Ten Reasons to Practice Freewriting

Many writers I know think of freewriting as writer-style therapy—a way to get worries out of your head and onto the page. However, freewriting has so many more applications. The Faculty Leadership for Writing Initiative at the University of Nebreska-Lincoln defines it as “an invention strategy where students write for a certain amount of time for the purpose of generating ideas…”


Great. But what does “generating ideas” really mean? The truth is that I don’t *want* new story ideas when I’m supposed to be editing my current work-in-progress. New story ideas = distractions, so if that’s your view of freewriting, you’ll probably shove it on the shelf until you’re ready for a new project (or a new therapy session…) And that would be a shame, because freewriting has a lot to offer writers at all stages and skill levels.

Here are ten ways freewriting can help you grow as a writer—and provide tangible progress on a wide variety of writing projects.

  1. Access your subconscious: Like meditation or dreams, freewriting allows your mind to wander creatively—while you capture the process on paper.
  2. Silence your internal critic: Try this “Just Do It!” exercise at the CUNY writing web site. Practice makes it easier to ignore your internal nay-sayer.
  3. Clear your head for creating: when you “brain dump” the worries and stresses that clutter your mind, you make space for creativity.
  4. Discover answers to plot questions
  5. Find your character’s voice
  6. Discover what your character thinks, hopes, dreams, and fears. Discover what motivates her thoughts and actions.
  7. Explore the memory of an experience you’ve had, especially an emotional experience: This provides material for you to draw upon when your character experiences something similar.
  8. Explore an experience you *haven’t* had: freewrite about how you imagine something would feel—something your character will experience—in order to get inside your character’s head.
  9. Keep up your writing momentum: in contrast to polished prose, freewriting can take place in bits and pieces of time when you might be too busy for “real” writing.
  10. Practice writing faster: it’s a skill you can develop.
  11. Sidestep writer’s block (okay that’s more than ten, but I couldn’t decide on which one to cut….)

Convinced to take freewriting off the shelf, dust it off, and give it a try? I’ll post resources and how-to’s this weekend.

What about you? Do you use freewriting in your writing process? If so, how?

:-) Cheryl

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. bfav says

    The first draft is always a free write. But I plot the whole story before I start, so I'm not a pantser. But free write gets me to the last page. Then revision sets in.

  2. Loree Huebner says

    I'm on board with bfav on the first draft is always a free write. You listed some great tips. I always have a plot in mind but free writing has taking me down paths I didn't expect in my story. Good post!

  3. PW.Creighton says

    I usually dive into the short twitter inspiration "start with this and write" practices. When it comes to the formal work I never freewrite it. I'll freewrite my notes and scenes I want in the next piece to help me keep my focus. There are so many times I will be editing or writing a piece and a new scene for late game just pops into place. I have to get it down or I keep thinking about it. Freewriting has a place especially for the more 'structured' of us.

  4. Mary says

    Yes, I have done freewriting just as you suggest – to figure out plot problems and/or character motivation, and to get started when I was stuck. It's a great tool, and this is a great post!

  5. Jill Kemerer says

    I'm with you–I don't want more ideas when I'm heavy into revising! But I do free-write in the main character's voice throughout a project. It helps me grasp his/her essence.

  6. Cheryl Reif says

    Wow, thanks for all the comments on how you use freewriting! I'm freewriting my way through a first draft at this very moment, and that's definitely my primary use. Well, on the first draft and on the outline because, like @bfav, I'm definitely a plotter :). But freewriting has also helped me find my way out of various plot holes and dead-ends during the rewriting process, as well.

    Jill, I love the idea of using freewriting as an ongoing tool to keep the character's voice clear in my mind. Even when I don't have time for "real" writing, I have time to write something in my character's voice.

  7. Patrice Kavanaugh says

    Thanks so much for the link to the Cuny site. I just did two 3-minute freewrites about a fight scene I'm wrestling with! (pun intended.) I'm not there with it yet, but the freewrite was actually fun. Haven't said that about writing in a while. I LOVE that the computer times you…very freeing.

  8. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Patrice, I'm so glad to hear it! Keeping writing fun can be a challenge 😛

  9. Jacqvern says

    Hi. Very interesting post.

    I use free writing only when it comes to characters' biographies, circumstances, reactions, emotions, etc. The only rule I use in that is timeline, from the beginning (birth, parents, siblings, events etc) to the time of the story. And it's very good to write like that, everything about the character is clarified and I get to know the character very well. And it helps write the scenes and dialogues later.

    But for the rest, I have to plan. I write outlines, charts, scenes, characters' interactions, scenery, world rules, family trees if needed etc. Then I compose them into a piece. Like a puzzle. I can't freewrite, I'm a business professional, planning & organizing everything is in my blood :D. I get lost if I try to free write. But that's my way.

    Sorry for the long comment and thank you for an interesting post. :)