Writing 101, Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice

Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Nailing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 on your alto sax. Making perfect pulled pork tacos. Drawing what you see. Or, writing a novel. Each requires that you make practice a habit.

Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.

Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.

– Natalie Goldberg

Author Natalie Goldberg says to “burn through to first thoughts, to that place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor.” Here are some of her rules of free writing practice from Writing Down the Bones, which we recommend you keep in mind:

  • Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you’ve just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
  • Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
  • Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)
  • Lose control.
  • Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
  • 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.)

Jorge Luis Borges said: “Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.” So, what are you waiting for? Get writing. Fifteen minutes. Go. And then, do it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

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  1. This sounds like so much fun I am going to start it write away! It’s going to be super hard not to want to stop and edit but I’m going to try. Really enjoying how this pushes you as a writer. This one is going to force me to accept my mistakes and post it anyway.

  2. I updated my blog yesterday, and i’ll try to keep up the pace, with a post at least once a week.
    If you are into Computers, programming and tecnologies, pay me a visit!

      1. I’m happy to know all of you got a quick laugh out of my post, especially since that was the whole point of my post :)

  3. Santiago, the old man in The Old Man and the Sea says,

    It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

    That’s how I feel about writing practice. It would be awesome to get lucky and write that perfect piece without even trying, but luck is not predictable nor is it guaranteed. Best to write every day so that when inspiration strikes you’ve got the skills to execute your vision.

    1. This is so true. That’s what I’m focusing on as well. Creating a habit of consistent writing is the only way we’ll learn how to capture the idea inside us and paint it with words…

      1. Yes! There used to be many many times that an idea would strike and I didn’t write it down because I thought, “This is so awesome there’s no way I’ll forget it.” And then, of course, I forgot it. Creating a writing habit has made me scatter notebooks all over the place and now I try to capture those thoughts while they are fresh. Speaking of which, time to set my 15-minute timer for today’s assignment.

    2. Great quote. I got this advise time and time again. But I am often struck with writer’s block. (No! I’m just being lazy… LOL!)

  4. It’ll be interesting to read what other people write when they’re not thinking too hard about it. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing but all the hard work of writing down uncensored thoughts took place 18 years ago!

  5. Twist and shout! This ought to be fun.
    (Was this free writing once called prewriting or scratch copy back in ancient times? People are in such a rush they want to skip “unnecessary” steps to get it done. Their results may not be as strong if this beginning is skipped.)
    EXCELLENT post. Bones is good. Oh, skeletal, too.

    1. I think I might be old enough to qualify for having been alive in ancient times. I’ve never heard of free writing by another name. Maybe it’s known by other names in other countries. Not sure.

      Anyone else know of other names for free writing?

      1. Not sure about other countries, thing don’t always translate across
        (my comments were something of a giggle- oh, forgot the smilie faces…sorry about that)
        Writing phrases, incomplete ideas – no mechanics involved? Rambling – brainstorming – Quick writes – Jump starts – 5 minute somethings, I forget that term – peopel area always renaming things
        Free writing as it lets the brain start sorting and grouping ideas and thoughts without interference.
        Bashes writer’s block and fear. Provides focus.
        People worry too much. WIll people judge what I do? Seriously – everyone else is so worried about their own, they won’t bother with yours….
        So put the first slash down and just write. It’ll be fine. Come back later and pretty it up
        And your brain will be smiling, too.
        (Sitting down and being quiet now…no more giggling or coffee. I promise, Krista!)

  6. Sometimes I get discouraged. I don’t write about specifics, just random thoughts as they come, stories I create, and then I don’t get so much traffic. Guess I’ll pick up again. These prompts are quite helpful. I see myself picking up bit by bit.

    1. You’ve got to write because you can’t not write — that that idea burning inside your brain has to get put onto a page or a screen or it simply won’t leave you alone, won’t allow you to get on with your day.

      If you’re writing simply to attract traffic, you might be disappointed.

      People who are passionately interested in things attract like-minded folks like a magnetic force. Write about the things you love, the things that drive you crazy, the things you feel strongly about. The readers will come.

      1. Thanks… Like I said, today’s not such a good day for me (WAY too much going on mentally) but I refuse to give up. I appreciate your comment. Thank you again.

    1. that’s okay. I actually am having my son listen to Roar right now. It’s a fun song. The main thing is trying everyday, and eventually good things are bound to start to happen. :)

    2. Isn’t the whole point of this challenge for us to TRY? I loved your short, sweet and to the point blog entry. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Thanks… Yes, even on the worst of days, I’m not giving up. I have a book in my head; day by day I get a little bit more written. I’m not out for fame and fortune. I’ve got a story to tell. Whether it’s a best seller or no publishing firm even looks at it, I have to get it out of my head. These daily prompts are helping immensely, as is all of your support.

    1. Not meant to be is one of my favorite Theory of a Deadman songs. I can understand your point of view on that one. I am not the hugest fan of a simple plan so I cannot relate to those songs. Good choices though.

  7. I free write better using the computer than on a piece of paper. For some reason that just works for me and the words flow much more freely. Maybe it’s because I feel like it’s easier to go back and revise later. I hate scratching things out. Anyone else have a preference?

