How To Do a Fast-Write or “Stream of Consciousness” Writing Exercise in 3 Steps

Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way, calls stream of consciousness writing upon waking, “morning exercises.” This writing exercise is an excellent practice to loosen up your writing muscles. Preferably you practice this first thing in the morning, writing in response to a reading or prompt.
There’s some brain science to handwriting versus typing, so that’s my suggestion to really unlocking your writing flow. You can buy a book of writing prompts or simply sit in your surroundings for a few minutes each morning absorbing the details, the overall vibe, the difference from yesterday or last year in the setting or in yourself. Imagine you are someone else seeing it for the first time, etc..
Find your wonder, and write. So, now you’re inspired. How do you get started with Fast-writing?

The 3 Step Fast-Write Exercise

Step 1: Set Your Writing Space Scene

Lock the door or tell your house-mate you are going to be unavailable for a few minutes. It’s important you aren’t distracted. Thank them in advance…then, lock the door or go outside under a tree or to an outdoor cafe where you will be safely “distanced.”
Start with an empty journal or moleskin booklet and keep it exclusively for your morning Fast-Write or “Morning” Exercises. You might keep them by year. They will fit nicely on your bookshelf.

Step 2: Write As If No One Will Read Your Words

Your words are yours. Your truths are true. When we give ourselves complete freedom to write what is rolling around in our heads and deep down in our souls, we step into the flow. Don’t censor yourself. Imagine you are a mustang and I’ve just opened up a fence. Now, write free!

Step 3: Set Your Timer

Set a 2 minute timer (use a “tiny” hourglass or iPhone timer). Yes, this is enough time! Write your response without stopping. Do not erase, stare out the window, reread, research, change words, or stop writing during the time, etc. No need to worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling.
You are trying to get to the writer “flow” freeing it from the first second you put pencil to paper thanks to no worries about grammar or self-editing. Practicing Fast-Write Writing Exercises will get noisy you out of the way of the creative flow begging for the blank page.

Tips for Timed Writing Exercises

5 Minute Blue Hourglass
I use both my iphone timer and a 5 Minute Hourglass. If you are just getting started, set your iPhone to 2 minutes. The key is the 2-5 minute time frames. Keep it very short. If you need more time once you start, flip or repeat your timer as many times as you need til you’ve gotten whatever “it” is out.
What you will have, at the very least, it is a record of your thoughts. You are capturing a moment, “stepping into the Creative River,” as my husband says. You might reread it later and find a story start, start a poem or song, or hatch an idea for an essay. Or, you might just call it a therapy session and lock it away.
This is what is important to remember: 1) Your journal is a judgement-free zone. 2) You are practicing getting started, overcoming fear of the blank page, thumbing your nose at “writer’s block” (no such thing…). 3) Even 2 minutes qualifies as “having written” today.
So, let’s get started!

Fast-Writing Exercise Prompt: “What is missing?”

Look around you. What is missing? Write about this missing something. Who or what is it? Why is it missing? Describe it with your senses. How is the room/scene different/empty/better without it?
What would bring it back?
This is a judegement-free zone here at RTW Workshop and on our private FB page. I’d love to read what you’ve written in response to “What is missing?” Post your favorite sentence, phrase or epiphany from this fast-write writing exercise and how many minutes you wrote in the Comment section below.

More Fast-Write Exercise Prompts

I’ll post Fast-write prompts on this Read Then Write Workshop website (category: writing exercises) and in our RTW private FB group page regularly. I hope you’ll share some of yours in the comments below. That’s mentally freeing! Then, it’s up to you whether you’d like “to be read.” 🙂


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