Freewriting in Cyberspace

It's a beautiful sunny day here and the mill and the weir are looking glorious in their autumn colours. I'm still feeling very travel-lagged, but aware that I have to start travelling again on Tuesday, bound for Cambodia. So I'm running around throwing things into the washing machine, or into the suitcases and occasionally getting it the wrong way round.

It's also the first week of a new university term, so I've begun tutoring creative writing on-line again for the Open University. Really enjoyable, but much more challenging on the internet because there's such a lot that can't be communicated by a message or an email. That wonderful group feeling of trust and support is very difficult to generate online, and I miss the way that ideas can spark themselves off in a face-to-face group leaving everyone feeling good about themselves and their work.

One of the very first things that students have to tackle is the Freewrite. I know that some writers find freewriting very stimulating because it's supposed to release the creative unconscious from the inhibitions of the controlling areas of the brain. But a lot of students find the technique difficult - putting the pen to paper and just letting it go can be a bit challenging - and some find it impossible. I use freewriting occasionally - if I'm blocked on something and can't breakthrough, I try it, using the association of ideas, putting down words randomly and seeing where I go. But I'm such a control freak that my freewrites usually come out structured in some way! I'm no good at morning pages either - another technique that many writers swear by. My ideas come in the middle of the night when I wake up for no obvious reason at all and find myself wandering around with a cup of tea. Then, I can write reams and reams and my sub-conscious has no problem putting its hands up and saying 'I give in. Don't shoot! I'll tell you everything.'

I guess one of the most important things to communicate is that everyone is a different sort of writer - what works for one person doesn't for another.


  1. Dear Kathleen

    I used to call this 'free-fall writing' - like parachuting through your subconscious without responsibility. I would chant to my students. 'It's your subconscious, you can't be wrong.'

    Dont you feel the nervousness of new writers on courses is understandable? Like putting your soul on the line to be picked at by any passing crow. I worry about so-called 'peer review' where the political management of a group is like setting crows up on the line.

    We writers are fragile souls. We need safety and protection to find our unique writing voice. I feel sure that you provide all that for your students Cathy.

    Hope the packing ends up in the case and Cambodia is creative...


  2. The mill looks absolutely gorgeous in its autumn finery. I saw a similar colour in the bark of some Scribbly Gums this morning, it is from the spring sap rising. Unusually I didn't have my camera with me, I'll have to show you another time.
    I've never been comfortable with free writing.
    Yet much of my writing stems from a relaxed state where the ideas just flow without concious shaping. Then refining and redrafting becomes more an intellectual process.

  3. Hi both - thanks for your comments - the autumn colours are really getting into their stride here at the moment.
    Like you Wendy I worry about some of the creative writing groups around - they need to be nurturing. So much creative writing results in disclosures of painful experiences of abuse and loss - people need a safe framework for it. I do my best. Now, back to the suitcases!
    x kj


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