Free Thinking

Outtakes 109

Free Thinking

By Cait Collins

One of my favorite creative writing instructors is Robert Ray, author of the Weekend Novelist Writes the Novel and The Weekend Novelist Writes the Mystery. Mr. Ray has the best list of writing exercises. I really enjoy free writing under his direction.

He has rules for these exercises. Hard and fast rules that you dare not break in his presence.

  1. Write down the opening phrase.
  2. Do not begin writing until instructed to do so.
  3. Once given the go-ahead, do not stop. In fact, do not lift your pencil or pen from the paper.
  4. Do not think. Allow your mind free rein to choose the course and run with the images.
  5. Do not use punctuation. Replace commas, periods, colons, semi-colons, etc., with conjunctions such as and, and so, but, therefore, however, then, so then. Use any connector you choose.
  6. Do not edit. No cross-outs, no erasing, no going back and starting over. Write and only move forward.
  7. When the timer alarm goes off, stop no matter where you are in the thought, set your pencil on the table, close your eyes, and breathe. When you open your eyes, read your free writing.

Study the style and imagery on the paper. Are the verbs crisper and more active? Do the scenes have more color, and are the emotions more intense? You may realize this is some of the best work you’ve done. Without your internal editor, your over-thinking the scene, and stifling your feelings, the creative side takes over allowing the real writer to move seamlessly from one thought to another. Next time you get stuck, try a free-writing session. Set a timer for five to ten minutes and write following all the rules. I’ll even give you the opening phrase.

I knew I’d become my parents when…

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