upset by something, and you want to figure out what is at the bottom of that annoyance. Freewrite about it. Set a timer and just start writing: “Such and such annoys me and I’m not sure why. It could be because when I was little, my dad …” and so on.
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  • Find subjects to write about. If you write (other than journaling), even just a blog, and aren’t sure what you want to write about, freewriting can help you find a topic. Think of a person, place, feeling, object, or event that is important to you and freewrite about it/him/her.
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  • Accept yourself as you are. This may seem simplistic, but if you can learn to accept what you write without judgment, you can learn to accept the person behind the words without judgment, as well. For most of us, this is no small thing.

If you’ve never tried freewriting, perhaps because writing for ten minutes without stopping feels intimidating, or you think that it’s unproductive and a waste of time, I invite you to give it a try. During the next week, freewrite three times, for ten minutes each (no more — freewriting sessions are intentionally short). Then leave a comment here and let us know how you feel about the process.

If you freewrite on a regular basis, I invite you to add to this Journal Writing Tip conversation by sharing how you have benefited from the practice.

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Image Credit: Eemah

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Eden February 23, 2011 at 4:28 am

I would say this is one of the best ways to get to the bottom of what you are feeling and why. It works and I am sometimes pleasantly surprised. I come out of it a little stronger, more knowledgeable and a bit kinder.

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Sharon Lippincott February 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I did ten minutes of freewriting earlier this afternoon in a writing group. We used randomly drawn pictures from a huge pile of magazine clippings as prompts. My picture looked totally inane. I was tempted to put it back and redraw, but decided it must have a message for me and went ahead. I was right about the message. I was amazed to discover within the space of ten minutes that the surroundings I fantasize wanting may not be so satisfying should I be granted my wish. That goes a long way to explaining a lack of change in that direction …

A few others in the group were equally surprised at what they wrote. Several took their drafts home to polish into stories.

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Amber Lea Starfire February 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Sharon, I love using pictures as writing prompts. The idea of using random pictures from magazines is new to me, though, and would be a lot of fun to try (as well as challenging). I’ll try it this week and share my experience here.

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Amber Lea Starfire February 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Eden, thank you for your comment. I love the idea that you come out of freewriting stronger and kinder, in addition to more knowledgeable.

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J.A April 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Just wanted to say, this article very interesting, as someone who uses free writing to help gather ideas for projects. I hope you don’t mind, but I added a link to this post on my own blog about free writing, as I thought you had some interesting points, and would make for some good “further reading”.

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Amber Lea Starfire April 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

Thank you, J.A. I always appreciate links to other writer’s blogs :-)

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Mini Marquez May 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I free write once a day, usually in my lunch break at work, and I have found that I am able to handle my workload and problems in the office with a much more level head. I’ve also discovered a lot about myself since I started doing this. Being a 20 year old woman and still trying to find my feet in the world is quite daunting so I’m glad to have found something that helps me calm down and get a better understanding of what’s in my head.
Mini.

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Amber Lea Starfire May 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Mini, thank you for commenting. You are very wise for a 20-year-old! Establishing a journal writing habit at this time in your life will hold you in good stead and help you get through the rough times. I’m happy that you’ve already discovered some of the benefits of journaling.

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