One of the biggest challenges for me was giving myself permission to write. It was something I wanted to do, but not something I thought I could do. Ultimately, I came to realise that for me not-writing was a much bigger failure than failing at writing.
So, with permission to fail at writing, I went to my first Freefall Writing Workshop.
Freefall Writing is a practice developed by Barbara Turner-Vesselago, it is about getting your internal reader and editor out of the way so you can get a draft on paper, or in other words, just write. A lot of writers talk about the power of intuition in the writing process, but Barbara actually provides a framework to allow that to happen.
The Freefall Writing “precepts” are:
- Write what comes up
- Don’t change anything
- Give all the sensuous detail
- Go where the energy is, or go fearward
- Observe “the ten-year rule.” – or, let it compost.
I have a huge bias towards freefall, as it’s where I started. For me, it gives me a way to
- Get started and keep going
- See the world as my characters are experiencing it
- Stop self-censoring, to let all the weird and uncomfortable onto the page
- Let the story unfold, authentically as its own story, and,
- In the revisions process, to open-out scenes to really “show not tell”.
Barbara’s book “Writing without a parachute: the art of freefall” has it all covered.
Barbara also runs Freefall workshops around the globe – now online in time zones to suit residents of different countries.
I should disclose that I am such a Freefall fan, I have coordinated seven of her workshops in Australia and will be hosting more in October 2020 and beyond. If you can spare the time, it is an incredibly enriching experience that will really help progress your craft, no matter what stage you are at. The workshops always attract a mix of new and practised writers as well as established authors returning to generate new work.
Getting words down
- Writing daily
A lot of writers talk about this and I kind of agree, when working on a draft there are a lot of benefits of staying with the work. Even if it’s just half an hour a day, being able to get something out on the page keeps it moving.
I also find daily journaling helpful, I refer to it as doing my scales, it doesn’t matter what the words are, just that the muscle is being exercised. I often find it helps me clear whatever is going on in my head and life, to get the clutter out of the way for the actual work. It can also be a useful place to practice new techniques or styles. And, when I have lost my writing habit, it is the first thing I turn to to get going again.
- The “Pomodoro Technique”
The idea is that you write for 15 minutes, then take 5 minutes break away from your desk. Write for another 15, another 5 off. I have only had to resort to this twice, but it works. I’ve heard other writers say they rely on it religiously to keep them active and focussed at their desk.
- Writing exercises
There are all sorts of writing prompts that can help you explore the characters or world you are writing about, or to just get you writing something. Barbara lists several at the end of each chapter about Freefall in Writing without a Parachute, but you can find countless others online.
I’ve also found it really helpful to remember that the writing doesn’t have to be good, that you can always go back and fix it later. Early on, my now friend, author and writing mentor Robin McLean said to me, “I know I’m just going to write something shitty, so I write something shitty, and then I make it less shitty and less shitty and less shitty until it’s something I can tolerate”. I’ve found it really liberating not to worry about writing a perfect first draft. I’ve heard Graeme Simsion say something similar; if he is struggling he just lowers his expectations of the writing, again.
You just can’t edit a blank page.