Iain Douglas Stewart

What is Free-writing?

I’m glad you asked.

Free-writing is a written version of the therapeutic free-association method which was developed by Sigmund Freud. This is my take on it.

The directions I adhere to in my free-writing exercises are simple.

I write the first thing that comes into my head for a pre-determined amount of time about a pre-determined word.

You can find examples of my free-writing here.

The aim is to expand self-awareness and increase self-knowledge. Through the process it is quite reasonable to discover aspects of yourself that you did not realise existed, and opinions that you never knew you held. It is surprising how much you can learn about yourself just by being honest and writing the first thing that comes to you. It’s easy to not even think and just let your hand take over – your body holds more information than your mind realises.

I encourage everyone to have a go at free-writing. The beautiful thing about it is you can adjust it to your own personal preferences. You could write for half an hour, an hour, or longer if you wanted to. You could be strict about whether you deviate from the initial subject or not. The pre-determined word could be a single word, or it could be a phrase, or even a picture. You could publish your free-writings online or keep them private.

For the pieces I publish on here, I do like to take a few minutes at the end to tidy things up. But don’t feel like you have to. Just let it be. It is what it is. The beauty is that free-writing is so adaptable.

Advanced free-writing.

To take this a little deeper – the thing you write about could be an emotion you have recently felt, or a formative memory you’d like to explore. The process then becomes more therapeutic, and allows exploration of deeply held beliefs. If you understand that sometimes your core beliefs are not necessarily conducive to the way you want to live your life, you can challenge them with free-writing.

If you really drill down hard into the reasons why you feel a certain way about things, you can challenge your pre-conceptions. Find out why you get angry when people do certain things. Learn how you react in difficult situations. If you don’t like how you react then you can use this self-knowledge to your advantage. Self-awareness is a superpower.

Another exercise that helps develop self-awareness and a greater degree of self-knowledge is putting yourself as the keyword. You could just write about yourself and your life, your attitudes and your experiences, your dreams and your fears, your problems and pleasures. Putting yourself in the centre of a page and having a brainstorm rather than being non-linear also works.

Just have fun with it and remember there are no strict rules to adhere by. Well, maybe just one:

Be honest.