How to exercise your writing muscle

Sometimes, writing is hard. Painful. Fruitlessly time-consuming.

Here’s one way to make it less hard. (I’ll never claim there’s anything that makes it easy.)

It’s freewriting.

Freewriting is to writing what exercise is to physical health. It’s a way to condition and strengthen your writing “muscle.”

Freewriting was developed and popularized on college campuses by Peter Elbow. You can read about freewriting and some other good writing techniques in his book Writing Without Teachers.

Here’s how you do it:


  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Start writing. Don’t stop until time is up. Don’t pause to think. Don’t read what you’ve written. Just write.
  • Ignore grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Nobody else needs to read what you write. It’s okay if you write incoherent garbage.
  • If you don’t have any ideas, write anyway. If necessary, write nonsense or whatever comes into your head. If all you can think of is how annoying this exercise is, just write I hate freewriting. If you feel bored or uncomfortable, write about that.
  • When time’s up, read what you’ve written.

That’s it. Do it every day. You will get better at writing.

You might be surprised how often you solve a writing problem you’ve been struggling with during freewriting. But that’s not the point. The point is exercise, and you get that even if you only write garbage, day after day.

Another proponent of freewriting and similar practices is Natalie Goldberg, especially in her book, Writing Down the Bones.

Take my word for it, freewriting will make you a stronger, happier, more fluent, more effective writer.


Comments

2 responses to “How to exercise your writing muscle”

  1. Writing Down the Bones… right up there with On Writing and Bird by Bird in the all-time great writing books. Thanks for jogging my memory Jeff.

  2. Writing Down the Bones… right up there with On Writing and Bird by Bird in the all-time great writing books. Thanks for jogging my memory Jeff.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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