Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and many other books on writing has dedicated her life’s work to teaching people how to increase their flow of creativity. A big component of her workshops is free-writing. Free-writing is the practice of picking a topic, setting a timer, putting your pen to the page, and writing until the timer dings. When you do it in a group, you can set the timer for five, ten, or twenty minutes at a time, and then take turns reading what you’ve just written.
I have found this group practice to be really liberating; I find support to sit with whatever I am feeling, I find camaraderie and connection with whom I’m sharing my writing, freedom in not having any aim for my writing to reach. The real aim is to quiet the inner censor and critic that stops me from creating. Later, I can always edit and evaluate. Often, after I’ve done a couple of hours of free-writing with people, I notice that I’m less judgmental about whatever art that comes out, I’m a lot more productive and I’m happier with the work after all the gunk has been "blown out the tubes."
Try this: Sit down with a pad and paper (best to avoid typing for this exercise, as it’s easier to connect emotionally to the physical sensation of writing) and set a timer for five minutes on each of the following topics. Try to use as much detail as possible.
- right now…
- third grade
- I hate…
"You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the most difficult task in the world, for opening."
-Daisaku Ikeda, Japanese peace activist and Buddhist Leader