For past three weeks, I’ve been practicing “free-writing” for the first time in my life.
I have never journaled or kept a diary (except for a brief, embarrassing phase as a teenager when I wrote about boys…), and never had much interest in doing so. I have made notes on things. I have written for a purpose – for reports, to-do lists, blogs, emails, letters, class planning and articles. But never just for the sake of writing itself. I couldn’t see the point.
Occasionally I’d attend a workshop in which we were asked to “free-write” on a topic for a short length of time. I usually found these exercises awkward. I didn’t know what to say. Often, we were invited to share what we wrote afterward. I was aware of this possibility beforehand, and this added a performance aspect to it for me. I wanted to do it right, but didn’t quite know what was expected. Other people’s answers – or rather writings – seemed so much more creative than mine.
To be clear, this was my interpretation of events. It was the story I made up about it in my mind. I’m sure the teachers and facilitators did not expect everyone to share, nor require it. Nevertheless, I felt the pressure to perform.
Now I find myself doing a course on content creation as part of my ongoing business education. Obviously, I already write for my business, and have done for a while, but it does not usually come particularly easily. I can spend a LONG time on a single email or post, pondering what to say and how to say it in the best way possible.
I had no desire to spend even more time writing. What I wanted to learn, was how to write more quickly and easily.
Well, one of the course requirements is that we write every day.
Many people, including the course leader, advocated “free-writing” based, I believe, on Julia Cameron’s concept of “Morning Pages.”
I decided to give it a go. To just write – anything and everything that came into my mind – for 15 minutes in the morning after breakfast. I’ve now been doing it for about three weeks.
It has been a totally different experience from those brief workshop experiences.
For one thing, it is private – just for me. No one will ever read it but me. That certainly freed me up to write whatever came out.
The idea is simply to write.
If I don’t know what to write about, I write that. If the cat starts meowing behind me, I write about that. It’s a stream of consciousness. My writing follows my thoughts. It’s like observing my thoughts and writing them at the same time.
It’s been enlightening.
“Free-writing” has helped me see my thoughts more clearly.
And interestingly, even though “free-writing” has no specific goal or purpose in itself, I am aware of how much it has been helping me with ideas for blog posts (this one came out of my free-write last Tuesday), emails, class planning, thinking through problems, and more.
I’m finding – and admittedly I’ve only been doing this a few weeks – when I do sit down to write a blog post, for instance, it comes more quickly and easily. The groundwork – the thinking – has already been done. I’m half way there already.
It’s a wonderfully indirect approach that seems to be working. An activity with no purpose has indirectly helped with my larger purpose!
It’s like the Alexander Technique approach to solving our back pain or performance anxiety in which you take a step back from the goal and instead learn ways to use your thinking and awareness to bring more ease in yourself, which indirectly starts to undo the harmful tension patterns causing the problems in the first place.
It also reminds me of how I often get my best ideas for blogs, new programs, solutions to problems, and so forth when I’m having a walk or taking a shower – NOT when I sit down to specifically focus on them. In fact, I’m not alone in this – just today I read an article which discussed how walking and moving helps our creativity.
Creativity and productivity, it seems, can be fostered through indirect means – from seemingly purposeless activities.
I am free to write and I am free to walk – for no purpose except to engage in the activity itself.
And from these purposeless activities I gain insights, inspiration and ideas that move me forward.
This is the gift of having no purpose!
What do you do that has no purpose in and of itself beyond the activity itself? And do you find that is indirectly helps you in other areas of your work and life? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to leave a comment in the space below.
Image © dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo
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