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Using Free Writing to Listen to Yourself

This post was contributed by Claire Pearce, Coach and Facilitator, for #ListenFirst Friday (June 21, 2019). Find out more about Claire's work here: https://www.cpsdayoff.com/

I first discovered ‘free writing’ about five years ago when I was advised to attend a weekend course (‘Free writing’ is writing without stopping, not worrying about spelling, grammar or content, often for a set amount of time.) I wasn’t that hopeful (my sister was the writer, not me), but signed up anyway as I trusted the person who recommended it to me. Normally after a weekend workshop I would feel tired, groggy, not ready for work the following Monday.

After writing all weekend I felt alive, energised and excited. One of the main things I loved about it is that it’s not about writing something ‘good’, a ‘piece’, a ‘story’ - writing is the goal in itself. It’s a brain dump, a confessional, a playground for your pen, time off from your thinking brain.

Alot of what I wrote initially was pretty dark. Lots of backed up stuff that had had nowhere to go for many, many years. I’d at last found a tool that helped me to deal with difficulties, emotional or otherwise. Writing gave me a way to finally start listening to myself. I’m not even sure I realised that I wasn’t.

As well as absolute nonsense, creative nuggets, or nothing of note, writing can bring your ‘stuff’ to the surface. It finds a way of sneaking in to what you’re writing. When this happens to me, I write about how I’m feeling, or what’s come up, or both. Writing into the feeling has always brought me out on the other side. That’s what’s so great about writing. It’s immediate and it’s totally adaptable to any subject or situation.

After the course, I made pretty much everyone I know have a go at free writing, I couldn’t help myself. I learned and read more about it, and then started running my own workshops - free writing for fun, creativity, self reflection, writing projects, and as it turns out, for connection.

Free writing on your own is great, and just the writing itself is a really valuable experience. For me though, writing with others and sharing what you write is really what it’s all about. Hearing yourself reading your own words can be profound (even if you’re reading them out to yourself), but sharing – warts and all - really connects the reader and the listener (who is just a witness, not a critic). The reader gets heard, the listener realises it’s not just them that has a crazy whirlwind spinning around in their minds. This is why free writing is the perfect thing to try on #ListenFirst Friday.

So do yourself a favour and give free writing a go right now:

Get a pen and paper

Ideally find someone else to write with (someone who has the same good intention as you), but it’s great if you’re on your own too.

Use this prompt ‘Listening first means…’

Set the timer for five minutes and write!

Keep the pen moving - don’t think about what you’re writing.

Keep the pen moving - don't edit or worry about grammar, sense, neatness, or spelling, just move forwards and don't look back.

Keep the pen moving - if you get stuck, you can change subject, write the same word repeatedly, write about having nothing to say, anything.

When you’ve finished, have a read to yourself - judgement fee (everyone writes weird and nonsensical stuff - anything goes).

Then, if you’re with someone else, share what you’ve written. If you don’t want to read what you’ve written word for word, just talk about what came out, how it was etc. If you’re on your own, you can still read it out loud. Yes, it’s a little strange, but it might just surprise you.

If you want to carry on writing, you could pick an interesting word or sentence from what you’ve just written and start again.