At one time or another, we all find ourselves thinking the same thoughts over and over again. The more we think them, the less fresh and interesting these thoughts become. This can dull our poetry blades significantly. When you want to leave the well-traveled path of your routine thinking for the adventure of an unknown destination, freewriting can take you there.
Freewriting is a way of training yourself to receive and transmit fresh ideas automatically. Just as your body knows how to breathe without conscious effort, your mind knows how to channel inspiration without you thinking about it. But first you may need to break some bad habits that interfere with your ability to send and receive. The goal of freewriting is to move from conscious, deliberate writing to automatic, subconscious writing. Freewriting can liberate you from the ideas of who you are supposed to be on the page and what your writing is supposed to accomplish.
The mechanics of freewriting are simple: Choose a time limit, put your pen to the page or your hands on the keyboard, and don’t stop until your time is up. You can start with any thought or phrase. Don’t try too hard to choose your subject matter; it will choose you. And don’t worry about the quality of what you’re writing. The most important thing is to keep going, even if you have to write the same sentence over and over again until something new arrives.
As the rhythm of a train can rock you to sleep, the rhythm of your writing can lull your conscious mind into silence. Staying in motion creates a physical momentum that releases you from your habits of judging your writing and your ideas, thus giving you access to the raw, buried treasures of your mind. At its best, freewriting gives you yourself, unedited. You gain visibility into the themes, words, colors, and stories that pool up at the back of your mind as they spill forth onto the page.
Think of freewriting as a lightning rod attuning you to the currents coming through. And be careful not to confuse this practice with journal writing. Journals are for recording and examining your thoughts, feelings, and experiences; the goal of freewriting is to sidestep self-conscious self-scrutiny to find what is most alive in your mind.
*This excerpt is from Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen.