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Tim Schafer

Writing Update #2: Freewriting Technique

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I don't know if I could force myself to do that. Might give it a go at some stage.

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Has anyone mentioned 750words yet? That's pretty much my keyboard-based equivalent of Tim's freewriting. It's a private journalling site and a good one - the site can be set to nag you by email and there's achievements/badges for those who like that whole gamification thing. Your optional donation is buying cups of coffee for the site's dev at his local cafe. :)

Time was every morning i'd wake up, log in, type whatever like a mad bugger until i made up my quota of 750 words, then i'd go about the rest of my day as usual. So for those of you who don't like handwriting, can type reasonably effortlessly and want somewhere to work, check 750words out. Is good for this stuff!

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Has anyone mentioned 750words yet? That's pretty much my keyboard-based equivalent of Tim's freewriting.

I'm totally trying this! I don't know if I could handle a pen+paper but I'm always near a keyboard. It has the potential to have be get distract or violate the rules but I like the point system too... hopefully this will work for me :)

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Has anyone mentioned 750words yet? That's pretty much my keyboard-based equivalent of Tim's freewriting. It's a private journalling site and a good one - the site can be set to nag you by email and there's achievements/badges for those who like that whole gamification thing. Your optional donation is buying cups of coffee for the site's dev at his local cafe. :)

Time was every morning i'd wake up, log in, type whatever like a mad bugger until i made up my quota of 750 words, then i'd go about the rest of my day as usual. So for those of you who don't like handwriting, can type reasonably effortlessly and want somewhere to work, check 750words out. Is good for this stuff!

That is a FANTASTIC find for anyone who wants to do this by typing. It's really helpful, you can keep everything private but still share stats about what you are writing with people, so it's perfect for just this sort of exercise. I'd encourage anyone who wants to dip their toe into this and give it a try. I just did for the first time!

It gives you extra points for writing without getting distracted, for doing it every day and for all those sorts of things that Tim suggested, and the writing is easy to go over and notate later. Not quite as flexible as paper obviously, but great for people who like to type. Thanks for introducing me to it!

Check this out: http://750words.com/entries/stats/1694900

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I've been thinking about your freewriting for the whole week and suddenly this post appears. Thans for sharing your method, i'll try it :)!!

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I used 750words.com for a long time. It's a fantastic service with a nice distraction-free environment, and just a tiny bit of gamey reward feedback at the end (a pleasant pat on the back for success, tally of your streaks).

I'm also curious, Tim, how you handle your topic selection when you freewrite. While I've done a lot of it over the years, it always tended to be biographical, life-sorting type stuff. I'm sure that's hugely helpful for general mental health, but it doesn't get me far with creative projects.

Do you try to focus on a current creative project, or do you sit down with the intent to work out a specific creative conundrum that's been bothering you? Or do you just sit and spill whatever is in there? I'm curious how you specifically manage to focus freewriting on your creative work rather than on yourself (or if you don't bother with that kind of limitation).

Thanks for sharing your technique. Good stuff!

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Thank you for the insight in your writing method Tim. I try to write as often as I can, and in as many different forms possible; from free writing to word challenges. But because I do not have the time and energy to write nearly as often as I would like I've stumbled upon a problem. When I do have time to sit down and write, the ideas come sporadically (at best) and are usually quite bad, only one or two of them a month are worthy of exploring further. But when I am out walking the dogs, or on the train to work, or working, etc. that's when the ideas hit. By the time I manage to reach pen and paper or other recording devices the ideas and inspiration have subsided.

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Where's the step where you have a brain explosion during freewriting and write something like Grim Fandango in a huge font and underline it while writing "I'm such a f******* genius!"? I imagine you then running out of your office and down the street with the notebook like you've found the golden ticket.

This is pretty cool. I hadn't considered using it to actually accomplish goals, though now that you lay it out it makes sense that it'd be a great brainstorming tool. Thanks.

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Use and abuse this as you please, but be warned, this is not like the safe "I-never-fail" method mentioned by OP.

