I’ve been doing it more or less regularly for several decades. I haven’t counted exactly how long, but it goes back to when I was in college in the 1980s. I had participated in an “Elisabeth Bing” writing workshop for two years as part of my sociology classes. It was one of my favorite subjects.
I maintain this habit a bit like someone who jogs at dawn. I try to do it very early in the morning, as early as possible, while it is still dark and my mind is in the in-between, between sleep and wakefulness.
Sometimes I stop more or less long, and when I feel heavy, not very trained, or tired of myself, I always end up coming back to it.
At the moment, I’m doing it almost every day since February.
There are days when it doesn’t work at all. The best attitude is to expect nothing from it. You have to write, let everything come, even the “ah” and the “uh” and the “ready-made sentences,” which, if repeated enough, can get on your nerves (there are days like that). Sometimes I even write things like “you have to stop writing ‘maybe’… Why always, maybe? It’s not very assertive to say ‘maybe’ Well, you know, the kind of things that are of no interest to any reader.
In freewriting or stream of consciousness, whatever you want to call it, the words must flow unimpeded.
For my part, I write in a notebook. I prefer the relationship between pen and paper. Nathalie Goldberg, the author of “Writing to the Bones” (I can’t recommend it enough, this one is an excellent book, republished many times, which is a proof of quality), says that between the pen and the heart, the path is always more direct… I can feel that.
One has to differentiate between ideas and thoughts. Ideas are constructed; they are meaningful; they carry questions, affirm, go somewhere, carry an intention, a project. Thoughts are more fleeting. They pass like clouds and belong to the diffuse mode, and often seem to be meaningless.
Natalie Goldberg compares daily freewriting to composting. We throw away all kinds of organic waste, all the raw material of our lived experiences that will gradually settle. The result is never immediate; sometimes, it even stinks.
I would not like my relatives to find this notebook if I were to die suddenly. They would think I was crazy. They would think, “my God, who have I been living with all this time.” I’m being a bit dramatic, I admit.
Still, to prevent this from happening, all my notebooks begin with: “This is a diary, its contents are the sole concern of its author. Please take it into account”.
I have complete confidence in my partner, and I know that she will respect my wishes. But it makes me feel better to have written it down. I feel like it frees me from the weight of an outside eye, and it also leaves my internal sensor away.
With freewriting, you have to be patient and, once again, trust yourself. And, one day, when you least expect it, a miracle happens a splendid red tulip or a poem or whatever grows. You’ll go a big wow. You’ll celebrate.
But you’ll have to get back to it. Because nothing can be taken for granted. There are no certainties. Being honest or authentic is accepting to live with this feeling of uncertainty, to understand that the result is less important than the process that leads to it.
That’s what one has to focus on, I think. Staying in the here and now, at the moment of the heartbeat. That’s what the writer’s discipline is all about. Being patient and faithful to oneself.