Freewriting with the Muse
For this first letter from The Muse Agency, we thought we’d share with you one of the tools we use to help us get started on a new piece of work: freewriting.
If you’re new to freewriting, it is simply putting pen to paper and writing whatever words and associations come to mind. The trick is to keep the pen moving and not to worry about grammar, spelling, or even making sense.
When you first start out, set a timer for 5 minutes and see if you can keep writing for the whole of that time. If you can’t think of what to write, keep repeating the word or prompt, or even write: ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ until something emerges.
Not sure where to start? Try one of these:
Head over to The Muse Agency on Instagram for our weekly Wednesday Word prompt.
Open a dictionary or thesaurus at random, flick through the pages with closed eyes, stick your finger in, and choose a word. If it lands on a blank page – use that: ‘Today my mind is a blank…’
Pick a book off the shelf. Either pick a random sentence, or use the date to generate a page and sentence, e.g. 15 April (page 15, the fourth sentence on that page).
Pick a book of poetry and do the same.
Try one of these as a starting prompt:
‘Today I feel…’
‘What I really want to say is…’
‘This is how it starts…’
Setting aside a regular time each day, even if it’s just ten minutes, to sit at your desk or on the bed or in a comfortable chair, with a notebook and pen, and do a daily writing exercise, is a good way to warm up your writing muscles. And if you show up regularly, the muse will know where to find you.
The writer Alice Walker describes it as inviting a guest over to your house for tea:
“Because part of writing is not so much that you’re going to actually write something every day, but what you should have, or need to have, is the possibility, which means the space and the time set aside—as if you were going to have someone come to tea. If you are expecting someone to come to tea but you’re not going to be there, they may not come, and if I were them, I wouldn’t come. So, it’s about receptivity and being home when your guest is expected, or even when you hope that they will come.” Alice Walker, Writers Digest Conversation with Jessica Stawser
Many writers advocate a daily morning writing practice.
You may have heard of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, from her book The Artist’s Way:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page... and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
In her 1934 book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande also suggests morning writing to help you learn to tune into your unconscious mind:
“The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can – and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before – begin to write. Write anything that comes into your head: last night’s dream, if you are able to remember it; the activities of the day before; a conversation, real or imaginary; an examination of conscience. Write any sort of morning reverie, rapidly and uncritically. […] To reiterate, what you are actually doing is training yourself, in the twilight zone between sleep and the full waking state, simply to write.”
And plenty has been written on the benefits of writing every day. Not just for creativity, but also helping you to clear your mind and feel more grounded.
At a recent Arvon at Home talk, the writer Lauren Elkin spoke about how she sits down after the school run to check in with her journal before she gets distracted by email and other projects. She says that a journal helps to mark off where you are and where you want to be, and discover ‘who you are that day’.
If you want to read more about the benefits of daily writing:
Courtney Ackerman, ‘83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress’, Positive Psychology
Heather R. Morgan, ‘7 Reasons you Should Write Everyday’, Forbes
Catherine Winter, ‘5 Benefits of Writing: Why You Should Write Everyday’, Lifehack
Rosie O’Neill, ‘The Unexpected Benefits of a Regular Writing Habit’, 91 Magazine
And another great book on daily freewriting is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
Thank you for reading.
This will be an occasional free newsletter to provide the opportunity to dive deeper into some creativity prompts, that you can follow in the comfort of your own home.
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We wish you a creative and inspirational writing month.
With love from The Muse Agency x