What is free flow writing and how do I do it?

By Gemma | 12th December 2017
Expressive writing workshop; Life makeover retreat Europe, Expressive writing workshop

Free flow writing can be a great tool to help us reflect, process emotions, and unlock our creative mind. As another year draws to a close, and a new one is ready to begin, now is a great time to explore free flow writing. Many of us will have resolutions or goals for the year ahead, but perhaps something is stopping us from moving forward. Read on to learn more how free flow writing can help with this.

What is free flow writing?

At times, it can feel hard to use our voice to communicate, to say how we feel or what we think. Perhaps, we don´t even know what that is – it´s too hard or painful to express. Free flow writing can be a powerful method to draw out hidden trauma and deep belief systems, and help shine light on issues that hold us back.

In order to move forward we need to bring out the past so that we can let it go. Free flow writing acts as an outlet, like an emotional purge or detox. As we get caught up in our own narrative, stories and points of view, free flow writing is a way of getting this out and down on paper to help us see things from a new perspective. From this, we can gain insights into patterns of behaviour that may not be serving us, and help us to become more mindful of our actions (see our article on Mindfulness of thoughts here ).

Our mind is always chattering away in the foreground, often overruling what our heart or gut is telling us. Free flow writing enables us to put the noise aside and provide space for the subconscious to speak up, and allow the real nuggets of creativity and inner wisdom to come to the fore.

Free the mind

First, we want to get our conscious thoughts out of the way, so that our subconscious can flow. Connecting pen to paper acts like a channel running directly from the subconscious mind and streaming onto the page. Once in this state of flow, it´s effortless. This is when the magic occurs and we can tap into our true self to allow stifled emotions to rise to the surface. Once these emotions have risen, we can see them for what they are, process them, let them go and allow for more creativity to flow.

How to use free flow writing

There are no real rules to free flow writing. The point is that it is freeing! Don´t edit, or censor. Don´t worry if it makes sense, and it doesn´t matter about grammar, spelling, or the use of slang. No-one else will read it! Try to write without judgement. This is your time to let go and be honest with yourself in how you feel.

Write using pen to paper rather than using a keyboard. Using a keyboard means you´ll be thinking about how you type, and may be put off by the little red lines telling you that you have misspelt something! Using longhand helps stimulate flow and is a more natural process.

Find yourself a special notepad to use as your free flow journal. A place where you can keep your thoughts. It´s worth noting that this is not the same as a diary. A diary catalogues what you did during the day, it focuses more on the external. A journal is a collective stream of consciousness and subconsiousness that conveys feelings and thoughts. You may not even mention what you did, only how you felt.

Try not to look back over what you have written or stop the pen moving. Just keep writing, even if that means repeating your thoughts or writing the same sentence over again. Rather than continuing to engage the conscious mind, you want to ultimately keep a flow of the subconscious. By keeping the pen moving we remove the temptation to analyse what we´ve written, and therefore judge it.

Find a comfortable space where you will not be interrupted and has good lighting so you´re not straining your eyes. Turn off phones and other disturbances. Set some time aside for this exercise, whether it’s two, five or ten minutes. Start small if you’re new to it and it feels strange. You can it build up. If you overrun that’s great, you have more to say! But try not to stop before the timer goes off.

Here at La Crisalida Retreats in Spain, we have an Expressive Writing workshop, as part of our Life Makeover retreats. We use it to complement our physical detox programme. The workshop works as a mental and emotional cleanse, and can be used to express feelings both positive and negative, dreams or desires.

There are two ways you can try free flow writing at home. You might use them together, or individually:

1. Mind dump

Most of us have the same thoughts rolling continuously around in our head. It´s good to get this down on paper, then we can see it more clearly for what it really is. Don’t think about it too much, just get whatever is on your mind out, so you can create more space for the important stuff! You can do this last thing at night to clear your head so you can sleep more easily, or first thing in the morning.

In The Artist´s Way (external link), Julia Cameron uses what she calls ´Morning Pages´. Cameron recommends writing three pages as soon as you wake up. It can include dreams, things you need to do, the fact that you still feel tired, anything! Once you´ve got through all the ´mind-dumping´ this is when gems of wisdom, insight and creativity start to arise.

Again, we try not to read over what we have written. This is a purge, just a way getting things out of the mental spiral, and moving forward.

2. Focussed flow

To gain the most out of a focussed flow, a clearer mind is more effective, so you may need to go through the previous process beforehand.

A focussed flow can be targeted on a specific issue or subject that you need to work through, such as a relationship, finance, career etc. The flow could be focussed on a particular reactive behaviour, and so we explore how that shows up for us. For example, if we tend to react with anger, how does it feel, where do you feel it, what images come up for you, is there a specific situation or person that invokes that emotion in you?

If the flow changes direction and you start writing about other things, check in to see if you are avoiding the subject. Maybe explore that too! Be curious to see what comes up for you as you write.

At the retreat, we offer an expressive writing class, in which we practice a focussed flow. Sometimes we choose to look at words like love, balance, freedom and dreams. We use a creative approach to help to integrate the left and right brain.

Let it flow

Let go of expectation and judgement, write from the heart rather than the head, and allow the words to spill from you. It may feel strange at first, but once you find your rhythm your creativity will begin to flow.

gemma health and wellbeing mentor at La Crisalida yoga retreat
Gemma

Gemma is a yoga teacher and is currently studying counselling.

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