‘Writing Freely’ for clarity
Sometimes life gets frenetic - frantic, even.
There's a lot going on and our thoughts get into a whirl - especially in times of stress or when a lot of change is happening.
This is when our thinking gets faster and faster - mental images, self talk, and feelings - each feeding the others.
It can be exhausting and confusing. And scary - how to stop it, for instance.
Soon the original stress-causing issues are being compounded by this kind of thinking - and we're into a whirlpool of unhappy thinking.
What is free writing
Writing Freely, or Free Writing as is often called, is stream-of-consciousness writing.
It enables you to become more aware of your self-talk - because you’re getting it out of your head and onto paper (or onto a screen) so you can step back and assess how you are thinking.
Example, what we are thinking about in times like this can often be quite unhelpful: we may be self-criticisnnning, or undermining our own confidence or self esteem, or dismissing our own achievements, or running out of date ‘should-do patterns’.
Or we may be awfulising – imagining dreadful scenarios and consequences.
When to do free writing
1. In times of stress, change, or insecurity: to get clarity, separate the feelings from the facts, and find action points
2. To get to the bottom of things: often feelings sort of gradually creep up on us – these may be anxious or angry – but we’re unsure what’s behind them. This case have a free writing session daily for a week or two – usually the main themes behind our uneasiness will become clear.
How to do free writing
The following is one way of applying Writing Freely - experiment to discover what works best for you.
1. Pick a period each day when you can be alone and undisturbed for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Have a pen or pencil and a few sheets of paper - scrap paper will do as you will be destroying what you have written afterwards. (Yes, you can type it into a word processor - and this does work for some people.)
3. Now begin writing. And, once you have begun, keep writing non-stop! It doesn't matter if you cannot think of anything to write (in this case simply write "I cannot think of anything to write etc etc’.)
4. You are writing everything that comes into your head - as quickly as you can - non-stop as it occurs to you!
5. No censoring - let everything come out on paper - no matter how unusual or surprising or unacceptable or shocking.
6. You are actually transcribing your own inner self-talk. Write fast and furiously. Every single thought. Even the seemingly irrelevant ones. Even the unfinished sentences.
7. Stop writing after doing this for at least ten minutes or, ideally, when the thoughts fully dry up.
8. Now take a break for 5 minutes or so. Get up and walk around. Do something un-related to this activity. You are doing this to change your mood.
9. Next go back and read what you have written. Notice the themes that have come up.
10. Now rationalise these - or, if you are an NLP Practitioner, use the NLP Meta Model to recognise the themes and patterns of your own thinking.
11. When you have finished destroy the notes. This is a very important step because destroying the notes within a few minutes of writing them convinces yourself that no-one will ever read what you have written. And this convinces you that it is OK to put everything on paper.
This method works best when it is done regularly for a few weeks. It is both a way of clearing your mind and of developing awareness what you are saying to yourself inside your head.