What do I mean when I say free write? (Also called automatic writing.) It’s taking pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) and just write. It’s writing without stopping, even if it doesn’t make sense. This is not the time to edit or spellcheck because that will take you out of the creative flow. The goal is to keep your hands moving and letting thoughts and ideas just move through you. Do this for ten to twenty minutes and you may surprised what appears. There will be time to revise and refine later.
One of the wonderful rewards of writing is inner healing and this is where I found my therapy. Transcribing feelings or ideas on paper allows for the examination of one’s emotions and beliefs, therefore encouraging the exploration of life’s big picture. It creates the opportunity to recognize, address, and if needed, release false perceptions—thus placing us on a more beneficial path. The act of writing brings an elegant salvation. It surrenders past struggles, builds strength, and awakens gratitude. And when you free write, wonderful things appear.
My Writing Journey
Writing my first book, a small miracle in itself, was very healing. I don’t believe this would have occurred without my loss experience. Grief has led me to share my story in the hope of giving others faith, inspiration, and the courage that we can persevere.
That book is different than the first version I produced. The beginning chapter started about a year and a half after my husband’s death. I did not sit down to write a book, in fact, the thought never crossed my mind. I was just expressing the tragic events to try and make sense of it all.
Before Wake Up! Change Up! Rise Up!, I would not have called myself a writer. I composed a few poems, lyrics, and journal entries, but I never wrote anything on a regular basis. However, the tragedy of losing my husband Don provided a profound and intense urgency to place my thoughts on paper. Mystified and uncertain as to why this writing obsession presented itself, I soon realized it was therapy to give a voice to my grief and provide me a new purpose to share what I have learned.
Initially, I recorded every terrible detail. But later, after reviewing them, some just didn’t feel right anymore. I no longer felt the need to tell the whole story. The sad, lost person was slowly being let go, and a calmer, more present, conscious, and grateful person was emerging. Those deleted chapters may never see print, but they hold a dear place in my heart because they helped me process the loss. These passages became a lifesaver, encouraging the expression of grief by offering a safe space to slowly accept my new circumstances. And by allowing myself to feel, my heart started to mend and heal. This was followed by my mind releasing all the what-ifs. I had to make peace with not knowing all the answers and realizing they probably would not provide comfort.
My work evolved from examining past struggles to restoring joy and inspiring healing. This literary art was an instrument to find my voice again, which at the time, I was not sure would ever return. I don’t believe we have to break to have a breakthrough. But I found that writing heals broken pieces and free write discovered thoughts and emotions, and sometimes answers, I needed to heal.
When I began to look for gratitude in everyday moments, more positive chapters presented themselves and the book was born. Inspiration and ideas appeared out of nowhere when I free wrote. As the book evolved, I realized its purpose was to inspire others to live a happier, more authentic life by examining their own thought patterns. It took six years on and off to record those words, and I am grateful for all the delays because time had given me more clarity for the purpose of the book. Composing thoughts on paper is often about self-discovery—it reveals our inner thinking and allows us to reflect on our experiences. Writing grants us the opportunity to open up and find our true voice.
Every writer has their own practice. Some require using a specific writing instrument or wearing an article of clothing. Some authors have been known to compose in a bathtub or car. It has been said that Truman Capote wrote lying down, William Wordsworth preferred writing in bed, and Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up with his typewriter on a bookshelf. Some write every day while others work daily for months and then take time off. My philosophy is that you do whatever works for you. Five to ten minutes a day will begin a writing path. I do find the below quote by Shonda Rhimes is right. The more I write, the greater the inspiration and creativity I receive. And when I free write, I’m amazed at what transpires.
When you write every day, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that creative space inside your mind. — Shonda Rhimes, American television creator, writer, producer, author
Like any other skill, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Once we start a practice, it will be hard to keep the creative juices bottled up inside. We will need to write, paint, or perform an artistic activity—we just can’t help ourselves.
Writers as varied as Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King, and Steven Pressfield discuss how muses bring inspiration. If we are willing to sit down and commit to our creative expression, the muse (inspiration) shows up. Pressfield states, in his book The War of Art, that an idea pops into our head and we think it is ours, but it is hers. “Is it magic? A miracle? No, it’s common as dirt. It is how creativity works. We show up. We do our best. Good things happen. This is the intersection of Hard Work and Inspiration.” In the book On Writing by Stephen King, he says that we need to do the work but the muse-guy has a bag of magic that can change your life. I agree. The muse is not going to write the book for us. But when we commit to the practice, inspiration appears.
