Yesterday, I told you about a technique for improving your writing. I told you that I dramatically improved my writing by hand copying other people’s writing that I admired and wanted to emulate. Today, I want to share something else I did that elevated my writing to an even higher level.
Every morning without fail, I rolled out of bed, grabbed a spiral notebook and pen, and wrote for twenty minutes.
Some would call this journaling, but that implies that I had something to say that I wanted to capture on paper. Instead, what I did was “free write”.
There are two rules to free writing.
First rule: write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how silly or meaningless. Write gibberish if that’s what comes. Write, “I don’t know what to write,” if you don’t know what to write. Write a list of words that have no connection to each other, or write the same word over and over, until your mind coughs up something else.
Which leads to the second rule: don’t stop. Keep your hand moving for twenty minutes and don’t stop for any reason.
So, what happens when you do this? At first, not much. You write a lot of useless junk and your hand gets really tired. Eventually, however, two things happen.
One thing that happens is that you start writing cogent thoughts about important things. Your writing taps into your subconscious mind and reveals your deepest beliefs and feelings, long forgotten memories, and amazingly valuable ideas you can use in your business and personal life.
Free writing becomes a kind of self-examination. It is cathartic and therapeutic. You write your way through problems and find solutions. At times, it is frightening, but ultimately, it is liberating. At first, your writing might reveal feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or pain. After a few weeks or a few months, you start feeling better about yourself and get really clear about your future.
The second thing that happens with free writing (when you do it long enough) is that you become a better writer. Your practice of writing daily (and freely) eventually clears away the warts and blemishes that disguise your writing and protect you from revealing your true self.
You start writing plainly and clearly. Your writing has energy and emotion. Writing is fun, and faster, because you are primarily talking on paper.
If you do this, do it first thing in the morning, before coffee, before you are fully awake. Your adult brain will be tired and put up less resistance, allowing your inner child’s brain to be heard.
Don’t show your writing to anyone. It’s just for you, at least for now. But don’t read what you write, at least for several months. Reading your insane scribbles might frighten and inhibit you.
How long should you do this? As long as it takes. Three months, six months, a year, a lifetime. You don’t have to figure that out right now. Just start, have fun with it, and trust that when you come out on the other side, you will be a better writer. Because you will.