I’m not sitting in front of my computer looking at the screen. My eyes aren’t focused on the blinking cursor indicating where my next bit of text will appear. I’m not editing my text to make sure it makes any semblance of sense.
Instead, I’m laying on a couch in a Freudian manner with my eyes closed, my laptop on my lap, my hands flying over the keyboard, and my fingers typing furiously. I’m not focused on what I write, whether it makes sense, or whether I’ll be able to use any of it in the future.
I write like a weirdo.
Almost a decade back, in high school, I found that normal writing conventions don’t work well for me. They work well if there’s urgency but unless there’s a paper due in a day, I can’t write like a normal person. Even in the limited occasions when I can write this way, there’s no conviction or “voice” — it’s objective, unopinionated, and in a matter-of-fact style.
Then I found free writing.
This means that I spend a specified period of time writing any and all thoughts that come to me, before actually editting it. I don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or all of the other “nonsense” that slows down the actual writing and just focus on getting thoughts on paper. This writing style is liberating. As a procrastinating perfectionist, it’s easy to get caught in an endless editing spiral, where you keep revising earlier sentences for every new sentence. Worse, when you get off track researching proper usage of colloquialisms or other minor issues that have no real influence on what you’re actually writing (as a side note, the “—” symbol is called a em dash and demarcates a break of thought).
More specifically, I use the Pomodoro Technique when writing. I write for 25 minutes and then take a 5 (or 15) minute break. Rinse and repeat. Some people are confused and some think I’m crazy, but it works.
There’s an obvious cost. I write a lot of crap that can’t be used. I also waste a lot of time editing. This isn’t conducive to, say, an essay on the impact of tax stature 213.a.vii. on alternative investments income. Although it may be more work, it allows you to write from your heart. Too often, we’re caught up on the content and we lose our voice. This method allows me to be expressive, honest, and to get content out. As mentioned above, this writing style isn’t conducive to writing research papers or pieces that are data heavy, which really do benefit from the objective and “matter-of-fact” writing style.
What gets in the way of your writing? Is it that you can’t get your thoughts on paper? Don’t know what to write? Distracted? Try free writing and see if it helps you become a better writer.
Have you tried free writing? Let me know on Twitter (@sebfung).
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