Gilbert thinks the creative process is magic. “I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. . . . Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”
We are all creative architects because everyone imagines their possible futures and invents the world around them. The tendency is to believe certain people are born with these gifts, but I believe we are all divinely inspired in one way or another. Often, this gift comes through intuition or an idea, but many times we ignore or don’t explore it. Free write opens up our intuition to beautiful ideas. By paying attention, we can cultivate this connection.
Artists, like Brahms, Beethoven, and Longfellow believed their creativity came from God. Some described this insight appearing all at once, like a stream flowing, and not in bits and pieces. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated, “It did not come into my mind by lines, but by stanzas.”
There are moments when I sense that I am just the vehicle for information to come through—as if the words and ideas are emerging from some other place. How else do I explain the sudden need to write? One morning I had an urgency to record my thoughts—it was so powerful. I had to write immediately. Now, not later. This intense feeling to write would not leave. Giving into this urgency, the words just flowed. I wrote for two to three hours without stopping. The sentences and ideas kept coming. Then all of a sudden, as if someone shut the door, the inspiration halted, and I felt a sense of completion and was finished for the day. This call kept appearing for several months when I realized a book was being born. At the time I didn’t know it was called free write or automatic writing, but that is what it was.
The artist and the mother are vehicles, not originators. They don’t create the new life, they only bear it. This is why birth is such a humbling experience. The new mom weeps in awe at the little miracle in her arms. She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her. — Stephen Pressfield, Trinidadian-American author, screenplay writer
One of these urgent inspirations arrived on a Saturday summer morning at 5:30. I thought, Now? Really? Wanting to sleep, I closed my eyes, but the sandman would not return. I wrote the inspiration down on a piece of paper beside my bed then rolled over hoping to slumber. But the urgency did not leave, so I got out of bed to write and did not stop until the Blame Shame Game chapter was complete.
In writing that book, I believe creative muses fed me inspiration. When ideas and thoughts come so easily, I feel like a stenographer intuitively transcribing the muses’ thoughts. I am not sure what I am connecting to, but I sense it is a form of automatic or free writing. I just write and do not examine the content until after I am finished. What I do know is when this inspiration appears, away I go, nothing else exists and time is nonexistent. During these periods it is just me and the writing.
One technique is to allow thoughts and inspiration to occur without analysis (free write.) Even if something does not make sense, just create. Amazing art can occur without a definite plan. And if it does not work, don’t worry because pieces can be changed, such as reshaping jewelry, painting over a picture, or throwing clay. Usually it is not the first try where we succeed, but the redesigning and restructuring that produces our masterpieces.
In any writing, including free write, clarification comes in the rewrites, and yes, there will be many. In the initial creation of Wake Up! Change Up! Rise Up, words and ideas flowed effortlessly. But in editing, many words written no longer fit, or sentences didn’t flow well together, or new ideas lead to a different direction. Discussing the editing process with Bethany Siegler, my web designer, I stated that the true work of writing is in the rewrites and she said it is really revisioning. “I like to call it ‘revisiting‘ or ‘revisioning‘ instead of rewrites! Sounds more empowering to me to visit it again or envision it anew!” Her definition is more empowering and a better interpretation because experiences bring in new wisdom.
Revisions are necessary in any artistic endeavor. The more we do any activity, the more we learn about the process. But more importantly, when modifying something, we may also be changing ourselves. I am not the same person who first penned that book. Life has brought more knowledge, peace, acceptance, and understanding in what I believe to be true.
In revisiting chapters, and with the help of my writing group, I discovered more stories or examples were necessary to illustrate a message. Personal stories help us to identify with and emotionally connect to each other. When we hear a story that resonates with us, it can make us feel like we are not alone and that a common thread exists.
I have found being grateful benefits my creativity. It can be as simple as Thank you for today’s inspiration and let me be open to receiving. I believe feeling appreciation helps spark ideas, allowing them to pour into the mind and body.
Maybe my writing inspiration is delivered by muses or creativity works because of the Law of Attraction. What we focus on, we attract. I think it is a mix since everything is connected and interlinked. How else can I explain this inspiration appearing out of nowhere? I did not sit down and start pondering What am I going to write about today? No, it was definitely a specific idea like the one for the Blame Shame Game chapter. The thought popped into my head, We should not be blaming and shaming ourselves, and the rest just wrote itself.
Whether the muse is nature, a person, or divine help, find inspiration and write. I am grateful for all my writing muses, because without them, Wake Up! Change Up! Rise Up! would not exist. And I’m grateful to have found free write. It truly has changed my life and opened me up to creativity worlds I didn’t even know existed.
For writing and changing your self-talk, see https://lynnlokpayne.com/flip-the-script-and-change-your-story/