Freewriting is Evil! (But do it anyway)

There was a church in Fresno that believed Freewriting was Satanic.


Obviously, I had to find another church, because I was a writer, and sometimes we can sit down and write without thinking and then suddenly, Snap! We come to, like we’ve been in a trance. We look down on what used to be a white page and we see that we have written a story or a poem in a voice not our own.

It’s an awesome experience, and I’m not giving that up, nor am I willing to attribute such a beautiful part of the creative process exclusively to Satan!

(in the voice of the church lady: Satan!)

church lady

Don’t free write! said the preacher at that church. It’s communication with demons and the dead, and that’s an abomination to the Lord.

I believed it immediately.

Freewriting is communication with the dead.

Yes, Satan is in your pen, but are there also many other types of angels dancing on the head of your pen.

The idea may sound ridiculous, but sometimes ridiculous-sounding things can be true, like, for example, Trump is president.

But just because something sounds ridiculous doesn’t mean it can’t be true, perhaps it’s only that the logic of it is so far removed from our everyday limitations of observation that it seems crazy.

Maybe during freewriting, as you follow the rhythm of your hand moving across the page and you feel the way the pen or pencil slides, scatters, rubs the white (which is perhaps why I write with a gel pen G-2 07, because I like the way it feels so smooth) maybe that kinetic movement influences the rhythm of your language. You go into strange arm and hand convulsions, as if your body was overtaken by a spirit.

hand draw hand

And maybe when you free write, even if you don’t feel the pen in your hand, you hear a voice, and the voice might not be yours, but you follow it and what it writes surprises you.

It could be the voice of a spirit or a ghost, and if you follow it, by any other name, you channel that spirit.

I think most writers have felt this before, and in fact, when Lorca writes about duende fighting against form, I think this is what he means, that demon (spirit, ghost) we channel, that manifestation of duende in our sound tries to pull us away from the form, that is, the content, the meaning, the sum of the elements.

The voice is not made of matter and does not need to be grounded in (imaginary) space.

Every writer knows that the best writing is rewriting, and while we are revising what may have come to us while freewriting, we often need to restrain the voice that brought us into the first draft. Let the energy of that voice push against the language and fill the work with tension, but be careful about letting it out completely.

“Ghosts in our language” is not only a spiritual concept.

It’s logical.

Free writing is communicating with the dead, because voices of other writers swim in and out of your language as you write. Just like known musical riffs can come out during the impromptu jazz sax session, the language of writers we read, most of them dead, come out during freewriting.

On the most logical level, this happens because the languages we’re re using have been around before us, and our own voices are amalgamations of the ones we’ve heard all our lives. And if you’re a writer, you have great writers who have inspired and influenced you to write.

I might be freewriting and a rhythm or voice I’ve heard from another writer comes into my language, for example like this line from Lorca about a boy looking at the moon:

El niño la mira, mira.

El niño la está mirando.

I have often found this rhythm seep into my hand as it moves across the page, and I write its rhythm but not its matter, not its content. It may have nothing to do with matter, so instead of a boy looking at the moon I’m writing about a girl looking at a statue in a garden or I’m writing about how one tree bends into another tree as if wildly in love.

The voices of writers I’ve read come out when I write, and, the fact is, many of them are dead, and even if they are not dead, like one of my favorites, Toni Morrison, their first drafts were influenced by writers who are dead, and those writers were influenced by other dead writes from the past and so on and so on all the way back until the first time language was carved into stone.

On a logical level, writing the first draft puts you in touch with the dead through language, and if you extend that to believing there are realms of reality which we cannot understand with logic, you can say that writing gives us access to parallel worlds, the spirit world, the world of the dead, the world of the imagination, worlds not created with matter but with the pure energy of desire, worlds often more real than the world we think we see and understand.

To quote the Crazy Gypsy, our ancestors are chewing on our fingernails.


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