Brainstorming: Free Writing
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Yesterday I talked about my favorite brainstorming method, especially for coming up with ideas in the first place. Today I want to talk about another method that I use fairly often, and this was a method I picked up YEARS ago reading Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind. I remember her saying something like, say you're working on a scene and you're having trouble with it, maybe it needs more detail or emotion or something. Her advice was to open a notebook and just pour everything you could possibly think about regarding that topic or character out onto the page. Much like listing, chances are good that the longer you write, the deeper and more meaningful the details or thoughts you have will be.
Free writing is a major tenet of another popular system, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. The idea being that you write three pages, stream of consciousness, no stopping, every single morning. The purpose is to help you uncover your authentic creative self.
Which is great and if you're feeling stuck or blocked, I highly recommend going through The Artist's Way program. But how does this translate into everyday work, into writing stories or blog posts?
Freewriting for Ideas
Okay. You're sitting in front of your computer and you know you need to write a blog post today. Ideally you have a backlog of post drafts and ideas to draw on at times like this, but I suspect that a good number of us sit down to blog and sort of blank.
Open a file on your computer, or open a notebook if you prefer that for freewriting.
Just, start writing. You can even start with "I don't know what to write." And just go, set a timer for five minutes or ten minutes or whatever feels good to you, and write without stopping. You might get something that looks like this (punctuation added for readability; if you're freewriting for yourself, you don't have to worry about anything being grammatically correct!):
I don't know what to write why do I even have this stupid blog if I don't have anything to write about? I swear i'm so boring and i never know what to write about and I need more coffee, but not that kind I bought last time because it tasted like sadness also i need some half and half but i should probably figure out what to write first. i sort of feel like writing about that cat my grandma had and how it scared the crap out of me when i was little but why would anyone care? i mean it's funny maybe but it also makes me sad thinking about it because grandma passed away not long after i remember being afraid of the cat so what does that say about how memories are formed, that i tie that cat and my fear of it together with losing granny? symbolism or something maybe. i remember that time I had to go get some jelly from the pantry in the basement and....
So in the example above, we've gone from not knowing what to write about, to thinking about random stuff, to remembering something that might tie into something interesting to write about. Granted, this was a bit of a condensed example and it might take longer to come up with something, but you get the general idea.
You can also do this when figuring out a plot. Start freewriting and literally just keep asking yourself "what if?"
Okay so I don't know how she figures out who the murderer actually is. What if she finds something that points her in the right direction? what if it was actually something she found earlier in the book and totally forgot about it because it seemed so unimportant and then i can tie other stuff into that until she remembers that she found the thing or maybe she comes across it again almost by accident and things start to come together for her. oh maybe it's that notebook she found with what seems like gibberish but when she finds it again, knowing what she knows now, things start to fall into place? But that might be too easy. need to think more. maybe she finds something else, something that belonged to the murder victim that definitely wasn't where it was supposed to be but the killer was there when she found it so maybe she pieces that together? I'd need to go back and...
You'll notice that often this looks a lot like talking to yourself, and that's totally fine! You're sort of thinking "out loud" working through your thoughts and options, but this is forcing you to get all of those ideas that are rattling around in your subconscious and out onto the page where they can be of use.
Freewriting for Details
I write a lot of love scenes. Sex scenes, kissing scenes, scenes showing affection. And after a while, it's easy to fall back on the same crutch phrases and descriptions. So say I'm writing a scene in which a hero and heroine are kissing for the first time. I'm telling it from the heroine's point of view, and want it to have a ton of emotional impact, so I want it to have plenty of strong, memorable detail. I might write the scene and realize it's falling flat. This is a good time to freewrite:
Allie kisses Ryan for the first time and what is it like for her? it's scary because it's so intense. maybe she's sure she's forgotten how to breathe and her whole body feels like it goes hot and cold all at the same time. his mouth tastes like the chocolate ice cream they just shared and he smells like soap and the beach and she knows that for the rest of her life, she's going to associate those things with him and this moment and the way her stomach is knotting and her heart is pounding and how even though she's nervous as hell in this one moment she feels warm and safe and maybe even loved and it's like a shockwave and a warm blanket all at once and she's so full of emotion she doesn't even know which way is up and...
And on and on until you find the details that feel right to you.
I hope this brainstorming method ends up being useful to you. I know I use it often, especially when I feel stuck and it never fails to eventually get me unstuck!
This is my 7th post for #Blaugust2019. Please check out the details and the other participants' blogs here!