By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
Photo: Ojibwe poet Joanna Shawana free writing at the park
A lot of my writing happens in coffee shops. I try to choose independent coffee shops but if I can’t get to one I write at a Canadian chain as opposed to an American one.
I sit with coffee at my side and I write. I prefer pen to pad as I love the feel of paper under my hand and a pen in between my fingers. And there’s nothing like seeing ink form lines on a page like small waves in the ocean.
Sometimes I know what I’m gonna write. Often times I don’t.
I just flow.
It’s a practice called free writing. You hit the page or keyboard and write for a certain amount of time or page length without stopping. I generally write for 3 pages. Or sometimes I write past three pages until I want to stop, and I never leave a page unfinished. The most I’ve written in 9 pages single spaced, non stop; at 10 to 15 minutes a page it took a while, a long while, a great while.
Free writing became famous when Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within came out in 1986. Goldberg’s rules for free writing are:
- Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to re-read the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
- Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
- Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)
- Lose control.
- Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
- Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)
The only rule I don’t follow is #3. I capitalize and write commas and all that. But that’s me. And I stay within the margins. My journals are my thoughts and I want to go back to them. So, although my writing is like chicken scratch my journals are somewhat legible.
It’s unbelievable what comes out of free writing. I’ve had ideas for articles, essays, and poems come out of my free writing practices. I’ve had life revelations. I’ve had therapeutic moments. And I’ve had complete garbage come out, and that’s OK!
You don’t have to come to the page knowing what you’ll write.
Be open, give yourself room, and give yourself freedom.
Get writing, free writing!