I've attached a photo, demonstrating what can be perceived as a bad thing from Tim's point of view. The more observant readers here may have noticed the cats on the wall. There was no need for reddit back then.

Huh, is this little Tim in the picture? Looks like it...

Anyway, I actually did my "homework" today and freewrote for 10 minutes. It wasn't as hard to get into as I expected and when the time was over my mind didn't feel at all exhausted of ideas. I did it early in the morning, as suggested, but I wonder if it would be better for me to do this at night, because I normally am the most creative at night.

I also wonder if you should do this freewriting with a goal in mind? Because I basically went nowhere with what I wrote. Maybe I would've gotten somewhere interesting if I did this longer? I'll try again tomorrow, I think taking some minutes aside for this everyday is worth it!

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Huh, is this little Tim in the picture? Looks like it...

Anyway, I actually did my "homework" today and freewrote for 10 minutes. It wasn't as hard to get into as I expected and when the time was over my mind didn't feel at all exhausted of ideas. I did it early in the morning, as suggested, but I wonder if it would be better for me to do this at night, because I normally am the most creative at night.

I also wonder if you should do this freewriting with a goal in mind? Because I basically went nowhere with what I wrote. Maybe I would've gotten somewhere interesting if I did this longer? I'll try again tomorrow, I think taking some minutes aside for this everyday is worth it!

Even if you have a goal in mind it should naturally flow into something else if you're honestly following the "don't stop writing" bit. At least, that's been my experience. It cleans out the clutter.

Interestingly enough, the practice of freewriting is probably so successful because it allows our subconscious to start doing some work because you don't allow yourself the luxury of thinking the way you normally would. Studies have shown that our true "Aha!" moments happen more this way though I'd never thought of freewriting as a mechanism to achieve that (much the same reason why people often have brilliant ideas while in the shower because they let relax and their mind naturally wonders. This was on an NPR a short time ago). We don't have the same number of breakthroughs when we attack a problem straight on so Tim is really ahead of the curve here.

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Use and abuse this as you please, but be warned, this is not like the safe "I-never-fail" method mentioned by OP.

I've attached a photo, demonstrating what can be perceived as a bad thing from Tim's point of view. The more observant readers here may have noticed the cats on the wall. There was no need for reddit back then.

Huh, is this little Tim in the picture? Looks like it...

Anyway, I actually did my "homework" today and freewrote for 10 minutes. It wasn't as hard to get into as I expected and when the time was over my mind didn't feel at all exhausted of ideas. I did it early in the morning, as suggested, but I wonder if it would be better for me to do this at night, because I normally am the most creative at night.

I also wonder if you should do this freewriting with a goal in mind? Because I basically went nowhere with what I wrote. Maybe I would've gotten somewhere interesting if I did this longer? I'll try again tomorrow, I think taking some minutes aside for this everyday is worth it!

Generally it doesn't matter if you have a goal or not. If your mind starts thinking about cheese then that's what you'll be writing about even if you wanted to be writing about chalk.

One advantage of having a goal is that it's something that the writing will keep coming back to, so for example if you're writing for the plot of a game and then you start thinking about trees for no reason, then the two might get linked up further down the line and you might have some awesome tree idea for your game - or you might not. The process is unpredictable.

A disadvantage is that if you pay too much attention to the goal it can weigh you down and make you a bit too much 'thinky' and judgemental about what you write which isn't a good place to be in this kind of exercise. But that just takes practice, and can be overcome.

Remember, these things are not for show, it's a first step in a process ad what you're going to get with it is a whole bunch of junk, stray thoughts, terrible ideas, good ideas, ideas that would be good for something else, stuff that would worry your mother if she read it and so on, and some days it might just all be weird or unhelpful, but that's fine.

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On the subject of topics, I have sometimes started by writing a sentence stating what I want to write about. I totally go off topic, but it usually reconnects at the end. I've found it honestly doesn't matter much, though. There are days when nothing tangible comes out on paper, but I still feel good after the session and feel more productive for the rest of the day, too. Only been doing this for about 2 weeks now, though. I'm guessing the more you do it, the easier it will be to find those ideas that are hiding up there.

