As a fully paid up member of the TNS (Tight Northerner Society) I am frequently attracted to anything containing the word “free”. The long suffering Mrs D regularly makes reference to my thriftiness, comparing it to that part of the anatomy commonly found at the rear of ducks.
So it was with great excitement that I approached the next exercises on the course around freewriting.
Freewriting has always created concern for me. It works against the ingrained traits of my personality. The key ones centering on being precise, methodical and possessing a great attention to detail. This was scientifically confirmed with a personality test I undertook recently, the results validated by the British Psychological Association (BPA).
These personality traits have created a major block in my progress as a writer as the constant checking of each word, each sentence and each paragraph has made my writing slow and lacklustre, limiting any creativity that may have been lurking there.
Peter Elbow identified this in his book “Writing without Teachers” (1998), where he makes reference to the fact that constant premature editing doesn’t’ just make writing hard, it also makes its dead.
The freewriting exercises involved taking a word and writing continuously from it, for five or ten minutes, without editing or stopping to check spelling or punctuation etc.
The word “Ripping” had me recalling that fantastic comedy series from the 1970s “Ripping Yarns.” In particular the episode where the schoolboy Tomkinson, in an attempt to escape from his public school, was eventually caught by the school leopard. Now there’s a thought, every school having its own leopard. Imagine the impact on school discipline.
From the word “Barefoot” I went from the feeling of hot sand on bare feet whilst walking on an tropical island, to screaming about the injustice of today’s new story where a local authority in Wales are going to start fining homeless people £1000 for sleeping on the streets.
Surprisingly, I found the exercises very cathartic. There were a few occasions when I stopped and started to check the writing, but by applying a little mindfulness I got myself back on track.
The exercises have made me aware of how freewriting can improve the skill of writing and it is something I need to incorporate into my daily writing routine. It will have its challenges, as breaking a 30 year habit of methodical writing will not be easy.
But as most northerners will tell you “if it’s free it’s definitely worth a look”.