A few years ago, I took a writing workshop called Writing from the Heart with Nancy Slonim Aronie. A first for me, and it was a breakthrough. Timed writing exercises (10 minutes, here’s your prompt, just write—whatever comes out, just write, no editing), reading my words out loud in front of other people (voice wavering, but speaking nonetheless), taking in others’ stories. We only offered positive feedback. Following that workshop, I was part of a writer’s group for a year or so in which we came together every week or two and did timed writing using various prompts, and then we shared (if we so desired), and instead of positive or critical feedback, we simply reflected back words or phrases or sentences that struck us, stuck with us (“recall”). For me, timed writing with prompts is a great way to elude my inner editor and just get some words down on paper. Sometimes they stand on their own or get forgotten as soon as the ink has dried, other times they provide the seed for a longer piece that I work on later. Hearing others’ recall can be a great window into what resonates with an audience. For the freewrites, I generally write for 10 or 12 minutes. The timed piece makes it so that I actually do it (rather than getting overwhelmed with the idea of working on a big essay and forgoing it in favor of reorganizing my files or doing the dishes or obsessively checking my e-mail and RSS feeds; writing for 10 minutes seems less daunting).

Here’s a random (and short) example from my freewrite notebook.

Prompt: This happened.

This happened. I put my fingertips, then my whole hand in. The cold water was electricity. So I sat down on the rock in my orange shorts and took off my left shoe and my left sock, and then my right shoe and my right sock. And I was not alone, but part of me was—the part of me that is often alone when surrounded by people. And I plunged my toes, my feet, my ankles, my shins into that ice-cold mountain water just to feel it. Feel it shoot, and slowly creep at the same time, through my body.

And that’s that. I’ll post various freewrites I’ve done periodically. Keep in mind they’re unedited snippets—while I can guarantee that I won’t be posting any of the ones that make me really cringe, I still feel the need for that disclaimer. The freewrite above was based on a memory from a hike in the Rockies I did with dear old friends when I was out in Colorado visiting in 2004, so I leave you with this associated image.

Me and Jaime in Dream Lake

Jaime and I in Dream Lake