Freewriting is a wonderful tool. Freewriting is all about coming to the page and just unloading thoughts, images, ideas, and yes, even gibberish. When I am caught between projects or feeling uninspired, I freewrite. I just open a page on my computer, or pick up a pen and a notebook, and I write whatever comes to mind; even if it seems ridiculous and unstructured. That’s the point of freewriting. Nothing is structured, there is no rhyme or reason.
I keep my freewriting nearby, and I review it to help me with current stories; sometimes, I can find a poem in the muddled thoughts of my freewriting. Often, a freewriting session will lead me down a different path and help me see a developing story in a different light – like the other night, when I suddenly got up in the middle of the night to go to my study and write down a new perspective on a story I am working on, because a nagging image from a recent freewrite would not leave my mind.
Most of my blog posts, in this blog and my other blog, I work on a few days before posting; I get my initial idea, I write, I polish and I edit. This post, was created on the spot…freewritten in all its glory.
A writer’s life is never private. Every story, every poem, even a sentence can reveal a little piece of the author’s past or present. Stories erupt from circumstance, experience and observation. Every occurrence, feeling or situation their character (or characters) undergo, evolve from some element of the author’s life. The wooded park where the two teenagers meet might be the very same park the author walked through coming home from school each day; the ‘67 cougar used for the getaway vehicle may have been in a loved one’s garage; the silver clutch purse the young girl stole may well have belonged to the author’s great-grandmother.
Every piece of writing offers the reader a fleeting glimpse into the fishbowl of a writer’s life – it’s that authenticity that peak the readers’ curiosity, and draws them into the story.
I sit in at a table in the coffee shop, reach into my bag and pull out a couple of soft notebooks, a blue pen, a red pen and paper copies of projects to edit. I lay out my materials, meticulously placing them in strategic places where I can work comfortably and keep them out of range from a potential spill from my coffee. I take my first sip and gaze around the shop. Beyond the constant whir of coffee grinders and espresso machines, I hear a light tapping. I look around, trying to find the source of the faint rhythmic clicking; to my left is a young man typing on a tiny laptop; to my right, an older gentleman flicking his fingertips on his Blackberry; across from me, a young woman sliding her hands over a tablet. I look down at the table in front of me, strewn with notebooks, pens and loose papers, and wonder if my method is considered a bit outdated for the world of today.
I prefer to create my first words and thoughts in a notebook. I like to feel my hand swooping across the page, watching the ink smear across the side of my left pinky, admiring the swirling loops of my letters, and trying to translate the indecipherable scrawl that develops when my brain pumps out the words faster than my hand can write. Yes, I’m sure typing would be quicker and less messy, and sometimes, even I must choose the keyboard if a deadline is looming; but I am drawn to the look, touch and smell of paper. It takes me back to a simple time, when imagination was fueled by the whisper of a child, the dramatic color of a freshly painted wall or the tapping of high heels hitting the pavement; when stories erupted from authentic moments, and unknown voices divulged secret sentences that could be transformed into a major plotline.
And so I sit, and write, knowing that I can indulge in a couple of hours of down-to-earth delight before I return home, where my stories must finally surrender to the keyboard that will edit them and the hard drive that will preserve them.
My suitcase lies open on my bed. I stare down at a cluster of clothes, toiletries and souvenirs. I rummage through my bag, clearing out the contents, emptying every pocket and every corner in preparation for my next trip. As I sort through everything, it occurs to me that the writer me is like an empty suitcase – when I finish a project, I de-clutter my mind, clearing out the superfluous pieces in my head and spend the next 24 to 72 hours cleaning up the residue and tidying the compartments of my brain. Just like packing a suitcase for the next journey, I begin accumulating the ideas of another project, folding them neatly into the corners and pockets of my mind.
I board the bus in the morning, and make my way down the aisle to an open seat. I sit for a few minutes gathering the thoughts buzzing in my head, and then I turn my attention to the other passengers. There are people reading, listening to music or frantically texting on their phones. I like to look for stories in their faces. Their expressions exhibit a variety of emotions – relaxed sulky, happy, serene – I speculate on where they are going and why they have that expression on their face at this moment. Did the woman in the red dress receive disconcerting news? Is the young mother daydreaming about her child’s future? Did the girl with the tear-stained face have a fight with her boyfriend?
In the midst of all this facial scrutiny, it occurs to me that other people might be looking at me. I wonder what my face reveals to them. What would my story be?