Day Two: Freewriting

(Estimated time: 45 minutes. Remember to start your timer)

Back in the day, I worked at a summer camp. It had a pump like the one above. At the beginning of the season, after months of disuse, it was such a pain in the ass to use. You’d prime the thing and then pump and pump and pump until your shoulder burned and the pump would groooooaaaan like it had been gutshot and then, just when you were ready to give up and drink lakewater, the pump would belch out some gross brown liquid. But if you kept pumping, eventually you’d get the clearest, coldest water ever.

The next day you’d have to prime and pump and pump, but by the third or fourth day of regular use, that pump would give you clear water at the first touch.

Creativity is like a pump. If you don’t exercise it very often, it’s going to be hard to get anything to come out. But once you get it going—and if you exercise it on a regular basis—creativity will pour out of you.

Today you’re going to practice freewriting, which is a great way to exercise your pump (that sounds gross, but you know what I mean) and to let material spill out of you.


Take a moment to block out anything that might distract you. This might mean closing a door, or putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, or removing yourself bodily to a library, or putting on headphones and playing white noise or the sound of rain, or downloading a program on your computer that can block email and social media during your writing session (like Self Control for Mac or FocusMe for PC). Be intentional about setting up your isolation chamber writing nest, and then begin.


Read these pieces on freewriting from Peter Elbow and Natalie Goldberg.


Set a timer for ten minutes. (Here’s an online countdown timer.) Freewrite for ten minutes, then take a short break. Get up, shake your hands out, move around a little bit. Don’t check email or get sucked into the internet. After a couple of minutes, settle back into your writing space and run another ten-minute session.


What surprised you (either about the reading or in your own writing)?

What went well with this session?

What went not-so-well (and why do you think it went not-so-well)?

Anything you want to do differently next time you freewrite? Anything you want to try?

Put an X in your box for day two, and jot down the amount of time you took for this session.