Freewriting is just that: free writing. All it costs you is some time. Freewriting allows you to generate text quickly, without judgment, on a specific topic. You'll tend to write in complete sentences in freewriting, but there should be no proofreading involved. So, if there are misspelled or misused words, that’s fine. If you have fragment sentences, that’s okay too. You must turn off your internal editor to let your ideas flow.
When you have your topic, set your timer (five to ten minutes is plenty to start) and let your pen or fingers fly.
Let’s focus in on the relationships with annoying family members topic. A five minute freewrite on that topic might look something like this:
How to get along with annoying family members
I find thanksgiving and Christmas to be the worst when it comes to getting along with my uncle Marcus. He is always bothering me about how I look because he doesn’t like my nose piercing or he hates my hair color, like last Christmas when it was purple he wouldn’t stop calling me a purple people eater and it was so annoying. He also talks about politics all the time and makes fun of us when we say grace before the meal, which I think is really disrespectful. I’ve talked to my mom and dad about it but they say he’s family so he will always be welcome and that I need to learn how to get along with him or just ignore him. He’s hard to ignore so I’ve figured out some ways to deal with him.
When he talks about how I look I just say that it’s my choice and I’m happy with how I look. I’ve said that same thing over and over to him. My message doesn’t change. Which has seemed to make a difference because I’m not playing into his drama. I’m calm. That calmness also works with the political stuff. I used to get so mad when he’d say stuff I didn’t agree with and keep pushing his ideas. But then I decided to try to figure out why he feels that way. It doesn’t make a difference in how I feel about the issue but if I’m just like, “oh yeah, so why do you feel like that?” it gets him talking in a more reasonable and less annoying way. And when we say grace and he makes fun of it I either ignore him or I have said before, “this is something we do because it is good to be grateful even if you don’t believe in god” and he was kind of surprised by that and didn’t say anything anymore.
First, that’s a lot of text! Second, there are a lot of great ideas in there that could be expanded into advice, like the part about becoming curious about the uncle’s extreme political views rather than being immediately insulted by them. That could easily be expanded into a full paragraph.
Is the freewrite kind of messy and are there errors? Yes, and yes, but the freewrite has also gotten solid ideas down on the page that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
In five minutes, this writer has a great start.
Now, the writer can consider audience and purpose to help focus the ideas even more.