Even though I said you should stop when you hit your time/pages goal, if you have some ideas in your head but have not written them down, then by all means get them down on paper. Write down every idea you have always. (Or call yourself and leave it on your voice mail.) Never assume you will remember it later if it's a great idea, because even if it is great, you'll forget.

So write past your deadline if you have more ideas.

BUT I wouldn't just sit there past the deadline just waiting for new ideas to come.

Writing Wrules!

I hit the end while on a roll again today and it took me about 10 minutes to finish up. I felt much better then. :P

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Ha I think I freewrote big parts of my latests scientific articles... but I did it unconciously... I wrote it (on a computer) discarded the whole bit and rewrote it proper...

A very powerful method. Now I only have to learn how to write proper english and stop making stupid errors.

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Magic. It is so surreal to have the illustrious Tim Schaefer instructing. This like the coolest tutorial in the world, where you're learning from a teacher so accredited with creative success and coolness, it's like George Carlin's character in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure!

"Greetings, my excellent students. Today, we are going to talk about how to pluck original concepts out of thin air and use them to ignite the imaginations of a generation. And here's the trick: you have to just f***ing freestyle it, you dig? Grab your pens and s***."

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I just wanted to give this technique a try, because lately I read many stuff equally to that freewriting method in the morning. So, I just bought me a notebook and just tried it and damn...this is great. On one day I just wrote a bunch of crap and on another one really inspiring and creative stuff I can work with. I think I also got a new, great idea for my master thesis. Yeha!

I also got me a new rule already. I always start with a "Hello Mr. Awesome Freewiting Notebook..." and a "Greetings and goodbye, [my name]" or something like that, just like in a diary. Gives me a good start and brings the freewriting session to a proper end.

And I have a question to Mr. Schafer. When do you start with the second draft? Immediately after the first, when the freewriting part is done or maybe later or even on another day? Or is there no rule for that? At the moment I think I will do the freewriting regularly and when I have time or want to do some more writing I will grab my freewriting notebook and read through the pages and get all the creative stuff out of. This will maybe get one second draft out of several first drafts but I think that's OK...so...for me it is. I'm just interested in how you or also the others in here do it?! :)

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Had to do this during my degree (Creative Writing =/= Time Wasting). We had a whole unit basically dedicated to 'letting go'. I once had to freewrite whilst looking a human I'd never met in the eye for five minutes.

I tend to write absolutely anything that's in my head and then relate it to what I actually want to achieve. Then I'll free write from that point and 'bring it back' again until eventually you have something you can work with in terms of writing fiction. I can admit to handing in assignments that were just free written in that way, that's the beauty of studying for a degree that contains almost zero knowledge based on fact.

The biggest thing I learned in my time at university was to not worry about being wrong and looking silly. It's rule #1 for the Creative, just behind #2 - There are no rules!

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Great post, thanks for sharing your technique with us! It reminds me a lot of the idea behind NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which tasks participants with writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. For anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel, it's a great way to get past that initial overwhelming fear of "I COULD NEVER DO THAT!"

Excactly. I've always disliked the nanowrimo name, it should be InNoWriNo because it is, and was never not international!

I've participated in (and failed) nanowrimo twice btw. Stream-of-consciousness writing is beautiful and awesome, but lots and lots of work.

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i tried free writing on my computer. I just did it now so it wasn't quite first thing in the morning before all the email twitter sphere. The big issue i had with typing was that I couldn't help but go back and erase mistakes. I may have to get notebooks and write by hand like a damn caveman.

Edit:

Nanowrimo didn't even occur to me in regards to this. My big shame was not finishing nanowrimo last year. My unfinished novel is still sitting on my hard drive.

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i tried free writing on my computer. I just did it now so it wasn't quite first thing in the morning before all the email twitter sphere. The big issue i had with typing was that I couldn't help but go back and erase mistakes. I may have to get notebooks and write by hand like a damn caveman.

