Last July, one of the instructors I worked with at SBBCollege showed me her writing notebook. It was just a plain spiral-bound notebook. Nothing fancy. But it caught my attention right away, and I had to ask myself, "Why didn't I write regularly in a writing notebook?"
I go back and forth between loving paper and "attempting" to become paperless. Early last year, I discovered Evernote, which is awesome by the way, and I tried to keep track of story ideas there. I will say that this works for the storage of ideas, but not the creation of them, and after seeing Jamie's notebook, I realized what I was missing: I had forgotten about the power of freewriting.
You probably wouldn't believe that of me now, but freewriting is a practice I had underestimated. What was crazy, was I had to ask myself, "How could I have overlooked freewriting when I consider myself its biggest cheerleader?" When I arrived home that evening, I pulled out an unused composition notebook and started writing right away.
This practice slowly formed into a morning pages routine, and since then, has found its own groove between freewriting, journaling, and bullet journaling, but the best part? I've written every single day since Jamie showed me her notebook. In the past when I attempted to journal every day, I would start off strong but then eventually I get to the point where I'm writing maybe once a week; not this time. Freewriting every day has boosted my creativity like I never expected.
This is not journal writing. Or at least not traditional journal writing (you can read all about different styles of journaling in this post here). I don't write about the daily humdrum. I write down blog topics or outlines, story ideas, character development, story beats, social media goals, website design ideas, marketing plans, etc. Pretty much anything that falls under the large umbrella of creative entrepreneur, I write about in, what I call, my bullet journal. (But really, it's just a notebook and any notebook would work for this practice.)
In the past year:
- I am less stressed. I work though anything about creativity that is bothering me. For example, I was working on an idea to write a different type of fiction under a pen name, but by thinking about this through freewriting, I realized this wasn't working for me and was stressing me out. So I closed shop on the pen name idea.
- I've discovered what I really want out of being an entrepreneur. The idea for eltscott.com came through freewriting, and since then, I have been able to express myself through other creative outlets that don't fit my author brand or this site. I spent a lot of time in this notebook narrowing down what I wanted this business to be, and if you've been around since last July, you'll know it's changed A LOT!
- I also used the same strategy for my author website and I've rebranded it as well thanks to freewriting.
- It has been easier to write fiction in the mornings. I don't like to have every detail of a story planned out, but I do like a few stepping stones to follow. I just think better though pen than I do a keyboard. Whenever I'm feeling stuck on where I want my story to go, I open this notebook and get to writing. A good part of Owl Flight: Season Three has come through daily freewrites.
- It has also been easier to write blog posts and create online courses like Write It Your Way because before I ever sit at my computer to create, I use my journal to freewrite + brainstorm. I already know my goals and my direction before writing, which makes the actual writing part, pretty fast (a tip I recommend to anyone who struggles to write regular blog posts!).
There are, of course, a few steps I've followed that have helped me write in my notebook every day:
- Choose a notebook that you are comfortable with, but don't choose one that's expensive or too fancy. The problem I find with these type of notebooks is we usually don't want to ugly them up, and freewriting isn't about being pretty: it's messy and chaotic. I suggest a plain, simple, and cheap notebook. I mention my favorite notebook here along with some of my other writing essentials, which you can download from the library. (Don't have access to the super secret password for the resource library? Grab it here!)
- Make writing in this notebook part of a habit you have already established. For example, I like writing in the evening because that's when I need to braindump. I already have a habit of washing the dishes, straightening up the house, and reading before I go to bed. So what I did was add "Freewrite 20 minutes" between cleaning and reading. It's easy to remember to write when writing is part of a routine. (When I write in the mornings, I like to write after playing piano and before eating breakfast.) Where in your schedule/routine can you squeeze in freewriting?
- Set a timer. Rather than constantly looking at the clock wondering how long I've been writing, I just set a time for 20 minutes, and I don't stop writing until the timer goes off.
- Anything I write that's really important or I want to use/remember: I transfer to Evernote. (It's just so much easier to search here than it is in my bullet journal.)
There is nothing wrong with the digital world. In fact, I think it's fantastic, and I love how easy it is to type books on a computer. I couldn't write out an entire novel by hand. However, with all the technology at our fingertips, I think we are missing out on good old fashioned freewrites by hand.
If you are a creative biz owner, a blogger, or a writer and don't currently freewrite every day, I challenge you to pick up a cheap notebook the next time you're at the grocery store and start. You never know what you might find; I didn't realize what I would find when I began this process.
Psst...not sure how to get started or what to include in your writer's notebook? Check out the library of free resources. We've got you covered!
If you either already have a writer's notebook or are going to accept the writer's notebook challenge, tell me in the comments below!