I’ve been freewriting for quite a long time without knowing that freewriting is what it’s called. In fact, for a long time all of my writing was freewriting, unpolished and grasshopperish. Later, I began to see that there was quite a difference between the work of writers I esteemed and my rather more spontaneous outpourings. It appeared that the process of writing required two different levels of engagement: generativity and refinement. Here, we’re at the generativity stage, so I feel I have carte blanche to blether away as I see fit. At this point, every idea is a good idea.
Freewriting can either have a focus or none at all. It has only one real requirement, which is to keep writing without pause for a predetermined period of time. It’s a bit like being in the ocean, watching your thoughts form and then trying to set them down as they gather momentum then pass and break. In my experience the early morning, just after waking, is the best time for a bit of a freewrite. I did the one on the Wiki late at night, which was different but also had that familiar feeling of ebb and flow.
There are obvious and subtle benefits to this practice, I find. Really good ideas can come out of it, pegs on which to hang further research and thinking. But also, if you ever sit down to work and find yourself distracted by a background mutter of thinking and judgement (“oh, psychology is so difficult, why didn’t I listen to my careers teacher and become a dog groomer instead, there’s a funny smell in this library…” etc), freewriting can act as purgative to cleanse the mind and limber it up for study. If you’ve not tried it before, have a go. You’ll be both amazed at your creativity and amused by the daftness of what emerges, and surprised by how calm and energized you feel afterwards.
Just as a footnote, I’d like to add that when I began training as a writing mentor I learned that the term freewriting was coined by the eminent writing teacher Peter Elbow. He too recognizes that to create a piece of writing it’s necessary to go through two contrasting phases. For me, reading Elbow prompted a big existential exhalation. If you’re interested in the experience of writing, you’ll probably enjoy his books.