01A Transcription of 10 Minutes of Freewriting
What follows is a look at ten minutes of freewriting (known in the world of psychotherapy as "free association").
"Freewriting. What to write. Grocery store. Girl with the strawberry mole. First with father, now with mother. Fireworks in the park. Uncurious women. Evening. Cooler air. Couple sitting in their garden with their bare feet in a kiddie pool. Lawyer boyfriend knows all about open container laws. Don't stop. Eight minutes to go? Don't stop. Packing suitcase. Bring the mini suitcase home from Canada. Shuttered houses. Still windmills. Half-shut cat eyes. Staying late in the office. Rain in Texas. Webs of fire ants floating down the river. Great rivers. I don't know anything about great rivers, but we walked down to the creek the last year we lived in the dorms. Through the rainstorm, Clemente and I, to see the swollen creek rushing below, threatening to overflow its banks. That's how it happens in that part of Texas. One moment the creek is a safe trickle and an hour later it could swallow you up. But it doesn't last. By the next day, the ground would have absorbed most of the water. We only had that afternoon. But we had that afternoon. We were barefoot, I remember that, though I don't know where we left our shoes. We didn't hold hands, but we felt close, as though we had. As though we had been through something more. As though the flood was standing in for something."
02Choose a Few Elements to Develop Into a Story
In this freewriting example, there are two different possibilities for a story. If you were the writer, you could focus on the little girl with the strawberry mole. Maybe her mother is embarrassed by the mole. Maybe people mistook the mole for a wound of some kind when the girl was a baby, and the young mother came to feel that there was something wrong with her. Maybe over time, the mole had come to represent the mother's sense of her daughter's otherness. Or, you could take it in a science fiction or magic realism direction. Maybe the girl has some kind of supernatural power associated with the mole, and the mother has a reason to be afraid of her daughter.
The more obvious choice, though, would be to continue the story of the walk in the rain. The original musings were about a walk taken with a friend during college, but for dramatic purposes, you could change it from a platonic relationship to a romantic one. You would probably want to write about an adult relationship (not a college relationship) so you would change, "We walked down to the creek the last year we lived in the dorms," to "We walked down to the creek the last day we lived on Hemlock Street." That's the beginning of a story: A couple takes one last walk to a beloved creek before moving out of a house. They're separating, and the separation has to do with the man's coldness. The swollen creek becomes a symbol for the emotions the narrator had to repress while living with him. They are both still the kind of people who take barefoot walks in the rain. Or, perhaps they used to be those kinds of people, and they're also saying goodbye to their former selves, the selves who fell in love with each other.
Feel free to choose a writing prompt, and then get a timer and see where your ten minutes takes you.
A 10-Minute Exercise for Freewriting
Ten minutes may not sound like much time, but you'd be surprised just how much you can write if you follow the instructions and just keep writing—without stopping.
Keep in mind that freewriting is just a way of warming up to the writing process. Some days inspiration will strike and you'll produce something truly creative. Other days your composition may consist of an entire page of repetitively writing, "I can't think of what to write." And that's okay because at least you're writing.
The idea is to keep working at the craft. Just don't worry about the result. Instead, focus on writing without judgment, and remember, it only takes one inspirational word or creative sentence to get you started on the road to a new piece of fiction.