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Daily Freewriting–Yes or No?

18 June, 2013

English: Portrait of May Prinsep

Many popular how-to writing books promote the practice of daily writing. The rationale is that fronting up to the page or screen daily not only helps writers establish and continue a writing habit but also learn how to tap into their creativity.

Daily writing is not a huge ask. But most of the books suggest specifics  about how it should happen. For example, author Julia Cameron,  in The Right to Write,  recommends the following:

  1. Write three pages daily. Filling at least three pages each day helps writers push their boundaries, to explore and create.
  2. Write longhand.Writing by hand is thought by some to establish a strong creative connection between hand and brain.
  3. Write immediately upon waking. Starting the day writing, with a rested mind,  is thought to help writers tap into their imagination.
  4. Do all the above for three months. Keep an action alive for three months, and it becomes habit, part of your life.


When people say they ‘write’ each day, they may be referring to a number of writing activities—sketching ideas, drafting, rewriting. But many how-to-write gurus preference a particular  form of daily writing, called freewriting

In freewriting, you are asked to engage your subconscious. Toss out the outlines and logical analysis. Instead, write freely, meaning whatever pops into your brain.  Let words form on the paper or screen. Give yourself  permission to rant and rave, rock and roll, record secrets that no one else will see. And forget the ‘finish your spinach before you can have your dessert’ rule. When one idea peters out, drop it and move on. Do not stop to correct or rewrite.

I find the results of freewriting can liberate, but is it for everyone?

How it helps

Some writers become attuned to freewrite each day and enjoy its benefits:

  • In setting a goal to write  each day, and striving to meet this goal, you are carried over the first, scary writing bridge, the one between the self who wants to write and the self who is writing. A writer.
  • Daily freewriting gives you creative permission to write whatever you want, no matter how silly, crazy, non-PC. With practice, your subconscious may toss in odd but interesting ideas and  associations, which give you a different, enriched perspective.
  • The process lets you play with writing before moving on to undertake issues of  correctness.
  • This open-ended approach may help you identify your natural writing style, discover  topics that appeal to you, or explore  ‘unfinished business’ in your life.

How It Hinders

Some people find daily freewriting more frustrating than empowering. What can go wrong?

  • When you already have a writing project, freewriting may seem an additional,  irrelevant task.
  • You may prefer a more structured approach,  such as responding to a writing prompt.
  • Rather than removing restrictions, you may find freewriting makes you more anxious, feeling less in control.
  • Composing three pages daily may seem a huge obstacle.
  • Freewriting may make you feel less creative if your mind goes to  uninteresting ideas or gives you writer’s block.

Test Drive

If you haven’t used freewriting, it’s worth giving it a go to decide if it suits you.

I have found that writing junk simply to meet a three-page requirement does not work for me. If I start with an interesting idea, or am given a writing prompt–such as the phrase ‘I remember. . . ‘– I can get into the flow.

Other playful experimentation

  • Do you frequently remember your dreams? If so, writing as soon as you awake can help you capture images, names, situations.
  • Freewriting longhand may give your brain more time  to reflect on ideas. Work out if longhand instead of keyboard writing supports you.
  • Stick with the 90 days of freewriting, but use this time to analyse what works for you and what doesn’t.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 June, 2013 12:40 pm

    I know my day is going well if I have started it with at least 2 A4 pages handwritten with a fountain pen, even if it’s about nothing in particular or just kicks around the previous day’s happenings. If I don’t start that way, the day just doesn’t seem to be as effective.


    • 11 July, 2013 11:58 am

      I once wrote daily, using a fountain pen. After a few weeks. I found it enjoyable because–compared with my usual fast keyboarding–it made me slow down and reflect on what I was writing.



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