On Free-writing and Spontaneous Writing

On Free-writing and Spontaneous WritingPhoto license

Are you finding that writing is too time consuming? Does the multiple draft method of writing take more time instead of less like it’s supposed to? You can speed up your writing using free-writing and spontaneous writing.


Free-writing is writing non-stop for a short time period, usually 5 or 10 minutes. The only goal of free-writing is to keep writing for that stretch. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, repetitive, or stream of consciousness.

Free-writing teaches you to write more in a given time period. Short runs of writing non-stop will help you to keep writing when you’re working on a writing project. Writing too much is less of a problem than not writing enough. It’s easier to cut than add.

With enough free-writing practice, you will be able to advance to spontaneous writing. First, a look at free-writing exercises.

Free-writing Exercises

You can practice free-writing any time you have a spare five minutes and something to write on. Waiting in line at the bank? Pull out your notepad and write while you wait. People will think you must be writing something important. Yes. It is important. You are teaching yourself to write as soon as you have pen and paper in hand. Free-writing practice is a way to train yourself to start writing as soon as you sit down to write. Instead of staring at a blank page, you can begin writing immediately.

At first, your free-writing will be terrible. You won’t want to use it when you sit down to an important writing project. What are some places you can free-write without worrying about quality?

Your Journal

If you don’t have a writing journal, you should start one. A journal is a good place to start your writing day because you can always write something there. It doesn’t even need to be about writing. Your journal is writing practice nobody will ever see. That makes it a great place to practice free-writing.

Foggy Ideas

Sometimes a paper or the next section of a book are unclear. That’s another good place for free-writing. Five minutes of writing whatever pops into your head on the problem can give you lots of possibilities and clear the fog.

Places You’re Stuck

While writing the first draft of a book or article, you can get stuck for how to make the next transition. Free-write for five minutes. No good? Wipe it out and free-write for another five. It may solve the problem.

Spontaneous Writing

The difference between free-writing and spontaneous writing is time. Free-writing is a short exercise. Spontaneous writing is a method for writing first drafts quickly.

The multiple draft method suggests we should always be writing our first draft at high speed without worrying about spelling, grammar, digressions, punctuation, story problems, or any other bad writing that may get in. The reality is that most writers try and make their first draft as good as they can. That slows down your writing speed. I make that mistake myself. Some of my first draft chapters look like final draft. Those quality chapters are often also short.

You can get around the tendency to slow down and write quality during the first draft by using spontaneous writing. Once you’re good at free-writing for five or ten minutes at a time, you can use that same method to write first drafts spontaneously. All you do is free-write for as long as it takes (or as long as you have available).

In the introduction to Lonesome Traveler, Kerouac said it took him three years to write his first book. Then he discovered spontaneous writing. His next two books took him three days and three weeks to write. Most of Kerouac’s books are good examples of spontaneous writing. They are first drafts. If you can write your first drafts that way, you will write them much faster. You will have to revise them. Only a handful of writers can get their first drafts published.

Spontaneous Writing Exercises

I’m not sure I should call these exercises. What I recommend is using spontaneous writing for your first drafts. Use it for the rough draft of short stories and articles until you get used to it and see how your work comes out after revision. Once you know it’s effective for you, move on to books.

This article had been stalled until I decided to use spontaneous writing. Then, I wrote the first draft in about 30 minutes.

I hope these writing exercises are helping you write more. None of them are rules for writing. You must decide for yourself what works. Sometimes the stricter writing exercises take the fun out of writing. Other writing exercises may seem too laid back to be taken seriously. It all depends on your personality and what kind of writing you want to do. It’s your writing life.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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