Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Not quite so freewriting

I'm a great fan of freewriting. If I don't start my day now with my morning pages then I will feel angsty until I can get to my journal. I use freewriting to find out what I might think about certain things, or to generate ideas for pieces, or to help me organise what it is I need to say in a journalism or non-fiction story.

And as any student of mine will tell you, I force them to do it too.

So it's a little embarrassing to realise that there are more than one way to freewrite. And that while it's impossible to get wrong, I could have been doing it better.

Hmm, what do I mean?

Well, I've been following the 'train of thought' method so far and that's worked for me. BUT I haven't really given the 'stream of consciousness' method much of a look in. And this is where I'm finding it exciting.

Here's some stream of consciousness writing from my journal this morning about the difference between the two methods of freewriting...

Train new places unexpected put hands in stream crocodile why danger the risk of writing the reader is crocodile or raft taking words new places the train who's driving the reader or writer ....

And here's some train of thought writing from the same session ...

The writer's always running behind the train trying to catch her thoughts, and so the hand is always going to be a the end of the sentence, so why does the stream seem like being up in the air? Is it because it's clear water. I should know this. It's interesting to think of this, and the idea of working backwards in planning. The drive of the story is at the front, pulling carriages behind, but is it also the fisherman in the stream. Are both catching thoughts?

OK, so neither exactly makes sense - this is taken directly from my journal, but the difference in the two pieces shows what is behind the process of writing both. It's much more than one is a series of random words and the other is half-formed sentences. It's more how different I feel at the end of writing both. With the train of thought, I finish the writing session (only normally about 5-10 mins) feeling grounded. As if I've got something out of my system. But with stream of consciousness, I'm aware of feeling as if I'm filled up with thoughts instead.

Neither one is better than the other, but to me it's one of those lightbulb moments in getting to know my own writing practice. I can see that using stream of consciousness* will help conjure up images, and by following my train of thought*, I can hopefully make sense of some of these. One is all about letting go, and the other is about capturing. Sums up the writing process really - we need to be aware of both.

And this post has been a little like a train of thought that is still in motion - I'd love to know how you freewrite and how it works for you.

*Ps I'm not sure if these are the correct definitions, but they're working for me!


Megan said...

I'm also a huge believer - and kind of do both. I begin each writing day with 1 intense minute of absolute garble word-association type splurge from a single word trigger (usually something random taken from my current manuscript), which I often can't even read back afterwards. Then, if I'm exploring a character or embarking on a new scene, I'll often play with it using something more like your 'train of thought' method, writing with a bit more clarity, but without stopping, for around 15 minutes.
I find the whole thing fascinating, the places words take you . . . And love the examples you've included on your post.

Kathryn said...

I think I identify more with the 'train of thought' method. I've never been able to imagine how you could ever record a true stream of consciousness. I guess that's something I've yet to master. For the moment, my outpourings are always going to be modified in some way. I use my morning pages to work things out and half of it is about imposing order on my thoughts and that's the closest I get to feeling at peace with myself.

Sarah Salway said...

There's definitely something in 'writing it out', isn't there? I love your 1 intense minute, Megan.

jem said...

This post especially useful. It prompted pages of ramblings, trying to understand what each of these styles means to me. I think I use both.

I think perhaps SoC is closer to other forms of art, more impressionistic. Things can just be, strings of words that sound interesting, images that pop out, it doesn't have to have cohesion or meaning, but it can be beautiful or striking. Perhaps this form of writing allows us to go crazy, like painters with paint, sculptures with lumps of clay or wood. And then from that craziness something useful we can lift out and use elsewhere will emerge?

(anyway, enough comments for now, all the thoughts I've stored recently have now been shared, thanks for listening!)