Are you a journal keeper? A note taker? A free writer? I jot down a few writing ideas here and there, but I don’t keep a journal. The thought of journal keeping makes my pulse race from the stress.
But I think free writing is a neglected step in writing.
Today I stumbled on a timed “free write” from 1996. It amazed me how the seeds for my Freshly Pressed post “How and Why I Don’t Know Science” were all there 17 years ago.
Here’s part of the free write, unrevised:
I begin with thinking of the Peter, Paul, and Mary song, “That Marvelous Toy,” and until I write about this I’ll remember nothing else. That mechanical, marvelous toy. My grandfather’s love of gadget toys. When I was a child, we used to give him toys for Christmas.
Then I think of having to take earth science in 10th grade because I refused to dissect animals. Earth science was so boring, taught by a beige boring person, and I was stuck at a table with kids who sat in the back of other classes. Therefore, I learned nothing. I yearned for chemistry and physics.
I loved 7th grade science where we saw anti-drug propaganda films and brought in chocolate colored ants. We kept track of what we ate, to add up calories. I ate 2nd most in the class by far. Metabolism? In college I loved Aims and Achievements of Science which was taught like a biography class!
None of these memories 3:09/3:12 (phone/bathroom) though is the tangible revelation of science, is it? Punished in 3rd grade, desk in hall to record roman numerals as high as I could, when the punishment was over, I kept going to see how far I could go. But this was easy, a challenge, no revelation.
The dead squirrel in the front year–the squirrel whose mouth crawled with maggots? Cutting the fish open? They bleed? Studying clouds in 5/6th grades? Buying those science books at the grocery store and studying aspects of science, doing experiments, the Mich. State channel on Sat. afternoon–potato experiments, etc. Seeing magic performed with science. Seeing the birth of a baby on a movie at the world’s fair at Expo 67 (I was 12 and terrified, so very much bleeding, bleeding).
I blank. Science? What? Making crystals on a string. My shell collection. Rock collection. Dead leaves. Pine cones. Tadpoles in the stream behind Stonehenge. Putting caterpillar in a jar and letting him cocoon all winter. Forgetting to take him out when he turns into a butterfly–he dies in the jar.
My guinea pig babies dying–every single litter of them, until I couldn’t stand to go near the guinea pigs. Leaving the birds too long without food or fresh water.
Reading over this collection of run-on memories, I can see a lot of different story seeds. A few I have already written about. The first litter of guinea pigs is a scene in my book. I’ve touched on the butterfly, but that is just another step until I write the actual piece about it.
I’m taking two projects away from finding this old free writing.
One is that I can write about my grandfather’s love of mechanical toys. On my genealogy blog I have been serializing an interview of my grandfather which was conducted in 1994—when he was elderly, but still healthy. I could post a story about Grandpa’s toys on that website. Or I could write it for this one.
The other project is that I ought to be doing a lot more of these timed free writes. They allow little memories to pop up, one after another, as I am pressured by the time deadline and freed from the pressure of having to write well ;).
Do you do free writing? If so, is it timed? What do you find helpful about it?