free-writing for journals

 leaning nymph by andreas overland via flickr ccImage:  “Leaning Nymph and a Barn” used with permission of the artist, Andreas Overland via Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

Definition:  Free-writing means anything goes.  Let your mind follow the ink coming out of your pen like a trail.  Don’t’ think about where the trail is taking you.  Just go with whatever crazy idea pops into your head after you read the prompt.  You’ll find prompts under the “Free-writing Prompts” tab in the Young Writer’s Idea Box.  But really, anything can be a prompt like the photograph above, for example, or even just a stream of consciousness (thoughts tumbling out onto the page about anything you are thinking).  Don’t think about spelling or punctuation now.  The trick is to keep writing for the whole time without stopping.  Later, one of these writings may turn into a poem or story, but right now, just concentrate on letting your mind follow the idea for the whole three minutes.


Example:  If the prompt says: “What I should have said was…” you might write:

What I should have said was, “No way!  No way am I going with you!”  But instead, I said, “Wait for me!”  So, we all climbed down into the dark, wet hole.  We knew we were not supposed to go into caves, but this one kept calling us.  It seemed to know our names.  It demanded to be explored.

Then keep writing for the whole three minutes following the idea.


Try It:  Find a prompt behind the “prompts for free-writing” tab.  Close your eyes and point to the page.  Whichever line your finger lands on is your prompt. Set the timer for three minutes and write in your journal or on a blank piece of paper for the whole three minutes!

Hint:  Let your imagination fly.  Go with the first thing that comes to your mind.  No idea is too silly, fantastic, scary, or wrong.  Just put the pen on the paper and write!

Challenge:  Even experienced writers practice this way.  It’s like warming up by playing the scales when you practice the piano.  No fair trading prompts.  Go with the one your finger lands on first, even if you’ve written to that prompt before.  You’ll be surprised how soon your mind will learn to play this game!

Extend your talent!   Go back into your free-writing on this page or any other page in your journal and read your entry, circling power-words that pop out at you.  For example, from the above example journal entry, I might circle way, wait, climb, dark, wet, caves, names, & demanded.

Now use these words (you don’t have to use them all) as your writing prompt for a poem or piece of short fiction, adding as many other words as you wish to the piece.  Like this:

do not wait!

climb with me

over the branches

of this green tree

how she leans

demands to know

what the darkness

cannot show

wisdom      wonder

full of play      fun

for children    

night      & day

(c) d.  ellis phelps

Teachers & parents:  Feel free to use and distribute this prompt with the following attribution:  The Young Writer’s Idea Box, (c) d. ellis phelps, 2016.  Submit your student’s finished work for publication here via the “contact us” link.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016.  Her first full length manuscript of poetry, what holds her, is under submission.