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Guidelines for Writing Practice

A.K.A. 'Freewriting'

Choose a Prompt—You can use a phrase you overheard at the grocery store, an intriguing headline, a line from a song, a memory, or a question related to your current Work In Progress.

Set a Time Limit—Start writing and don’t stop. If you get stuck, rewrite the last word or write “I don’t know what to say” or “I remember” or “I am aware that” or “What if” and keep going.

Just Dance—Don’t worry about “doing it right” or ‘”following the prompt”. The prompt is only a starting point. Follow your thoughts wherever they lead. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation don’t count. You can come back and fix it later if you decide to use this piece.

Permission to Suck—Remember, you are trying to outrun the Editor and the Critic, and to catch up with the Muse. If you stop to look over your shoulder and ask if they approve, the Muse may turn a sudden corner ahead of you and lose you in a labyrinth of rules and assumptions.

Enjoy Discovery —If the time is up and you still have words to follow, keep going. Sometimes the best discoveries are just around the next bend.

Why set a time limit?
  1. It becomes easier to actually do the writing ("anybody can write for ten or fifteen minutes").
  2. A tension is created that enables you to focus.
  3. The writer is allowed to forget himself and be present with the writing.
  4. It evokes spontaneity; there's not time to think or ponder.
  5. It keeps the writing moving forward to the next word instead of rewriting, reconsidering, rethinking.
  6. With an end in sight, it's easier to begin.
  7. There's freedom in knowing you don't have to finish, you just stop when the time is up. Consequently, you can take more risks.
  8. Writing time can easily be fit into a too full schedule.
  9. Writing that doesn't work or isn't interesting can be abandoned when the time's up.
  10. On the other hand, that same writing can turn interesting if pursued for the full amount of time allotted.

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