The Value of Free Writing

I used to think that free writing was something that we did in school when the teacher wanted us to practice our writing skills without us knowing.  In high school, there was creative writing class, and we did free writing again, but those snippets of ideas were forgotten after the notebooks were graded and filed away.  Everything that we did back then was for a grade; it didn’t really hold much dedication, rhythm or meaning to the act of free writing.

This week I started free writing again, but somehow it felt different.  Why this act of free writing felt new eluded me until this morning when I realized that it was the ritual of writing without borders or criticism that changed the feeling.  There is something meaningful when you open a new notebook and sit at the desk for five or ten minutes and simply write about nothing in particular.  The pen becomes  a divining rod for ideas.  The writing feels more real and deeply rooted in emotion when it is all about putting pen to page rather than staring at a blank Microsoft screen.  It just works better.

I hadn’t really intended on learning anything today, but then sometimes that just happens, doesn’t it?

The Plunge

Out on Georgian Bay there is a rocky outcrop that hangs out over the water.  On a clear day, if you stand at the edge of this cliff, you can see straight down into the deep, cool waters.  There aren’t any rocks jutting out below, making it the perfect spot to take a leap of faith–feel the balmy air on a summer day rush past as your feet meet the lapping cold below.  It’s kind of a scary feeling to take a leap like that.  To be honest, I’ve never liked the feeling of falling, even if you know with absolute certainty that the water will be there to embrace you (perhaps with a bit of a spanking if you land the wrong way).  Needless to say, I’m usually that person who says “I’ll just slip into the water on my own time–just give me a minute, won’t you?”

But this morning I took a different plunge of sorts.  I started a writing course which I think will inspire me in new ways and it made me remember this cliff.  Every summer, I would drive my little aluminum boat out to the cliff, or past it on my way to wherever I was going for the day and I would think about whether or not I was brave enough to jump from the top.

Confession: I still haven’t taken that particular plunge.  Maybe it is the organizing, worry-a-holic who keeps on stopping me from jumping off of that rock.  It might just be common sense, because who really thinks it is a good idea to fall from such a height?

So why did I return there, to the rock that I never leaped off of this morning while working on writing exercises?

I think it is a reminder that even if you think jumping off of cliffs is imprudent, there is always a good leap–an important plunge–that you need to take.