Crank Up Your Productivity This Year With "Free Writing"

For a long time, I considered my 'sitting at my desk and thinking time' to be a necessary part of being a writer. I mean, you have to brainstorm ideas, right? And that takes time, doesn't it?

Problem is, in my case, it took too much time. Call it 'writer's block', 'blank page blues' or whatever, the fact is, the ideas weren't coming fast enough.

I found a solution when I stumbled upon a book called Accidental Genius by Mark Levy, and something he calls Free writing. The idea is pretty simple: write as fast as you can, for as long as you can, about something you're working on. It could be a copywriting project that needs a fresh lead, a blog post you're stuck on, or some new content for your website.

The key is to not over-think what you're writing. It's really just spilling your brain onto paper, with no regard for structure, form, grammar, Big Ideas or anything. No one will see it except for you.

It works for me for two reasons:

  1. The physical act of tapping on a keyboard is a powerful focusing force. Previously, my 'thinking time' would degenerate into unproductive daydreaming. Now, my free writing almost always produces either a solution to a problem or a golden nugget of copy material. One session even produced what I hope to be the first chapter to my book.
  2. Having a written record of my thoughts, however random they may be, gives me a trail of bread crumbs I can use to retrace my steps. I can go back to my free writing archives at any time and find snippets of passing thoughts I wrote down that may be of value somewhere else.

Two suggestions – put a time limit on your free writing. I follow the Gene Schwartz 33-minute, 33-second timer rule. Or you may do what Hemingway did, and give yourself a writing quota of 500 to 1,000 words a day (after only three weeks of practice, I can crank out three pages in about 22 minutes). And try doing it first thing in the morning or immediately before going to bed (right before or after your subconscious mind can help your efforts).

You can keep a Word file for free writing, or if you like keeping score like I do, check out a cool site called 750words.com. Either way, adding free writing to your arsenal will ramp up your writing productivity.

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Published: January 27, 2011

7 Responses to “Crank Up Your Productivity This Year With "Free Writing"”

  1. Thanks for reminder--bought this book years ago when considering using my prior journalistic career to launch a new writing career. Didn't happen. Decided book had a good idea, but was mostly padding.
    Now taking a second look with your suggestions in mind.

    Dale Sims--freelance copywriter--web content consJanuary 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm

  2. Wonderful idea. My brother--also a professional writer--commented once that words are like shavings on a carpenter's floor. A beautifully executed and finished cabinet always results from many shavings left on the floor. So each writing project.

    Guest (Steve Lowe)February 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

  3. Steve,

    Thanks for the timely reminder. Just goes to show: you can contribute something valuable even with shorter pieces and that seems to be your USP.

    This "stream of consciousness" writing is worth pursuing, because some of the most amazing things can happen when you let go of the need to control.

    Our subconscious minds takes over and ideas and words start to flow freely, almost as if they are dancing the tango.

    And it happens in a natural and effortless way, spontaneously. Cheers.

    Archan MehtaMay 15, 2011 at 5:12 am

  4. Steve, I don't remember when I first read this article but I took your suggestion of looking up 750words.com and it was just what I was looking for.

    I have tried numerous times to keep a journal and just couldn't stay with it. Now, as of today, I'm on a 85 day streak. By the end of this month I will have written for 100 days and written 100,000 words.

    Having proved to myself that I like to write as much as I thought I did, I joined the Circle of Success group and look forward to a career of copywriting.

    Robert HendersonMay 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm


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