As writers, we're often advised to "stick to the topic" and "get to the point." This is usually good advice, but not always. Sometimes it leads to writing that's shallow and one-dimensional, as though the writer had prematurely closed down the process of inquiry, just to produce something neat and tidy with no madwoman in the attic.

One antidote to this obsession with order and purpose is Freewriting, which is almost by definition chaotic and open-ended. When freewriting, you follow your language and thinking wherever they lead without regard for the consequences. You may get so lost in the act of writing that you're almost in a trance, a meditative state, a place where the words write you.

If you've had good results with freewriting, you may want to carry the process even further by freewriting around the subject, or by writing off the subject . You may get so lost in the writing that you're almost in a trance, a meditative state, a place where the words write you. Sound mystical? Maybe so, but poets, for centuries, have spoken of "the muse," the voice of poetic inspiration that speaks to and through them in their work.

Follow the stream of your consciousness, tap into your internal language. If a voice leaps up and says, "No!" engage that voice. Challenge it. Enter it. Let the subject find you.

Will you revise this later? Almost certainly. You'll move or expand some parts, cut others. Almost all writing needs revision, and this free-ranging approach may need more than other, more formulaic and pragmatic approaches, but it can also yield richer, more satisfying results.


5.8 Freewrite for ten minutes, allowing yourself to range freely over whatever images and subjects offer themselves. When you finish, go back over your freewrite and highlight four key words or images. Now do four more ten-minute freewrites, using the highlighted words and images as springboards. Again, let the writing go where it will. When you finish, read back over all five drafts. Try cutting and pasting them together into a single short essay.