Remember how I said that it’s hard for me to get going on my writing? That I’ll start a certain idea and then drift off? That I’ll write a sentence and then delete it a moment later?
I think I’ve found the cure.
I used to consider freewriting kind of an eye-roller–you know, it’s one of those exercises they make you do in the 5th grade and you can never see the point. It’s not like anything good comes of it. It’s not like you’ll ever actually take that page of scribbles and turn it into anything worth reading.
But recently I finally got it through my thick skull that, contrary to what I’d always thought, freewriting is not meant to “get your ideas out there.” No. In fact, you are (or at least, I am) probably better off forgetting the very possibility that you’ll ever get ideas out of freewriting.
The merit of freewriting has nothing to do with the content of what you write; it’s just writing, without stopping to edit. It’s just to keep your hands and your brain constantly moving forward and not allowing them to go backward.
But isn’t editing good? Not in the middle of writing the first draft, it isn’t. Or at least, not for me. I’ve had the most terrible time getting used to the idea of the “stupid first draft” (a clean version of Anne Lamott’s term); the first draft just has to be good. It just has to, goshdangit.
But freewriting has gotten me out of that horrid box. No longer do I stop after the first sentence. No longer do I fear even just starting on an idea. Even when skepticism creeps in halfway through, I shrug and just keep going.
I started writing a story. This story is different from any I’ve ever written, because I don’t allow myself to even go back and read what I’ve already written. I just keep going. I wrote myself into a corner, and what did I do? Just skipped right over it. Just pretended the entire moment didn’t exist and jumped ahead to the next scene. Yep. I can do that now.
Now, I have no idea if this story is going to make it anywhere. When I’m finished, I may very well read over it, laugh, decide the whole plot is worthless and move on to something better. But at least I’ll have written it. At least it will signify that I sat down and I finished something, no matter how unreadable that something was.
Or maybe once I’m done with it, I’ll teach myself my next writing lesson and give it the revision overhaul I’m sure it will desperately need.
But for now, I’m happy with my progress from blank page to page with words on it. Yep. That’s progress. It might not sound like much, but for me, it is. And I have freewriting to thank.