    1. I know the feeling I used to have a typewriter before it broke down and I would write on that every day. It’s still my preferred preference to write on but I guess my main preference is the computer too. I still write on paper though, especially if I get up at 3 in the morning and have an idea that I can’t let go of! Yes, I do slepe with a journal to write in right next to me!

      1. My students all love writing on their phones. I am SO slow at texting or typing this way so this isn’t an option for me, but I do jot down ideas.

      2. I too jot down mostly my headlines and guidlines on paper, or at times write the post first on paper. The thing is all writing material should be handy. The mobility of the device allow me to publish post anywhere, anytime and that is the reason for the preference.

    2. I am the same way. I cannot use paper because I cannot keep up with my thoughts on paper. I think so fast I have to be able to write as fast as I think and that is not possible if I want to be able to read it! So I use my laptop or one of the computers, usually the laptop because I type so fast the computer cannot keep up on some of the computers! That and my daughter is usually playing games on my gaming computer leaving me the laptop of my work.

    3. Hi @amforte66! I would much rather write with a pen and notebook first. Scribbling away with a pen is faster for me – that is as long as the pen writes! Lol! 😄

      1. I wish I liked writing in a journal and have tried, it just doesn’t flow. It is good to know which one works best for you though! :)

    1. She’s got such a great style and I love her emphasis on just letting yourself go, not censoring what you have to say.

  8. > 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.)

    That is scary! I’m not able to write like that yet, tooo afraid of what would come up, my anger, all the negative things I keep burying deeper and deeper for no one to see and therefore read…

  9. I had a hard time with the first free writing assignment but today it all just fell out! I didn’t do any editing or anything while typing but will confess I re-read it and made a few changes before I published …. couldn’t help it… Otherwise it’s just what was in my head …

  10. Hello everyone,
    Here is my offering for today;
    I have difficulties scrolling through the posts for various reasons. If anyone would like me to look at there work, please just leave a comment here, or if you visit my offering and comment there about if you think I relayed the feelings this time, which I don’t think I did too well today, I will go to your page and follow you so I can see your work the next time. No Follow backs required.
    Much Respect

    1. I loved this! I had such a similar experience it is nice to read that I’m not the only one because sometimes having a conversion experience later in life makes me feel like I could be going crazy. I do talk about my religion one-on-one, but very rarely on public forums. Your post reaffirmed my commitment let more of myself come out in my blog. thanks.

      1. Thank you. I feel that faith doesn’t mean your truth of imagination cannot be expressed. A writer can separate the two when others cannot. I don’t just put it does direct how my writing is done and thus can be read by anyone. You would be surprised at how many similarities there are around the world. There are more similar things than not.

    2. Hi Ronovan, we’ve found it difficult to scroll through all the posts too — so we turned off “infinite scroll” on the Commons. You’ll be able to scroll to the bottom of a page, then go to previous pages. Should make everything easier for all of us to parse. :D

      1. Thank you. I am sorry I have been a bother. I suffered a head injury that makes it difficult to concentrate on things. That along with retro amnesia and short term amnesia is making for a very odd experience doing 101. Thank you for the help.
        Much Respect, Admiration and Gratitude

  11. Even though i write on self development, opportunities available online which is very exciting. Challenges like this will really redefine our emergence and breaking new ground in our blog life. Enjoy :) http:// writing 101, Day Three:Commit to a Practice of Writing/keempres.wordpress .com/2014-6-4/

    1. I wrote about Sing Along with Mitch — and Sweet Violet was one of the songs I learned! I sing it now to my grandchildren, who are not used to silly songs.

  12. Jide, nice to meet you here. I feel a bit lucky having few likes here and there, but i hardly see comments though some followers coming. But one thing certain is we can learn and find a way around getting all that if we’re consistent.

  13. This is AAHHH! I am constantly listening to songs, as is one of the things that I do, and love too many to choose. Then talking free writing…eik! I really have to push myself to not be critical of me. Going in though, going in.

  14. I’ve been called a control freak and a perfectionist. Just reading this assignment scared me. Everything is says not to do, I do ALL the time. But I’m going to give it a try. Is 11 am to early for a drink? :)

    1. Way to go you, for sticking with the original premise of not editing your post. How do you feel about it now, having given it a go?

      1. I’m really enjoying the whole process: the writing, reading the other posts, commenting. But I have to admit I’m still uncomfortable clicking “publish” on something that I haven’t done everything I can to make it my best. It’s a very odd feeling. I’m sticking with it though. Thanks for checking in on me. :)

      2. You’ve got it — the process is the thing. And I share your discomfort on clicking that final “publish” button. The most difficult thing in writing and in editing, I find, is knowing when to stop and get that baby out into the world.

  15. Thank you, this is a great idea and actually sounds like so much fun :3 Can I mention this post on my blog?

    1. Yes, absolutely — please feel welcome to respond to this writing prompt on paper or write a new post on your blog. You’re welcome to share the link to your blog post and ask for feedback from readers, if you like.

  16. I found it challenging to select (only? as many as?) thee pieces. This seems a bit disorganized, so I would appreciate any suggestions on how to improve it.…ngs-in-my-life/

    I was taught to write every day, even if only a blurb, by a writing coach back in college. For the past two years writing has become my vocation, and I write well over 15 minutes each day. Yet I have a long list of topics I stil want to tackle!