What is freewriting?

Freewriting is a writing technique that involves continuously writing whatever comes to mind without judgment, for a predetermined period of time. During this exercise, the “fault-finding mind” is suspended. The author writes without regard to spelling, grammar, rules, expectations, etc. And no corrections are made. The point is not to produce quality writing. The goals are exploration and emotional expression.

How can it be therapeutic?

If you are someone who struggles to contain your overwhelming feelings, this exercise can be very helpful. This style of writing can help to facilitate the working-through of difficult feelings. By moving unbearable internal emotions externally onto paper, many people feel a sense of relief. Some people may even choose to discard their writing when done to obtain additional psychological distance.

Freewriting can also be helpful for those of us who struggle with rumination (i.e., getting stuck on certain thoughts and feelings). The exercise can help to complete the emotional cycle and bring closure to it.

Individuals who have a hard time getting in touch with their feelings will also benefit from this exercise. Freewriting helps people to overcome common obstacles to emotional expression — like self-criticism, anxiety, fear of failure, and apathy. The results are sometimes surprising. Unexpected images, characters, memories, stories, realizations, and feelings may pour out onto the page — like an underground wellspring has been tapped. These “free associations” may yield insights that can then be brought to therapy to explore further.

Instructions

Locate a pen and a piece of paper. Find a private space, without distractions. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Now write down anything and everything that comes to mind, without censorship. Try to write in sentence form. Once you start, do not stop writing. Do not judge or criticize what you have written. Do not edit what you have written. Do not even read what you have written yet. For now, the point is only to get thoughts and feelings out, and onto paper. If you can’t think of anything, then write that (“I’m waiting for ideas to come and they will… I’m waiting for ideas to come and they will…”). Just keep your hand moving. Messy handwriting is welcome. Write quickly — a bit faster than you would normally write. Don’t stop to try to find the perfect word; just use the first word that comes to mind and go with it. Be open to whatever comes to mind. Once the timer goes off, stop writing. You can choose to read what you have written or not. It’s up to you. Do whatever will be most helpful.