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How Freewriting Gets You That Messy First Draft

Dana Bennett
4 min readJan 25, 2020


And helps you build confidence in your unique voice.

In just 15-minute bursts, freewriting will get you to that important first draft. The basic necessity of writing something new.

But lots of us struggle through that first draft — hemming, writing, scratching out, blasting forth then rethinking, back to crossing out. And a first draft feels like the slowest part of the whole process. It doesn’t need to be, though. There are some simple rules you can follow to get that first task done in one or two 15-minute timed writing sessions.

What do I mean by “rules,” though? They’re the ones written down by Natalie Goldberg in “Writing Down the Bones.” You may have come across them somewhere, maybe scoffed at how there could be actual “rules” for writing, didn’t read her book, check them out for yourself.

Here they are, in compressed form. I believe most readers have seen these before.

1. Keep your hand moving. You can write nonsense until the next thought emerges.

2. Don’t cross out.

3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. Don’t even worry about staying in the margins or lines.

4. Lose control.

5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.

6. Go for the jugular. If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.

What do think is the most important thing you need before you sit down to freewrite? An idea? An outline or mindmap? The right medium — paper, computer, phone?

None of these. It’s a TIMER. Use whatever you like — a Pom app, alarm on your phone, or an actual, really cute physical timer. Set it and start writing.

The key is not to stop till the timer goes off. Done. You have a rough draft. It may be garbage. It may be stellar and inspired. But you have likely gotten better focused on what you have to say.

If it’s better than garbage, then you can start working on what you just wrote. It’s ready for additions, revision, rewrite. Or, you may want to take another 15-minute swipe at freewriting. But no editing yet.



Dana Bennett

has survived, achieved many things. Storyteller. BAMus, Univ. of Hawaii. MHumanities, Univ. of Colorado Denver. Liver Transplant, Cleveland Clinic.