What is Free Writing? - Definition, Topics & Examples

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Free writing is a technique writers use to generate ideas and connect concepts. This lesson will explain how it works and how it can help you develop your writing skills.

The Need for New Ideas

Perhaps you have never personally experienced what writers often call writer's block. If you haven't, consider yourself lucky. For professional writers, running out of new ideas is something of a disaster. How can you write something informative or entertaining if you can't think of anything to say on paper? For student writers, too, writer's block can mean that you struggle to write an essay or a research paper, losing peace of mind, enthusiasm for your project, and even some much-needed sleep. Whether you are a young student or a seasoned professional, new ideas are the backbone of the writing process.


So we've established that ways to turn around the situation and generate new ideas are crucial to successful writing. When you are feeling stuck, what are some techniques for recharging your imagination?

Recharging Your Brain
brain energy

You have probably heard of the term brainstorming. We often use this term to refer to the process of bringing up possible ideas at random and making a list. This process is used in clubs, classrooms, and businesses to bring out all the ideas of a group and discuss them. Once several ideas have been shared with the group and reflected upon, it becomes easier to decide on a plan or a project.

How does this process of brainstorming apply to the individual writer? Well, you don't really need a group to come up with ideas of your own. Just get some paper and a quiet spot in which you can think clearly, and write down whatever comes to mind.

Free Writing

A person uses free writing as a prewriting technique in which they write continuously for a certain amount of time and ignore grammar rules. During the free writing process, you use blank paper in the same chronological way that you would if you were writing the story or essay itself. Another way to think of free writing is stream of consciousness. This means that you allow your mind to go where it will, from one idea to another, meanwhile recording your thoughts. Of course, some of what you write down initially will be eliminated later as you plan out your composition in a more organized way. Free writing can help you break free from writer's block, and narrow down a topic.

Free Writing Example

For example, let's say you are deciding on a setting for a story about a young boy who suddenly comes into an inheritance. Your list of possible settings might look something like this:

  • A deserted island
  • 21st century Chicago
  • Ancient Greece

What will likely result when you write is a string of slightly connected ideas that hold clues as to how your story might work best. Let's look at what your free writing on this topic might be. Remember, there is no need to use perfect grammar during free writing.

young boy on a deserted island. how did he get there? is he alone? too many questions! how would he even find out that he is now rich? but what do I know about Ancient Greece? not that much - maybe idea of clothing - seat of democracy - philosophers - not enough to make a story. Chicago i know when we lived there a neighbor did inherit some money could ask mom or grandma about it and make the boy something like me?

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