As I’ve been preparing to teach this fiction writing course, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the writing process. One of the books I’ve been perusing for teaching ideas is “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” by Janet Burroway. It’s a great book, and it’s filled my head with lots of interesting things to consider with regard to the craft of writing. It’s more of a plain-spoken, practical approach than many of the essays I’ve read, which sometimes read like dry academic literary criticism, ironic since this book is considered a textbook for writing students of all levels.

One exercise the book recommends wholeheartedly is freewriting. Burroway says, “Freewriting is the literary equivalent of scales at the piano or a short gym workout. All that matters is that you do it. The verbal muscles will develop of their own accord.” To me, freewriting is the literary equivalent of hitting random notes at random intervals on the piano. It’s like doing two reps on the bench press, half a squat, four curls with your left arm, six jumping jacks, then hitting the showers.

Freewriting is literally the act of writing down whatever pops into your head and even as i do it i can’t resist deleting typos when the come up, because they’re so ingrained in me. i don’t even like typing emails that aren’t grammatically accurate and often correct my coworkers on spelling and punctuation, at least to myself since no one likes a grammar policamena cop. free writing si like pulling teeth for me because i can t magine ever coming back coot use it.s ee ilm getting better at not correcting my typos though oautocorrect helps a bit but it still is hard not to co back and change things but it digress because this is supposed to be about free writing and it can’t imagine the usefulness since god knows ;ll never go back to read this and try to extract anything useful.


Obviously, the other point of freewriting is that no one should ever be exposed to it, so my apologies. Please forget you read that. The point is, I have a hard time imagining what I’d get out of freewriting exercises other than training myself to silence that inner critic during first drafts. But honestly, I usually like what he has to say. He keeps me honest.

Anybody find freewriting sessions useful from time to time, perhaps to unclog the brain pipes or stave off writer’s block? I’m honestly interested to know.

I’ve also never been a huge fan of writing prompts, but as I’ve been planning for my upcoming class, I’ve found myself more enthusiastic about them. Seems like they will be useful as stylistic exercises that might force writers out of their comfort zone a bit, challenge them to try new things within the context of how they normally write. It’s interesting to be able to practice the craft when you don’t have to think up every single parameter of the prose on your own. We’ll see how they go over in class, but I’m kind of excited for them — I might even try a few myself. I probably won’t be assigning any freewriting sessions, though…

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