The Purpose of Free Writing

Free writing is what I've been inflicting on this blog on more than one occasion, recently. It's a writing exercise recommended for anybody who is serious about writing. You take a word or a phrase (such as "there's this book I haven't written yet"), you write it down, and you just keep writing. It could be for five minutes, ten or fifteen (rarely more), but so long as you keep your pen moving and DON'T pause to rethink, edit or erase, you're free writing.

The purpose of free writing is to get around the chatter inside your brain to the chatter beneath; to circumvent the part of you that tears down and critiques what you have written as you have written it. By touching your deeper self, you can put some very bizarre collection of words down on the paper, pulling up a vividly described detail or describing an event that you wouldn't normally have described had you let your conscious mind do all the talking.

I'm finding that I'm having trouble reaching around the chattering, analytical part of my mind. You've seen some of that in my free writing, especially with My Can of Coca-Cola is Red. If I have a weakness, it's that I can't get into the heart of matters. I gloss over the surface and stay out of the characters' heads.

I think my pattern of characterization matches my pattern of friendships. Although I function well in groups, I'm a shy person by nature. I have lots of acquaintances, but only a few friends. Those friends that I have are longstanding friends, and the friendships are deep. The same is true with my characters; most are superficial, but a few stay with me, and get deeper over time. It's no coincidence that I'm developing Rosemary and Peter over four books, or that I spent five years writing for the eighth Doctor and Fayette -- I did it because I couldn't develop the character all in one story; I had to take several stories in order to really get inside the characters' heads.

At least, with Rosemary and Time, I can backtrack and rewrite to install the character traits I learned of in Fathom Five. But characterization has always been my weakest suit. And, other than practise, practise, practise (the writers' advice for everything), I don't know how to combat that. Any suggestions?


The week has been fairly busy. Erin and I haven't seen each other on two out of the three evenings we've had. On Monday, she was up teaching a course on poetry, and on Tuesday, I was down at the library taking Kathy Stinson's writing course. We had yesterday together and spent that time in front of the television set, tired out. This weekend, Erin heads to Chicago to attend a family wedding, while I stay here to help with the University of Waterloo's fall convocation. Things won't start getting back to normal until this coming Monday.

This wouldn't be so bad, except that today is our fourth wedding anniversary. It would have been nice if we had been able to spend some time this coming weekend by ourselves, not having to cope with my work, or family weddings, or whathaveyou, but ourselves.

It's hard to believe that it's been four years. The wedding itself seems like yesterday. But, with things being as busy as they've been, and with life progressing without any regrets (at least as far as our marriage is concerned), then time will fly, I suppose.

Not this weekend, or the next (I'll be in Toronto at the CANSCAIP Conference), but the one after, Erin and I should book a hotel room or a cabin somewhere and have the two days to ourselves. We'll write. We'll do other stuff. Most importantly, we'll be together.

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