How to Just Write

By Cindy Maguire

Welcome to the Sister Writes blog. My name is Cindy and I’ve been a participant of Sister Writes since 2013. I’m delighted to now be taking the role of Sister Writes Blogger-in-Residence. Over the next few months, at least once a week, I’ll be posting about the joys and challenges of writing. I am going to share some of the things that have helped me move from “thinking about writing” to actually doing it. I’ll provide tips on how exactly to do the things on my list…because as all writers know, it’s one thing to know the “theory of writing”, but another thing to put it into practice.

The most important thing is: Just write. Do it. Pick up a pen, a pencil, a purple marker, or open a new file on your screen, or click on the notes icon on your phone, and begin. You can write about: the best thing that’s happened today; the person sitting next to you; the sky; your worst fear; the dream you had last night. The only way to become a writer is to practice writing. That sounds obvious doesn’t it? But somehow “practice” isn’t a word we associate with writing. Lots of us have romantic notions about what it means to be a writer. We may picture great ideas springing to mind unbidden and fully – fully formed and just waiting to be written down in book form.

But here’s the truth: writing is a process. Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, says: “you have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination.” What does that mean? And more important, how do we do it?

It means getting into the habit of writing on a regular basis. Think of it as exercise for your creative self. Start slowly. How about ten minutes per day? That’s an attainable goal. Time yourself. If you don’t know what to write about then start with “I don’t know what to write about. My mind is a blank…” Keep going. Goldberg suggests that you “sit down with the least expectations of yourself.” Don’t judge, criticize, or edit your words. Just write. Keep your pen moving across the page.

This is called ” free writing”, and doing it regularly is at the top of my list. Whatever your dream may be – to write a short story, a memoir, a poem, or a novel – free writing is the way forward. The more you write, the more you want to write. It’s true. You’ll miss it if your schedule takes a wonky turn and you can’t fit some free writing sessions into your week.

You will find that ideas start popping into your head at the oddest times and in the oddest places and you will think, “I must write about that.” This is how stories get written. A spark of an idea begins to crackle and pop in your brain and you feed that fire by putting pen to paper. That is a kind of romantic image isn’t it? But what about those days when ideas are not sparking? Days when nothing fires your imagination? This is when you reach for a list of writing prompts; ideas that someone else has thought of. This is your “go-to” source of inspiration.

Okay, ready to start free writing right now? Here’s how:

Pull out 3 sheets of blank paper.
Grab your favourite pen or pencil.
Set a timer- on the stove, or on your phone or your watch- for 10 minutes.
Here is your writing prompt. Continue this sentence: ” When the sun goes down I …”
Write without stopping for 10 minutes, then put your pen down.
Read it over, out loud if you can.
Any surprises there? Did you change direction halfway through? Did unexpected feelings bubble up to the surface as you wrote? Your free writing pieces will give you insight into what is important to you. They can be great jumping off points for story ideas you want to develop more fully.

Here is a list of 10 additional free writing prompts. Pick your favourite and commit to writing about it for ten minutes this week.

Til next time, keep writing.

10 Free Writing Prompts

The worst mistake I ever made was…
Write about the colour red.
Write about your best friend in elementary school, using your childhood voice.
“When I opened the door ____was standing there and I started to cry.” (continue the story)
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Write about a door that is always locked.
Who puts a smile on your face?
Here are 3 random nouns. What do they make you think about? How does your mind connect them? “disappointment, bridge, clock”
You are going to be invisible for the next 3 hours. How would you make the most of this time?
Describe in detail, the best meal you have ever eaten.