I've been doing the same thing, and my approach has been to train myself to ignore typos when I'm in this mode. If it helps, look away or close your eyes if you're reasonably confident at typing. I've tried that and just occasionally looked back at the screen to make sure that my fingers hadn't drifted off base a little. It really helped because I was no longer spending a portion of my attention editing, I was just letting mistakes happen because a lot of the time I wasn't aware of them. As soon as I started doing that, I think the output improved and was closer to my actual train of thought.

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It's funny, I was taught this technique in school (game design study) during one of our writing classes, but I never used it beyond that single lecture. I just finished my first session (I'll try doing one first thing in the morning next), and it really... opened up my mind, I guess. Got me thinking in a different frame of mind, which was refreshing.

The technique reminded me of something awesome -- posted it here: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/7035/

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Interesting that it had such a big effect on people, because it didn't have on me. Maybe I'm truly creatively starved after all...

...anyway, after a while my hand starts to hurt from the constant writing. Am I the only one who has this problem? Well, I always had it.

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Interesting that it had such a big effect on people, because it didn't have on me. Maybe I'm truly creatively starved after all...

...anyway, after a while my hand starts to hurt from the constant writing. Am I the only one who has this problem? Well, I always had it.

My hand usually starts to hurt from writing after a while. Usually when I'm trying to frantically write things down. Perhaps if you slow yourself down your hand might not hurt as much.

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NaNoWriMo (naming conventions aside) is fantastic for getting ideas onto paper. I don't think it's quite as good as billed for getting novels out of your head.

My first try was a success, but I ended up with about 1/4 of the material I needed (for the novel I wanted to write, 50K wasn't even close) and a good load of that was in heavy need of editing.

YMMV, naturally.

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Is there a point to freewriting if you're not a writer?

I know it's great for stimulating ideas, and I can absolutely see the connection for a writer to be doing this, but if my creative medium uses something other than words (say, music or video), then I'm struggling to see what freewriting might net me, except for ideas that I might later execute in my chosen medium. Is there a point to it other than as a defence against writer's block, stagnation and for idea generation?

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Thank you Tim.

I actually started doing this from your first video where you mention your writing time. It is crazy how helpful it is. It's like you write about the most random stuff, but some how you come out with this sharp precise solution to a problem that has been bothering you. I didn't know your rules however, and I definitely fell victim to the "Stop and Ponder".

So now I am about to sit and right. I've been doing them in the evening, but I'll give the morning thing a shot tomorrow.

Peanuts, Watermelon, Astronaut, Bar Fights, Cabbage, On and on and on and on.

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Interesting that it had such a big effect on people, because it didn't have on me. Maybe I'm truly creatively starved after all...

...anyway, after a while my hand starts to hurt from the constant writing. Am I the only one who has this problem? Well, I always had it.

It won't always do it for you. I'd say: try it again a few times, maybe you'll get lucky :)

How long did you take, by the way? Because I did a full half hour, and the good stuff took a while. And I took about 45 minutes to clear my head before that.

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After 5 days of it I'm really starting to settle into letting things just splat out onto the page, sometimes really stupid stuff.

I'm allowing myself to share with you the stupid thing that fell out today: I wrote about 250 words about a walled city, except the walls were made of live bulls. But the bulls couldn't move because they were stacked so high on top of each other. Some of them are very angry, but they can't really do anything about it. Everyone in the city tries to ignore that the walls are made of bulls.

Weird, huh? It's not something I'd... use for anything, but it has stuck with me all morning and I love that it came from this really mysterious place in my brain and didn't feel 'thought up' and forced.

Is there a point to freewriting if you're not a writer?

I know it's great for stimulating ideas, and I can absolutely see the connection for a writer to be doing this, but if my creative medium uses something other than words (say, music or video), then I'm struggling to see what freewriting might net me, except for ideas that I might later execute in my chosen medium. Is there a point to it other than as a defence against writer's block, stagnation and for idea generation?

Yes, because it's one way of getting into that mode where ideas are coming through unfiltered, and if you can do that with writing, you can do it with anything. It's the same reason why I used to take a lot of improv classes - it comes from that same desire to get out of my own way when it comes to creative things, and those principles can be re-applied to anything.

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