There are many writers out there with many solutions to the bane of their existence: writer’s block. Among the many remedies (go for a long walk, think deeply in the shower, binge watch “The Office,” etc…) the most common one has to be free write. The idea is, just take a blank page and jot down whatever comes to mind. Then decipher what you have and watch a literary gold nugget just emerge from the she heap! Or at least that is the working theory.
My own experience with this kind of “word vomit” cure-all is less idyllic. I have found that this classic solution to an age-old problem is full of pitfalls.
First of all, writers go into a free write desperate for a solution. Certainly they know of times where it has worked in the past, so they undertake it with preconceived expectations of success. Therefore, whatever they come up with by the end, they expect to find something of true potential. It almost does not matter the substance. If you expect to find a diamond in the rough amidst your “word-vomit” you will probably tell yourself you have one…regardless of reality.
Another pitfall of the free-write is the lack of organization. If you happen to get a nugget of true writing potential to work with – whether it be a creative story idea, an engaging new character, or that magical ending you were hoping for – there is still a daunting task ahead. The free write just might yield some genuine material, but at what cost? Sifting through the mass of superfluous words that your subconscious coughed up is a time-consuming task. Removing all structure can be a helpful way to stimulate the imagination, but trying to re-impose it for use in an actual project can prove quite tricky.
There are some minds who are quite well suited for free-writing. Mine is not one of them. I can count on two fingers the amount of times it has actually worked for me. In fact, my short story for my class’ anthology was quite different than the one I just finished and turned in. It used to be a sort of political satire in an allegory. It was the product of a free write and I initially went with it because it was the only idea I had at the time. But, I had to scrap it fairly early on because it was so convoluted and disorganized. The chaotic environment of the idea’s birth produced nothing but more chaos, way too much to salvage a discernable story from.
In conclusion, be creative with your solutions to the ubiquitous writer’s block. Don’t think that a free-writing “word vomit” is the only way. In the end, word vomit is still a mess, a mess that for some may not be worth dirtying your hands in.